By Hanif Ghaffari

A review on latest developments in Europe

December 24, 2017

 TEHRAN _ The German Foreign Minister who is also one of the leaders of the Social-Democratic Party recently issued a significant warning about the formation of a minimal government in his country. Sigmar Gabriel has warned that the formation of a minimal government in Germany could be a prologue of a social and political earthquake in Europe.

This warning comes at a time when the three parties of Christian Democrats, the Christian Socialist Party of the State of Bayern and the Social Democrats are to hold talks to form a coalition government. Under such circumstances Gabriel's warning shows that he received signals from the Christian Democrat (and subsequently by the Socialist Party of Bayern) about the possibility of not forming a coalition government with the Social Democrats. Over the past weeks, leaders of the Social Democratic Party have repeatedly stressed that they are not willing to easily form a coalition government with the Christian Democrats.

 Politicians like "Martin Schulz" and "Sigmar Gabriel", and even the German President "Frank-Walter Steinmeier", who are all members of the Social Democrat party, are demanding Merkel and the Christian Democrats to change their approach to some important issues of German foreign policy. One of these issues is the way Merkel faces Trump threat in NATO. Martin Schultz, the defeated nominee of Social-Democrats, emphasized during the electoral campaign that Merkel's approach to this matter is unacceptable. Schulz has accused Merkel of softness before U.S. positions in NATO.

Another important point is that the Social Democrats also disagree with Merkel over the issue of asylum seekers and immigrants. They believe that the German Chancellor's approach in dealing with this crisis is too flexible. Further, there are disputes between the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats over how to deal with the economic crisis in Europe. The Social Democratic Party won only about 20% of the vote during this year's general elections and had to accept a hard defeat.

 After this defeat, the leaders of the Social Democratic Party stressed that they would not negotiate with the Christian Democrats on the re-formation of a coalition government (as in 2013-207) and will continue to function as the main opposition party.After that, German Chancellor "Angela Merkel" started her negotiations with the liberal and green parties to form the coalition government. The talks were about forming a coalition called Jamaica, but came to a deadlock in a month.

In the current situation, the only way left for Merkel and the Christian Democrats is to form a coalition government with the Social Democrats. If the talks on the formation of a coalition government don't have any results, the Chancellor of Germany has only two options before her: the formation of a minimal government with the Green Party, or holding another elections. The formation of a minimal government means the opposition of the majority of the German parliament to the new government of the country.
 A matter that would have heavy costs for Merkel and her entourage and would eventually make her an incapable chancellor. On the other hand, holding an early elections doesn't necessarily mean a change in the results of the votes. In any case, we should be waiting for the results of the coalition of Christian parties and the Social-Democratic Party. The outcome of these negotiations is determining for Germany as well as for the EU. 

Political Dead-end in Catalonia

 Finally the local elections in Catalonia were held. Election results indicate that most of the Catalan Parliamentary seats are being won by independent parties. Although the "Citizens" party, which has an anti-independence approach, managed to become the top parliamentary party with about 25 percent of the total vote, but as a whole, the separatists were able to overtake the rival parties, and a total of 70 parliamentary seats (out of 135 ). Given that the local government of Catalonia will be elected by the local parliament, now the separatists can form their own government in this state.

Undoubtedly, recent elections in Catalonia and its results are a tough defeat for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the central government. The Prime Minister imagined that the Catalan problem would be resolved for at least several years following the last month's developments in Catalonia, and with a parliament which its absolute majority is in the hands of the allies of Spain's government, Catalonia would be under control once again. However, we are now witnessing the deterioration of the political situation in Catalonia which will affect both Spain and Europe's political equations. In any case, there is a point that needs to be addressed here:
Only 43% of the inhabitants of Catalonia participated in the Catalan Independence referendum which was held earlier this year, and even 10% of these participants voted against the independence and separation of Catalonia of Spain. In other words, more than 60% of the inhabitants of Catalonia do not essentially agree with their state's independence of Spain.

 However, Catalan residents' votes for separatist parties showed that many residents in the state still have demands which they're looking an answer for them by the central government, and subsequently they believe that the presence of independent parties in the parliament and local government could meet these demands. In other words, the inhabitants of Catalonia are demanding more attention by the central government to their own requirements. One of these demands is to reform the tax structure in Catalonia.Also, the inhabitants of Catalonia are asking for a greater part of economic resources, tourist attractions, etc.  And the recent elections results indicate that according to the Catalans, the presence of pro-government parties in parliament won't lead to the fulfillment of these demands.

Another point is about the different approaches of the independent parties inside the Catalan Parliament. According to this classification, some independent parties have a softer attitude compared with radical parties, and, while they believe in remaining as part of Spain, they'redemanding more autonomy. Therefore, the vote of the inhabitants of Catalonia to the independent (and pseudo-independent) parties doesn't mean that most Catalan residents are asking for separation of Spain. It is now time for the prime minister of Spain and his entourage to have talks with the local parliament of Catalonia and its government.
 If the conflict between Catalan Parliament and the central government continues, the emergence of new crises in Catalonia is quite possible.In this case, there may be a repeat of the events of 2017 (including the holding of an unofficial referendum) and massive protests in Catalonia. This trend will certainly affect the Europe's geographic and security equations and would lead to the emergence of more self-governing groups in other parts of the Green Continent, an issue which worries the leaders of the United Europe.

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