The EU Seems to Not Trust Their Leaders; Should We?

By Paul Witry

The past month has seen a number of highly anticipated votes in European Union nations. As the United Kingdom struggles to determine the process of executing Brexit (if at all), Theresa May survived her attempted removal 325 to 306. Although her battle to navigate Britain through the unknown waters of exiting the EU is far from over, this stands as a large roadblock for her overall success.[1] This is very uncharted territory for any nation, and as the deadline fast approaches, the opposition to actually following through on the process is growing significantly. Britain reneging on their decision to exit and calling a new referendum could prove to be harmful to economic prospects for the region as well, stirring more market uncertainties in the multi-national trade union. The Prime Minister may be backing herself into a corner as the push from backbenchers and other Brexit opposition increased and a call for a second referendum begins to gain traction.

Economically distraught Greece has fared no better as embattled Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras narrowly escapes a vote of no-confidence by a mere 3 tallies to remain in power. Tsipras called upon the members of the Parliament to support his government in their efforts to begin “the country’s liberation from foreign coercion, economic frailty and the dominance of the corrupt elite.” Tsipras, the leader of the 145-member minority party in the Greek Parliament, is trading on thin ice as he moves forward in the coming weeks.[2] In addition to the continued economic struggles of the Greeks, a brutal dispute regarding the designation of Macedonia which recently ended, establishing the country as the Republic of North Macedonia as of Tuesday. This change will possibly open the door to NATO membership for the nation later down the line.[3] However, this vote of no confidence comes at a very inopportune time as EU auditors begin to evaluate the strength of the Greek economy and the overall measures that have been imposed by Prime Minister Tsipras. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, his primary opponent, has labelled these economic measures as forced austerity on the country’s economic potential and has pointed to elections as the only opportunity to set the country on the right path. While Tsipras is likely to call elections before the end of his party’s term in October, he has been adamant that he will work to remain in power up until his term of office is up.[4]

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has recently become the third EU leader to be faced with disruption of his direct political power. On Wednesday the Spanish Parliament voted against the Prime Minister’s proposed budget for the upcoming year. The deciding votes in this approval came from the Catalan independence party. The separatists had pledged their support if talks were to continue regarding their proposed independence from Spain as a whole.[5] These talks, however, saw major setbacks over the past few weeks which ultimately convinced the Catalan politicians to remove their support from the budget. They sided with the conservative PP faction in spite of their vastly different agendas for the Spanish political landscape. This failure of Sanchez’s budget proposal may likely be the turning point for his administration, triggering a snap election to install a new government. His office has stated they will offer an announcement on Friday, February 15 which is likely to call for elections to take place in April or May of this year. If the elections were called, this would mark Spain’s third general election in five years, a clear sign of unrest for the EU’s fourth largest economy. [6]

Along with mounting Yellow Vest protests in France and a tumultuous German political arena with conservative politics gaining ground, the outlook for the coming months in European politics is one filled with legislative strife for nations both at home and throughout the EU. As the Brexit deadline inches closer, the Union may be faced with writing the opening lines of a new chapter in their history. The first few pages of this chapter possibly marred by economic downfalls, special elections and calls for independence. Parliaments are beginning to question their trust in their leaders, and this stands as an early warning for what may turn out to be a year filled with unprecedented shifts in political change. As some of the EU’s largest nations grapple with domestic troubles, other member states and the broader international community as a whole will be faced with bracing for the shockwaves of these tectonic shifts in landscape.\

Paul Witry is a senior at Loyola University Chicago, where he studies Political Science and International Studies.

Works cited:

  1. Castle, Stephen. Perez-Pena, Richard, “Theresea May Survives No-Confidence Vote in British Parliament,” The New York Times. Jan. 16, 2019. Online. Retrieved Feb. 6, 2019.

  2. Kitsantonis, Niki. “Alexis Tsipras Survives Confidence Vote in Greece’s Parliament,” The New York Times. Jan. 16, 2019. Online. Retrieved Feb. 13, 2019.

  3. Halasz, Stephanie, et. Al. “Macedonia officially changes name to North Macedonia, drawing line under bitter dispute,” CNN. Feb. 13, 2019. Online. Retrieved Feb. 13, 2019.

  4. Kitsantonis “Alexis” Jan. 16, 2019.

  5. “Spain budget failure puts snap election on the cards,” BBC. Feb. 13, 2019. Online. Retrieved Feb. 13, 2019.

  6. Torres, Diego, “Spain primed for early election after budget rejection.” Politico. Feb. 13, 2019. Online. Retrieved Feb 13, 2019.