Spain and Italy Speed Up COVID Emergency Measures

With COVID-19 infections rising considerably, the Spanish government has declared a national state of emergency and is moving to impose a nighttime curfew. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said the curfew will run from 11:00 PM until 6:00 AM every night, and will start on Sunday evening. The emergency measures also coming into effect will include travel restrictions between districts and regions should regional leaders deem them to be necessary. Private and public gatherings will be limited to six people. These measures will be applied to all national region in Spain with the exception of the Canary Islands. This state of emergency, and the measures included in it are nearly identical to the one introduced during the first wave of the pandemic in April.

Meanwhile in Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has insisted there will not be a new nationwide lockdown even though COVID cases are rising significantly in his country. The government is adopting stricter measures. All bars and restaurants must close by 6 PM. Gyms, movie theaters, and swimming pools will close down and Conti urged Italians not to leave their immediate area unless for work, school, or health reasons.

Italy and Spain were hit hard by COVID-19 in the spring. The other day it appeared both countries, as well as others on the continent are moving towards stricter restrictions as the number of cases is rising. Over the past 24 hours the pace of those restrictions taking effect has sped up in Southern Europe, leaving one to wonder how long it will be until other parts of Europe follow suit.

EU Election Aftermath: Spain Seizes an Opportunity?

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Spain has come out as a major winner in the EU Parliamentary elections and now appears ready to cash in, so to speak. The Socialist Party (PSOE) won European elections in Spain with 33% of the vote. With socialist and leftist parties in France, Germany, and Great Britain suffering massive losses in the elections, PSOE’s strong showing places Spain in a position to potentially lead the European left. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is wasting little time in attempting to cement a leadership role for Spain and expand its influence in the European Union over the coming months, and years. Sanchez has stated Spain will now push for a position on the European Commission (EC) where it can influence policy, legislation, and day-to-day business of the EU.

As neither of the European parliament’s major groups achieved a clear cut majority in the elections, Sanchez was able to take a leading role in negotiations at the summit in Brussels this past week to nominate new heads for the EC, European Central Bank, Representatives for Foreign Policy, and Security Affairs, as well as other high-ranking positions in the Union. Sanchez and Spain are certainly positioned well for the time being. Whether or not Spain will fill the vacuum left by Great Britain’s impending departure, and Italy’s diminishing influence remains to be seen.

 

Author’s Note: I had planned on including Greece and Italy as well in this post. However, given the local election results in Greece, and the effect it is having on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his party, I’ve decided to give Greece its own entry tomorrow evening. I’ll get to Italy later in the week.

Brexit Vote Update: May’s Deal is Defeated Again

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Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal with the European Union has been soundly defeated again. MPs rejected it for the second time today by 391-242. This was a smaller defeat than the first vote in January, but the margin is meaningless at this point. May’s Brexit strategy now lay in tatters, and Britain’s exit from the EU, scheduled to take place at the end of the month, appears likely to be a chaotic endeavor.

The next step will be a vote on whether Britain should leave without a deal, or if Brexit should be postponed. This upcoming vote might very well prove to be more critical than the one today. The concerns, and fears that a potential no-deal exit scenario are now being countered by equally passionate feelings of anxiety and suspicions that an Article 50 extension will eventually lead to a possible second referendum. Brexiteers are dead set against allowing another national referendum to take place. In the view of many Brexit supporters Britons have made their choice clear and it is up to the government to turn the wishes of the people into a reality.

At the center of the bedlam in London is the Prime Minister. Despite her best efforts, her government has suffered a second defeat. May’s power, and authority have been diminished and another no-confidence vote remains possible. Her political future remains very uncertain.

International leaders have started reacting to the vote results. Not surprisingly, European leaders are publicly quite disappointed at how the vote has played out. Now the leaders of EU member-states are beginning to circle the wagons, so to speak, in an effort to minimize the blowback that will arise from a no-deal British departure. As far as the EU is concerned, Brussels has done everything possible to bring about a solution acceptable to both sides and Britain has turned in down.

Perhaps it was Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s words which best describe the sentiment on the continent at the moment:  “We regret the decision of the British Parliament despite the EU’s efforts to achieve the best possible agreement. The European project must move forward to ensure freedom, stability and prosperity. We need pro-European governments. Let’s protect Europe so that Europe will protect us.”