Out to lunch

first_imgMEPs have a new dedicated sandwich bar in the Parliament building in Brussels.The new facility can seat up to 30 people as well as offering nine ‘standing’ places. Proof, if it were needed, that MEPs know which way their bread is buttered.UK Socialist MEP Eryl McNally has been awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration, in recognition of her efforts to improve understanding between France and Britain, particularly in the fields of language and culture.McNally, who represents the east of England, was presented with the decoration by Gerard Errera, France’s ambassador to the UK. The Legion d’Honneur was first minted by Napoleon 200 years ago. Italian MEP Pietro-Paolo Mennea, the former sprinter who competed in five Olympics, felt he’d be a world champion from the age of 12. Too fleet of foot for his peers, he recalls how he honed his running skills in his home town of Barletta by racing against cars instead.“At the signal they burned the rubber and I started to run: I always came in first.”We can only assume he was up against Fiats, not Ferraris… When it comes to cheesy corporate messages, you really need to go that extra mile just to get noticed…and boy, did one gift from the Belgian offices of global PR firm Porter Novelli make an impression on the men – and women – of EV. Discreetly clad in a slim brown envelope addressed to ‘Ms Editorial Desk’, the Novelli staff had a real ace up their sleeve: a full deck of playing cards featuring snapshots of the entire team (sans official titles, although we have deduced that Luc – the Jack of Clubs – is the supreme commander of the deck). A slim-faced blonde named Valérie was the most popular among our Mr Men, while the Ms Editorials were especially drawn to the dashing, dark Jurgen. The pair of them can feel free to stop by our offices anytime!They say good news travels fast and news of the success of Entre Nous (among the most-eagerly read pages in European Voice) has reached the good folk behind popular Belgian beer Maes.The brewer has produced a range of new beer mats which carries the message: “Entre nous, c’est Maes”.To the beer boys, we can only say: “Cheers!”last_img read more

5 takeaways from the overthrow of Mariano Rajoy

first_imgSánchez managed to assemble an unlikely coalition — labeled “Frankenstein” by rivals — with the far-left Podemos, two Catalan pro-independence groups and a Basque nationalist party, all of who had refused to endorse the Socialist for the premiership in the past.“Our Yes to Sánchez is a No to Rajoy,” is how Joan Tardà, speaker of the Catalan Republican Left, put it in parliament.Rajoy was sacked because of corruption in his Popular Party, although the PM himself wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing in the courts.It was a bitter way to go for Rajoy, the first Spanish prime minister to be taken down by a motion of no confidence. It was also an extraordinary vindication for Sánchez, whose chances of getting the top job had been dismissed by polls, rivals and analysts.Here are five takeaways from Spain’s new political age:1. So long, MarianoRajoy survived a car crash in his youth that left him with scars on his face and walked away unscathed from a helicopter accident in 2005. He overcame two defeats in general elections and an attempted coup within his party in 2008. After taking power in 2011, he led Spain through the economic crisis and stared down the Catalan secessionists. MADRID — Mariano Rajoy is out. Pedro Sánchez is in. Welcome to a new era in Spain.Sánchez, leader of the Socialists, won enough backing in parliament on Friday for a motion of no confidence in Rajoy, shortly after a court ruling in a graft scandal involving former officials from the prime minister’s Popular Party.It was a fast, hostile political operation aimed at Rajoy’s fragile minority government — and it worked. But the country’s most extraordinary political survivor came unstuck on Friday.Rajoy hasn’t said if he wanted to stay on as leader of the opposition.It was a particularly unglamorous end. He was sacked because of corruption in his Popular Party, although the PM himself wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing in the courts. Rajoy didn’t even attend most of the marathon parliamentary session called to oust him. On Thursday afternoon, he and his aides went to a restaurant instead. On Friday morning, he arrived late to the Congress of Deputies.“It’s been an honor — there isn’t a greater one — to be prime minister of Spain,” he told lawmakers before the vote that put an end to his mandate. “It’s been an honor to leave a better Spain than the one I found.”The fate of his conservatives is now at stake. Under threat from the liberal Ciudadanos and with its poll numbers falling sharply and more graft cases on the way, the future doesn’t look promising for the PP.By Friday afternoon, Rajoy hadn’t said if he wants to stay on as leader of the opposition. A senior official from the PP, who wanted to remain anonymous, told POLITICO Rajoy would stay — but there could be an internal power struggle. The party has called an urgent meeting of its leadership next week. 3. Personal vindicationHow talented a politician Sánchez is has been the subject of intense debate, but allies and rivals unite in praising his bravery.The former basketball player was ousted from the Socialist leadership in an internal power struggle in 2016 following a 10-month-long political deadlock, during which he refused to back Rajoy for another term in office but couldn’t seize power from him.“I’m aware of the responsibility. I will work humbly” — Pedro SánchezAt that point, his political career appeared over. But he fought back and retook control of the party last year.On Friday, he became the first Spanish prime minister to be elected without having won an election. In fact, he’s led the Socialists to the two worst electoral defeats in their recent history (in 2015 and 2016).“Politics is a long-distance run,” he told POLITICO in an interview last month. Sánchez, the first Spanish leader who speaks decent English, will now try and make sure that his Socialists, who lag behind Ciudadanos and the PP in recent polls, make the most of their opportunity.“I’m aware of the responsibility,” Sánchez told reporters Friday. “I will work humbly.”4. Time for a cooling off on Catalonia?Sánchez becoming prime minister caught Catalan pro-independence parties off-guard — and could trigger a change of strategy among the separatists, from total confrontation to finding common ground with the central government.The Socialist leader didn’t promise much to the Catalan groups that backed him, but his tone was cordial — in stark contrast with his attitude in recent weeks when he labeled new Catalan president Quim Torra “xenophobic” and “the Spanish [Marine] Le Pen.”All Sánchez did was pledge to uphold the country’s unionist constitution, while promising vague dialogue between Madrid and the new Catalan cabinet — something that Rajoy had already done.With Rajoy out, the more moderate elements of the Catalan separatist movement will have an opportunity to push for a softer approach with Madrid | Emilio Naranjo/Pool photo via EPAYet that was enough to win Catalan support for the motion against Rajoy. “It’s time to look to the future and channel via political means a political problem,” said Carles Campuzano of the Catalan European Democratic Party, the party of Carles Puigdemont.center_img With Rajoy out, the more moderate elements of the Catalan separatist movement will have an opportunity to push for a softer approach with Madrid. Direct rule over Catalonia by the central government will be ended within hours and Sánchez has defended greater powers for the region and constitutional change, although he lacks the majority in parliament to amend the constitution.The big test could come when the trials of separatist leaders reach the courts over the coming months. They could be sentenced to decades in prison.Any gesture of appeasement toward the separatists could have enormous political cost for Sánchez and boost the fiercely anti-independence Ciudadanos.5. Setbacks and opportunities for RiveraCiudadanos, led by Albert Rivera, voted against Sánchez’s motion of no confidence, calling instead for an immediate election.That stance could be used against them, with rivals accusing Rivera of seeking to protect the scandal-hit PP. A quiet period in Catalonia would also rob them of a favorite topic.“We’ll win an absolute majority in the elections in one year’s time” — Ciudadanos member 2. Sánchez’s tough jobRajoy had the smallest parliamentary backing in recent Spanish history. With just 84 Socialist lawmakers in the 350-seat chamber, Sánchez’s minority government will beat that record.Plus, the political groups that helped Sánchez get the top job have proven unreliable partners in the past.Podemos has waged a fierce battle against Sánchez for control of the left since the anti-establishment party was founded in 2014, and the Catalan groups triggered Spain’s gravest political crisis in decades when they spearheaded an independence push.Pedro Sánchez didn’t give many hints as to what his government will do, but he vowed to honor Spain’s commitments to its European partners | Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty ImagesIt will be a “weak and difficult government,” Aitor Esteban, the speaker of the Basque Nationalist Party, which also backed the Socialists, warned.The Socialist PM could, in theory, stay in power until 2020, when a general election must be called. He has, however, promised to call an early ballot at an unspecified date. The likelihood is that he will wait until his party is in better shape for an election before calling one.Sánchez didn’t give many hints as to what his government will do, but he vowed to honor Spain’s commitments to its European partners in terms of budget stability and to lead a firmly pro-European government. Yet Sánchez’s parliamentary allies provide Ciudadanos with fresh targets. The “populists” and the “putschists” is how Rivera often refers to Podemos and the Catalan pro-independence groups.“We’ll win an absolute majority in the elections in one year’s time,” was the bold forecast of a member of the leadership of Ciudadanos.“We’ll see,” responded a member of the Socialist leadership. Also On POLITICO Pedro Sánchez sworn in as Spain’s prime minister By David M. Herszenhorn The end of Mariano Rajoy By Diego Torreslast_img read more