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Constitutional change in Russia: More Putin, or preparing for post-Putin?

27-05-2020

In January 2020, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, opened the constitutional debate by outlining a series of amendments that, according to him, aimed to improve the balance of power and adapt the Constitution to the changes that had taken place since 1993, when the original text was adopted. With Putin's fourth and – as it seemed till recently – final presidency due to end in four years, observers speculated that the proposed amendments were intended to give Putin options for continuing to rule ...

In January 2020, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, opened the constitutional debate by outlining a series of amendments that, according to him, aimed to improve the balance of power and adapt the Constitution to the changes that had taken place since 1993, when the original text was adopted. With Putin's fourth and – as it seemed till recently – final presidency due to end in four years, observers speculated that the proposed amendments were intended to give Putin options for continuing to rule the country from behind the scenes, beyond 2024. Events took an unexpected turn in March 2020, when lawmaker and former cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, tabled a last-minute amendment. Her proposal envisaged re-setting the clock for presidential terms, allowing Putin to stay on as president for another 12 years, should he choose to do so. Shortly afterwards, the bill was rubber-stamped by both houses of the federal parliament, and all of Russia's 85 regional parliaments. Altogether, the amendments revise nearly one-third of the Constitution's 137 articles. Apart from presidential term limits, they also clarify the role of Russia's main institutions, with some additional powers for the parliament. Reflecting growing nationalism and suspicions of liberal Western influences, other provisions bar senior government figures from holding foreign citizenship or bank accounts, give the Constitution primacy over decisions made by international bodies, and affirm traditional values. Socioeconomic changes include annual indexation of pensions and a guarantee that the minimum wage will not fall below the poverty threshold. Before they can come into effect, the amendments must first be approved by a nationwide vote on a date yet to be scheduled. Surveys suggest that public opinion is divided on the changes; as the economy deteriorates due to the coronavirus crisis, there is a growing risk of a 'no' vote, which would be an unprecedented setback for Putin.

Václav Havel: Advocate of an undivided Europe

08-05-2020

Despite a 'bourgeois' family background, which was a disqualification in communist-led Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel rapidly became an internationally acclaimed playwright. However, his unequivocally proclaimed ethical principles soon put him at odds with the communist regime, resulting in several prison sentences. Havel nevertheless held fast to his belief that moral integrity was a question of necessity, not choice, and attempted to live up to this ideal. The 1989 collapse of the regime made Havel ...

Despite a 'bourgeois' family background, which was a disqualification in communist-led Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel rapidly became an internationally acclaimed playwright. However, his unequivocally proclaimed ethical principles soon put him at odds with the communist regime, resulting in several prison sentences. Havel nevertheless held fast to his belief that moral integrity was a question of necessity, not choice, and attempted to live up to this ideal. The 1989 collapse of the regime made Havel a hero and, shortly after, an unlikely President. During his years in office, he managed to drive his country through the challenges of moving to a free market democracy, while maintaining his personal moral convictions and tirelessly advocating for larger issues of human rights, peace and democracy, underpinned by an active civil society. While Havel and his collaborators recast the foundations of today's Czech and Slovak democracies, his achievements in foreign policy have perhaps been even more important. Reminding Western countries of the dangers of a Europe that continued to be divided even after the removal of the Iron Curtain, Havel was instrumental in anchoring the new Czech Republic in western Europe, through its membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). He both recognised and emphasised the importance of closer European cooperation based on shared values, which for Havel constituted the core of relations among European countries. A firm advocate of the Euro-Atlantic alliance, he supported the United States of America, even on occasions when some other western European countries were reluctant to do so. With his political writings reaching far beyond the circumstances in which they were written, Havel is considered one of the most important intellectuals of the 20th century. He has received numerous honours and awards. One of the European Parliament's buildings in Strasbourg has borne Václav Havel's name since 2017.

Constitutional and political change in Russia

07-02-2020

In January 2020, Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping constitutional amendments. These have been widely seen as preparing the way for him to retain political influence after the end of his fourth and probably final presidency in 2024. Putin's announcement was followed by the resignation of the government. Dmitry Medvedev, who has been Prime Minister since 2012, has made way for Mikhail Mishustin. While these changes open up new possibilities for Putin's post-2024 future, his actual intentions are still ...

In January 2020, Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping constitutional amendments. These have been widely seen as preparing the way for him to retain political influence after the end of his fourth and probably final presidency in 2024. Putin's announcement was followed by the resignation of the government. Dmitry Medvedev, who has been Prime Minister since 2012, has made way for Mikhail Mishustin. While these changes open up new possibilities for Putin's post-2024 future, his actual intentions are still unclear.

Bolivia: A test for democracy

16-01-2020

Bolivia's Evo Morales was probably the most successful among the presidents belonging to the left-wing movements that swept across the Latin American region in the early 2000s. However, his insistence on clinging to power in defiance of the Constitution and the will of the majority of Bolivians, including many of his former supporters, ultimately led to his demise and sparked political conflict. Nevertheless, the agreement reached between all parties to call new elections gives hope for the future ...

Bolivia's Evo Morales was probably the most successful among the presidents belonging to the left-wing movements that swept across the Latin American region in the early 2000s. However, his insistence on clinging to power in defiance of the Constitution and the will of the majority of Bolivians, including many of his former supporters, ultimately led to his demise and sparked political conflict. Nevertheless, the agreement reached between all parties to call new elections gives hope for the future and could be an example for other countries in the region to emulate.

Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 12-13 December 2019

09-12-2019

The main issues on the agenda of the European Council are climate change and the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). EU leaders will also address the idea of a Conference on the Future of Europe, with the aim of developing a joint position of Member States on the initiative. In addition, the European Council (Article 50) meeting is expected to discuss the result of the general election in the UK (taking place on 12 December) and the likely consequences for the Brexit process, as well as preparations ...

The main issues on the agenda of the European Council are climate change and the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). EU leaders will also address the idea of a Conference on the Future of Europe, with the aim of developing a joint position of Member States on the initiative. In addition, the European Council (Article 50) meeting is expected to discuss the result of the general election in the UK (taking place on 12 December) and the likely consequences for the Brexit process, as well as preparations for the negotiations on future EU-UK relations. Finally, the Euro Summit will concentrate on the revision of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty, the budgetary instrument for convergence and competitiveness (BICC), and technical work on the strengthening of the banking union.

Impeachment of the United States President

24-10-2019

On 24 September 2019, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California), announced the launch of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, the fourth President in the history of the United States to face the prospect of such an inquiry. The US Constitution provides for an impeachment process, but interpretations of the relevant clauses vary, creating controversy.

On 24 September 2019, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California), announced the launch of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, the fourth President in the history of the United States to face the prospect of such an inquiry. The US Constitution provides for an impeachment process, but interpretations of the relevant clauses vary, creating controversy.

Russia under Putin 4.0: Stagnation and discontent

23-10-2019

The March 2018 presidential elections were a resounding victory for Vladimir Putin. Since then, however, an unpopular decision to raise the retirement age by five years has cost him some of his support and triggered a wave of protests. In summer 2019, Moscow saw the biggest anti-government rallies for several years over the authorities' decision to exclude independent, 'non-system' opposition candidates from local elections. Even though the decision was upheld, Putin allies struggled to hold onto ...

The March 2018 presidential elections were a resounding victory for Vladimir Putin. Since then, however, an unpopular decision to raise the retirement age by five years has cost him some of his support and triggered a wave of protests. In summer 2019, Moscow saw the biggest anti-government rallies for several years over the authorities' decision to exclude independent, 'non-system' opposition candidates from local elections. Even though the decision was upheld, Putin allies struggled to hold onto their city council majority; they have also done less well than usual in other recent elections. Protests and electoral setbacks are linked to growing discontent – not only due to the pension reform but also to grinding poverty and inequality. Contrasting with the wealth of oligarchs, millions of Russians struggle to make ends meet as incomes register their fifth consecutive year of decline. Despite emerging from recession in 2016, the economy continues to stagnate. At the start of his presidency, Putin announced ambitious targets and massive investments to re-ignite growth, but these seem unlikely to bring more than modest improvements. Growing discontent is not expected to threaten Putin and his United Russia party's grip on power, given that Russians see no real alternatives. In the longer term, United Russia will probably hold onto its parliamentary majority in the next national elections in 2021, while Putin will see out his fourth, and probably final, presidency until its expiry in 2024. Even after that, there is a strong possibility that Putin, or at least a close ally, will remain in charge. In the past, confrontation with the West has helped to distract attention from the country's domestic problems and shore up support for Putin. However, given the need to boost the economy, the Kremlin may be considering options for improved relations in order to get Ukraine-related sanctions lifted, although it is still too early to say whether this will actually happen.

Los debates sobre el futuro de Europa en el Parlamento Europeo (2018-2019): Sı́ntesis de las intervenciones de los jefes de Estado o de Gobierno de la UE

08-05-2019

Con este documento se da conclusión a una serie de cuatro briefings en los que se resumen los debates sobre el futuro de Europa, presentándose las opiniones de los jefes de Estado o de Gobierno que intervinieron en los plenos del Parlamento Europeo entre enero de 2018 y abril de 2019. En la primera parte se describen los puntos de convergencia y de divergencia generales entre los oradores, las tendencias en los temas abordados y las propuestas realizadas. En la segunda se presentan extractos de algunas ...

Con este documento se da conclusión a una serie de cuatro briefings en los que se resumen los debates sobre el futuro de Europa, presentándose las opiniones de los jefes de Estado o de Gobierno que intervinieron en los plenos del Parlamento Europeo entre enero de 2018 y abril de 2019. En la primera parte se describen los puntos de convergencia y de divergencia generales entre los oradores, las tendencias en los temas abordados y las propuestas realizadas. En la segunda se presentan extractos de algunas de las declaraciones más significativas de los oradores, así como un análisis más detallado de sus distintas posturas sobre los siguientes ámbitos políticos: la unión económica y monetaria, la migración, la dimensión social, el comercio internacional, el cambio climático y la energía, la seguridad y la defensa, el próximo marco financiero plurianual y las cuestiones institucionales.

Future of Europe debates IV: Parliament hosts Heads of State or Government

12-04-2019

As the 2019 European elections approach, the 'Future of Europe debates' are coming to their natural conclusion. This April II session is the last plenary session at which one of the Heads of State or Government will set out their vision of the future path that Europe should follow. This initiative has been meant to provide the occasion to reflect deeply on how to shape the future of the EU and its institutions, as a concrete contribution to the Sibiu Summit taking place on 9 May 2019. The series ...

As the 2019 European elections approach, the 'Future of Europe debates' are coming to their natural conclusion. This April II session is the last plenary session at which one of the Heads of State or Government will set out their vision of the future path that Europe should follow. This initiative has been meant to provide the occasion to reflect deeply on how to shape the future of the EU and its institutions, as a concrete contribution to the Sibiu Summit taking place on 9 May 2019. The series of debates started with the invitation of the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, who announced at the European Council in October 2017 his intention to host debates during plenary sessions, as a democratic and open forum in which Heads of State or Government would be invited to express their vision of the future. Originally intended to run for the whole of 2018, the debates, which have to date featured the leaders of 19 Member States, continued into 2019, up to the 2019 European elections. This is the fourth edition of a Briefing designed to provide an overview of the Future of Europe debates. As usual it takes stock of the views of the (four) most recent participating leaders (Juha Sipilä, Giuseppe Conte, Peter Pellegrini, Stefan Löfven) on a number of key policy areas such as economic and monetary union (EMU), the EU's social dimension, migration policy, security and defence, the next multiannual financial framework (MFF), trade and climate change.

NATO at 70 [What Think Tanks are thinking]

12-04-2019

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) celebrates its 70th anniversary in April 2019, proud of its survival, durability and strong role in ensuring peace, notably during the Cold War. However, analysts and politicians stress that the military alliance must work hard to keep pace with a changing environment and the new challenges of the 21st century, both geo-strategic and technological. Another major test is the uncertain commitment to NATO of Donald Trump, the current President of the United ...

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) celebrates its 70th anniversary in April 2019, proud of its survival, durability and strong role in ensuring peace, notably during the Cold War. However, analysts and politicians stress that the military alliance must work hard to keep pace with a changing environment and the new challenges of the 21st century, both geo-strategic and technological. Another major test is the uncertain commitment to NATO of Donald Trump, the current President of the United States. This note offers links to commentaries and studies on NATO and European defence by major international think tanks. Earlier papers on European defence, focused on a planned US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are Thinking', published in February 2019.

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