Eri Bertsou takes a look at the week in Brussels blogging

Across Europe

Last weekend saw the first round of voting in France’s municipal elections. Charlemagne’s notebook reviews the losses for François Hollande and the gains for the Front National ahead of next week’s second round.

Barack Obama and Matteo Renzi during their meeting on 27 March, Credit: Palazzo Chigi (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Barack Obama and Matteo Renzi during their meeting on 27 March, Credit: Palazzo Chigi (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Local elections were also held last week in the Netherlands. Rene Cuperus at Policy Network writes that the Labour party in particular had a disappointing result, with the overall picture indicating a historic shift toward ever greater social fragmentation in Dutch society. Nevertheless, as Charlemagne notes, the main story of the election was undoubtedly Geert Wilders, who caused controversy after leading an allegedly discriminatory chant against Moroccan immigrants.

Elsewhere, Open Europe assess whether Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland is a genuine economically liberal party or simply a protest movement for German voters. Frank Markovic at European Public Affairs also reviews the legal and constitutional changes Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz has enacted ahead of the Parliamentary elections on 6 April. He concludes that although Fidesz has been popularly elected, the new legal frame it has put in place is anything but fair.

The EU centre

On Wednesday, the leader of the UK’s Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, and Nigel Farage from UKIP, held a much anticipated debate on the UK’s EU membership. Open Europe write that while there were competing views over who won the debate, the conversation largely ignored one of the key factors in British membership: the issue of EU reform. Taking a similar line, Isabel Hardman at the Spectator blogs argues that for both Clegg and Farage the key aim was to mobilise their own voters, rather than to win over those on the other side.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama made an official visit to Italy on Thursday, meeting with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, and Pope Francis. The European Council on Foreign Affairs notes that the crisis in Ukraine, NATO, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) were at the top of the agenda. James Sonneman at European Public Affairs also takes up the TTIP theme, writing that it is becoming an increasingly important priority for Obama.

The European neighbourhood

A week ago, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for, and imposed, a ban on Twitter. Judy Dempsey at Carnegie Europe asks experts on the area whether Erdoğan is abandoning democracy and what is next for political participation in Turkey.

Elsewhere, Javier Solana writes on efforts to stabilise Ukraine at Project Syndicate and maintains that Vladimir Putin’s actions will put him and Russia in international isolation. Richard Mole at the UCL SSEES Research Blog takes a different line on Russia, arguing that international responses to homophobia in the country are a ‘win-win’ for Putin.

And finally…

The FT’s Brussels Blog takes a look at the ‘war game’ which took place at a nuclear safety summit in The Hague, where David Cameron, Barack Obama, Xi Jinping and 50 other world leaders participated in a role-play exercise.

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Note:  This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.

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