Movers and Shakers | Government edition

Keep track of developments in the European institutions and public affairs with our movers and shakers column.

By Ifigenia Balkoura

30 May 2016

Movers and Shakers government edition brings you a detailed insight into the latest governmental developments.

All eyes were on Austria this month as the second round of presidential elections took place. Greens candidate Alexander Van der Bellen narrowly beat far-right hopeful Norbert Hofer, by a mere 31,000.

If Hofer had won, not only would this have marked the first-far right victory in an EU presidential election, it also would have been a clear advantage for his party in the 2018 parliamentary elections. He also, theoretically, would have been able to dismiss the current government.

Earlier, Christian Kern of the Social Democratic Party was sworn in as Austria's new Chancellor, replacing Werner Faymann, who resigned. This followed a government reshuffle, during which former MEP and minister in the regional government of Stryia, Jörg Leichtfried, became the new minister for transport.

The Swedish government was also reshuffled, with three new cabinet entries and some shifted assignments among current ministries. Ann Linde was appointed EU minster, a role that did not previously exist. Greens/EFA group MEP Peter Eriksson was named housing and digitalisation minister; the role had been vacated by Mehmet Kaplan after he resigned for comparing Israel to Nazis. Karolina Skog took over the environment ministry, a role previously held by Åsa Romson, who was also deputy prime minister and has now left the government. Among other changes and portfolio re-assignments, minister for international development cooperation Isabella Lövin, will also be responsible for climate issues, a responsibility that was removed from the environment ministry and has now been shifted to the foreign affairs ministry. 

In Malta, health and energy minister Konrad Mizzi was removed from his position, following his involvement in the Panama Papers scandal. He will however stay on as a minister reporting to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and retain responsibilities on specific projects. Chris Fearne became health minister and Muscat will remain in charge of the energy portfolio. Joseph Herrera became environment minister. Leo Brincat, who previously held the position, resigned after he was appointed to the European Court of Auditors. Manuel Mallia became minister for competitiveness, digital economy and maritime affairs.

In Romania, Dacian Cioloș's technocratic government has been rocked by a number of scandals since April. EU funds minister Aura Răducu resigned at the Prime Minister's request and was replaced by Cristian Ghinea. Culture minister Vlad Alexandrescu also stepped down, following a scandal at the Bucharest National Opera. Corina Șuteu replaces him. The fourth resignation within one month came from health minister Patriciu Achimas-Cadariu, after he disagreed with the government's handling of a hospital disinfectants scandal. Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș shortly filled in for him, before the role was handed to Vlad Voiculesc.

In Bulgaria, deputy prime minister and minister for labour and social policy Ivailo Kalfin resigned shortly after his party said that it was withdrawing its support to the government, due to disagreement over changes in the electoral code. Deputy labour minister, Zornitsa Rusinova has taken on the role.

Slovenia's culture minister Julijana Bizjak Mlakar stepped down over a dispute regarding the UNESCO-listed Idrija mercury mine. This took place ahead of a vote of confidence that was called by the Prime Minister on her dismissal, which she had previously rejected. Minister without a portfolio for Slovenians abroad, Gorazd Žmavc, temporarily took over the role before Tone Peršak was appointed.

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Meanwhile, Ireland finally has a government after a 10-week political deadlock; Enda Kenny was re-appointed as Taoiseach. Kenny's minority government was backed by independent MPs and his party's long-term rivals, Fianna Fáil.

Over in southern Europe, Spain is gearing up for elections on 26 June Pablo Iglesias' Podemos Party has struck a deal to run alongside the United Left. Previous elections, in December 2015, were inconclusive.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi survived a vote of confidence over his country's same-sex civil unions bill. His permanent representative to the EU, Carlo Calenda, returned to Italy to replace Federica Guidi as minister for economic development. Maurizio Massari is set to take over from him in Brussels, the third Italian representative to take up office since March.

France's socialist government also survived a confidence over controversial labour reforms that have led to violent riots across the country. Additionally, it was announced that the French presidential elections will take place on 23 April and 7 May.

Liberal MEP Philippe de Backer left the European Parliament to take up his new role as Belgian tate Secretary in charge of the North Sea, Privacy and the Battle against Social fraud in the federal government. He takes over from Bart Tommelein, who left his position to become minister for budget and energy in the Flemish government.

Next month, on 23 June, the Brits head to the polling stations to decide on the UK's EU membership. Stay tuned.


Read the most recent articles written by Ifigenia Balkoura - Movers and Shakers | 26 November 2018

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