Paul Taylor

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A protest against the Israeli government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 2023. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

The will of the people expressed in free elections and the rule of law upheld by independent courts are two of the pillars of a liberal democracy, or so we were taught at school. Yet these two core principles keep colliding in increasingly polarised societies from Washington to London, Paris to Berlin and Warsaw to Jerusalem, with populist politicians demanding that “the will of the people” override the constitution, treaties or the separation of powers.

It is vital for the long-term health of democracy that the judges prevail. If politicians are able to break or bend fundamental legal principles to suit the mood of the moment, the future of freedom and human rights is in danger.…  Seguir leyendo »

Angela Merkel, Jacques Delors and Helmut Kohl with a piece of the Berlin Wall, 2005. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

With two wars raging on its borders, a world retreating from free trade and globalisation, strong migratory pressure on its southern shores, rising rightwing populist movements clamouring for national, not European, solutions and Donald Trump looming on the horizon, Europe is facing an extraordinary set of global challenges.

At the start of an election year that could also propel Eurosceptic nationalists into a strong position in the European parliament, the death of Jacques Delors, the most effective president the European Commission has ever had, reminds us of the era when EU integration made its greatest strides, delivering peace and increased prosperity for hundreds of millions of people.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smer party leader Robert Fico and Progresivne Slovensko party leader Michal Šimečka in a TV election debate in Bratislava, Slovakia, 21 September 2023. Photograph: Jakub Gavlák/EPA

When Donald Trump lost the White House in 2020, Europe’s strongmen, populists and climate change deniers lost a powerful ally and a protector. Yet most of Europe’s mini-Trumps have survived his fall, his denial of defeat and the storming of Congress by his supporters, and are now hoping that a comeback for the Republican frontrunner in next year’s US presidential election will put fresh wind in their own sails.

In his four years in office, Trump described the European Union as a “foe” and Nato as “obsolete”. He had earlier openly applauded the UK’s vote for Brexit and encouraged other countries to follow suit.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month Friedrich Merz, leader of Germany’s CDU, suggested his party should work locally with the extreme-right Alternative für Deutschland. Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

There was a time when clear blue water separated Europe’s mainstream centre-right from the Eurosceptic populists and xenophobes of the hard right. A Christian Democrat such as Helmut Kohl or Angela Merkel would have had nothing in common with – and nothing to do with – a nativist such as Marine Le Pen or Geert Wilders.

No longer. In the run-up to the 2024 European Parliament elections, once-sharp lines between pro-European conservative parties and the nationalist far right are blurring as both seek to tap into public anger or anxiety over migration, the cost of living, the green transition and gender diversity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Soldier from Royal Welsh Battlegroup during a Nato exercise on the Estonian Latvian border, May 2022. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

However Russia’s war in Ukraine ends, Europe is staring uncomfortably down the barrel of a decade of defence. A wounded, vengeful Russia will remain a threat as long as Vladimir Putin, or like-minded successors, are in power. There is no way back to the post-cold war security order, which was cracked by Moscow’s assault on Georgia in 2008, ruptured by its annexation of Crimea in 2014, and finally shattered by its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February last year.

The end of Europe’s “holiday” from defence is going to be expensive and impose painful choices between guns and butter, which the left will find particularly uncomfortable.…  Seguir leyendo »

When, after 27 years, Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison, the world marveled at his generous spirit, even temperament, genteel manners, disarming wit, ready smile and lack of bitterness.

Admirable as they were, those saintly virtues don’t begin to explain his political genius. Mandela was also cunning, iron-willed, bull-headed, contemptuous — and more embittered than he let on. He needed all of his traits — soft and hard — to engineer a political miracle: persuading a sitting government to negotiate its own abdication by yielding power to the very people it had ruthlessly oppressed.

Historic transfers of that magnitude typically occur only at gunpoint.…  Seguir leyendo »