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Good morning. News from the Qatargate corruption investigation: Documents seen by the FT show Belgian MEP Maria Arena was identified as a key suspect in the investigation a year ago, but her home was only raided this week.
Today, our Madrid bureau chief explains why Spaniards on sunloungers could decide Sunday’s election, and our Dutch correspondent ponders how the EU’s Green Deal might fare with its godfather heading home to seek high office.
Have a great weekend.
Spain’s peak holiday season is a little more turbulent than usual this year, as Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called snap general elections that will be held on Sunday, writes Barney Jopson.
Context: Most polls suggest Sánchez’s Socialist-led coalition government is heading for defeat at the hands of the conservative People’s party, led by Alberto Núñez Feijóo. But the PP will probably require the support of the hard-right Vox to secure the absolute majority needed to take office. And that could herald weeks of volatile coalition negotiations.
A record 2.6mn people requested postal ballots — roughly 7 per cent of all voters. Many of them have been scrambling to pick up and send back their votes from their holidays on the beach.
It is hard to know whether the summer vote will give advantage to the left, the right, or neither. Generally in Spain, conservative turnout is consistently strong and it is the number of left voters that ebbs and flows.
That’s why Sánchez has been trying hard to energise progressives, warning that a PP-Vox coalition government would drag Spain backwards into “a tunnel that leads us to we don’t know where”.
He has also insisted that Spain’s economy is humming, even though the message didn’t avert an emphatic defeat in local and regional elections in May.
To win another term, Sánchez would need the support of small regionalist parties that have backed him for the past five years, as well as Sumar, a new leftwing group that includes his current governing partner Podemos. But simulations by the newspaper El País put their chances of a majority at only 15 per cent.
There is a 55 per cent chance that the PP and Vox together will reach an absolute majority, and only a 1 per cent chance that the PP can form a government on its own, according to El País.
Feijóo’s campaign has been mostly about a character assassination of Sánchez, and condemning his political alliances with Catalan and Basque separatists, plus the radicals of Podemos, all of whom are deplorable to conservatives.
Other electoral scenarios get very complicated very quickly and give a host of other small parties — like Coalición Canaria and Teruel Existe — the chance to be kingmakers.
Don’t rule out hearing more about them on Monday.
Chart du jour: Bills, bills, bills
Germans generally prefer cash over cards or digital payments. That has helped turn Germany into Europe’s ground zero for ATM attackers: Some 496 cash machines were blown up last year.
Here, for now
EU climate commissioner Frans Timmermans has announced his candidacy for Dutch prime minister. But for now, he will keep his job leading Brussels’ single-handed bid to save the planet, writes Andy Bounds.
Context: the Netherlands’ governing coalition of centrists and liberals collapsed this month, with Mark Rutte remaining as caretaker prime minister until an election on November 22. Timmermans wants to head the joint campaign by the Labour and Green parties in that vote.
But what becomes of the EU’s Green Deal that Timmermans championed if he leaves?
Resistance from some governments as well as liberal and rightwing parties in the European parliament have held it back in recent months. A law to re-wild Europe was hugely scaled back, a plan to cut pesticide use in half is stuck, and there is a fight over 2040 greenhouse gas emission targets.
Some in the European Commission are lobbying to drop the remaining climate legislation ahead of European elections next June, including animal welfare measures that would cost restive farmers billions of euros.
Green groups yesterday argued his achievements were irreversible.
Manon Dufour, Brussels boss of think-tank E3G, said Timmermans had been “instrumental” in championing decarbonisation, alluding to the EU’s upgraded emissions trading system. “This doesn’t end here. The next steps are to deliver this throughout Europe,” he said.
Terry Reintke, co-president of the Green party, said: “Timmermans significantly pushed the Green Deal inside the commission. It’s important that he is replaced by someone with at least as much enthusiasm for the climate agenda.”
On the plus side, if Timmermans does get elected as premier, at least it guarantees the Green Deal advocates a vote among the member states.
“It’s also important to have progressive national governments in the council to support environmental laws,” Reintke said.
What to watch today
French foreign minister Catherine Colonna and German counterpart Annalena Baerbock visit the countries’ border.
Russia’s central bank publishes its latest key interest rate decision.