I don’t get the liberal handwringing about Emmanuel Macron’s falling popularity.
A few recent examples:
The Financial Times fears that the French president is all that is standing between us and illiberal strongmen.
The Guardian argues that his liberal rhetoric is not backed up by action.
Der Spiegel predicts that Macron could lose his unofficial status as the flagship politician of the West.
I’ve argued before that polls are unlikely to keep the Frenchman up at night. The opposition still hasn’t got its act together and the next presidential election isn’t until 2022. That gives Macron plenty of time to repair his public image and for his now-divisive reforms to start bearing fruit. Read more
Macron is a former investment banker who styles himself as a liberal champion of the European Union. Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right League party, has emerged as Europe’s leading nationalist — one who has pledged to bring the European project to a crashing halt.
Both are building transnational coalitions to contest the 2019 European Parliament elections. Read more
Europe Doesn’t Know How to Handle Trump, Macron Runs Tight Operation
Stephen Walt argues in Foreign Policy that the diplomatic crisis around the Iran nuclear deal shows European leaders don’t know how to handle an American bully:
[I]nstead of getting tough with Trump and warning him that Europe would both stick to the deal and defy any subsequent US effort to impose secondary sanctions on them, [France, Germany and the United Kingdom] chose to mollify and flatter Trump instead.
It seems to no avail.
It pains me to admit it, but Walt has a point:
[T]he European response to Trump shows how successfully the United States has tamed and subordinated the former great powers that once dominated world politics. After seventy-plus years of letting Uncle Sam run the show, European leaders can barely think in strategic terms, let alone act in a tough-minded fashion when they are dealing with the United States.
I do think this is slowly changing. Trump is a wakeup call. The EU is rushing new trade agreements with Japan and Mexico. France is leading efforts to deepen European defense cooperation outside NATO. The Balts and Scandinavians are remilitarizing.
But deferring to America is a hard habit to kick. Read more
Macron Defends Rules-Based Pacific Order, Five Stars Call for New Elections
During a visit to Sydney, French president Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to work with the largest democracies in the region — Australia, India, Japan and the United States — to “balance” Chinese power and protect “rule-based development” in Asia.
“It’s important… not to have any hegemony in the region,” he said.
Australia has eyed accommodation with China since Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership in 2017. But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, speaking alongside Macron, insisted his country is still committed to preserving a rules-based order.
France is a Pacific power. It has around one million citizens in the region. Read more
Rutte Survives Tax Debacle, Middle America Not Doing So Badly
The Netherlands’ Mark Rutte has been reprimanded by opposition parties for failing to disclose memos to parliament about internal government deliberations over the repeal of a business tax.
Rutte claimed he had not been aware of the papers, which were drafted by the Finance Ministry during the formation of his current government. The four parties in his coalition, which have a one-seat majority, accepted this explanation. All opposition parties but one voted to censure him.
Rutte surprised other parties by eliminating the dividend tax when he returned to power in October. Repeal had not been part of his election program. The suspicion in The Hague is that Rutte’s former employer, Unilever, and Royal Dutch Shell — two of the Netherlands’ largest companies — lobbied him to eliminate the tax. Read more
Merkel Eclipsed by Macron, Mistaking Trump’s Lies for Authenticity
Der Spiegel laments that Angela Merkel is allowing Emmanuel Macron to take the lead in Europe.
The left-leaning weekly has complained for years that Merkel isn’t bold and visionary enough, but they have a point this time: Macron has seduced both eurocrats in Brussels and Donald Trump in Washington while Merkel’s authority in Berlin has been significantly reduced by a disappointing election result in September.
Also read Nicholas Vinocur in Politico on the French leader’s transatlantic ambitions:
Macron is determined to restore France’s greatness and Trump’s friendship elevates Paris as a nuclear power with a seat on the United Nations Security Council at a time when Britain — usually Washington’s preferred ally — is sidelined by the Brexit process.