Why Marine Le Pen Turned on Her Right-Hand Man

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015 (European Parliament)

Florian Philippot’s ouster from the National Front makes political sense.

Philippot was for years Marine Le Pen’s right-hand man. Together they transformed the reactionary party, which has deep roots in the French Algerian exile community, into a broad Euroskeptic and nativist force that could appeal to rust-belt voters.

They de-demonized the National Front. Le Pen won 34 percent support in this year’s presidential election, doubling her father’s record from fifteen years earlier.

But it still wasn’t enough. Read more

Macron a Failure Already?

French president Emmanuel Macron gives a news conference in Brussels, June 23
French president Emmanuel Macron gives a news conference in Brussels, June 23 (Facebook)

Chris Bickerton makes a strong argument in The New York Times: Emmanuel Macron is on track to become yet another failed French president.

Bickerton, who teaches European politics at Cambridge University, knows France well. But here I think he misses the mark. Read more

Happy Germans Vote for the Center, Other Europeans Drawn to Extremes

A sunny day in Frankfurt, Germany, January 17, 2011
A sunny day in Frankfurt, Germany, January 17, 2011 (Flickr/Aeror)

Germans are more centrist and optimistic than most Europeans. The French and the Spanish have yet to feel the economic recovery and are more inclined to vote for parties on the far left and the far right. The Italians are even more pessimistic, yet they remain wary of extremes.

Those are among the findings of a Europe-wide survey conducted by the German Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Here are the figures: Read more

Macron, Unperturbed by Falling Popularity, Pushes Labor Reforms in France

French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Xavier Bettel and Justin Trudeau, the prime ministers of Luxembourg and Canada, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Xavier Bettel and Justin Trudeau, the prime ministers of Luxembourg and Canada, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25 (NATO)

The government of Emmanuel Macron has introduced its first labor reforms in France. They include:

  • Capping the damages judges can award to workers who have been wrongfully terminated at one month’s pay for every year of employment.
  • Raising the compensation for workers who are laid off for legitimate economic reasons by 25 percent.
  • Enabling employers to bypass union-dominated workers’ councils and call company-wide referendums on sensitive topics like overtime.
  • Allowing multinationals to lay off workers at loss-making French subsidiaries even if the foreign-based parent company is profitable.

After a summer of consultations, two of France’s three largest trade unions — the Democratic Confederation of Labor and Workers’ Force — have given their consent to the reforms. The hardline General Confederation of Labor remains opposed and has called a nationwide strike for September 12.

No matter the resistance unions put up, the liberalizations are almost certain to be rubber-stamped by parliament, which is controlled by Macron’s party. Read more

Macron Wins Central European Support for Posted-Workers Reform

Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23
Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23 (BKA/Andy Wenzel)

French president Emmanuel Macron has won support from the leaders of Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia for reform of the EU’s posted-workers regime.

“We are prepared work with all our partners on a technical level to agree an adjustment of the Posted Workers Directive so that we can overcome the split in the EU,” Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka said following a four-nation summit in Salzburg.

Robert Fico, his Slovak counterpart, suggested a deal could be reached by October. Read more

Allies Hope for the Best from Trump, Must Plan for the Worst

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25 (NATO)

American allies are coping with Donald Trump’s disruptive presidency in similar ways, a collection of essays in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine reveals:

  • All feel they need to step up and defend the liberal world order as Trump is determined to put “America first”.
  • They worry that a new era of American isolationism could make the world poorer and less safe.
  • Leaders are doing their best to rein in Trump’s worst impulses and most of their voters understand the need for pragmatism, although they have little faith in this president. Read more

Macron’s Liberalization Has Made Travel More Affordable in France

View of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 5, 2012
View of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 5, 2012 (Chris Chabot)

Emmanuel Macron’s liberalization of intercity public transport in France is paying off.

Until 2015, railroads had a monopoly on domestic ground routes of 100 kilometers or more. Macron — then economy minister, now president — wrote legislation that allowed busses to compete.

Bloomberg reports that 6.2 million passengers took a long-distance bus in 2016 and bookings are up another 25 percent this year.

That’s still a fraction of the more than 100 million annual high-speed train passengers, but competition from busses is forcing the state-owned railway to cut rates. Read more