Two Visions of France

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Skyline of Paris, France, May 27, 2020 (Unsplash/Nicolas Jehly)

Two videos, two visions of France.

The first kicks off Éric Zemmour’s presidential campaign. (Version with English subtitles here.) It’s a France where gangs of dark-skinned men rob elderly women and liberal elites call true patriots racists and xenophobes.

The second comes from the Elysée Palace and celebrates the “pantheonization” of American-born singer and French Resistance fighter Josephine Baker. It appeals to the best of France: brave, cultured, multiethnic, republican. It’s a vision Emmanuel Macron will want to make his own. Read more “Two Visions of France”

French Republicans Do Macron A Favor

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French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel enter the Elysée Palace in Paris, November 12, 2019 (Elysée)

French Republicans have thrown away their two best chances of denying Emmanuel Macron a second term.

Party members eliminated Michel Barnier and Xavier Bertrand from the center-right’s presidential primary on Thursday, giving the men 24 and 22 percent support, respectively.

The more right-wing Éric Ciotti and Valérie Pécresse qualified for the runoff on Saturday with 25 percent support each.

Neither polls well against the president. Read more “French Republicans Do Macron A Favor”

France’s Republican Presidential Primary, Explained

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Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz meets with French Republican party leaders Laurent Wauquiez and Michel Barnier in Salzburg, September 19, 2018 (EPP)

French Republicans choose their presidential candidate this week, who will challenge Emmanuel Macron in the spring.

Like all French elections, the primary is held in two rounds. Five candidates have qualified.

Here’s what you need to know. Read more “France’s Republican Presidential Primary, Explained”

French Election Is Macron’s to Lose

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French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, leave the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 5 (Elysée/Ghislain Mariette)

France’s presidential election is six months away, and it’s Emmanuel Macron’s to lose.

One in four voters support him wholeheartedly. That’s the support he got in the first voting round of the 2017 election, and it’s the share polls give him now.

Another 25 to 35 percent would prefer Macron over the far-right Marine Le Pen or Éric Zemmour, who are polling in second and third place.

Only a center-right candidate could make the second voting round competitive, with Xavier Bertrand holding the best cards. Read more “French Election Is Macron’s to Lose”

European Defense: If Not Now, When?

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Italian Air Force jets create the country’s tricolor with green, white and red smoke trails over Varenna, September 29, 2019 (Wikimedia Commons/Achille Ballerini)

Pre-Trump America is not coming back. If last week’s announcement of a trilateral defense pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (“AUKUS”) doesn’t convince the last Atlanticists that Europe needs to take matters into its own hands, I don’t know what will.

The new alliance excludes Europe. It snatches a deal to build nuclear submarines from France, the EU’s top military power. And it was negotiated in secret. The three English-speaking leaders didn’t even bother to give their European allies a head’s up!

The French, who would lose a €56 billion contract to build submarines for Australia, have called the snub “a breach of trust” and “a stab in the back.” French ambassadors have been recalled from Canberra and Washington DC for the first time ever.

Other Europeans are frustrated too, with officials calling the Australian about-face “unacceptable.”

Inevitably, it has been dubbed a “wake-up call” by everyone from Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign-policy coordinator, to Michael Roth, Germany’s European affairs ministers. But canceling an Australia-EU trade deal, which the European Commission had hoped to finalize this year, or postponing transatlantic talks about technology cooperation, which are scheduled for next week, won’t make Europe safer. What Europe needs to do is take its own defense seriously. Read more “European Defense: If Not Now, When?”

What’s in France’s New Climate Law

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High-speed train in France (Adobe Stock/Chlorophylle)

French lawmakers adopted a far-reaching climate law this week that puts the country on track to meet its Paris commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

That is short of the 55-percent cut the European Commission has proposed in its “Green Deal”, which has yet to be approved by member states.

The French measures do align with the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy, which sets aside 20 to 25 percent of funding for “eco-schemes”, which can range from organic farms to forests and wetlands being retained for carbon sequestration.

Some of the policies flow from the citizen consultations President Emmanuel Macron held across France in the wake of the 2018 Yellow Vests protests, which were sparked by a rise in gasoline tax.

Here is an overview. Read more “What’s in France’s New Climate Law”

Judges Need to Know Their Place

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Supreme Court of the Netherlands in The Hague, February 3, 2016 (Rijksvastgoedbedrijf/Bas Kijzers)

European judges have discovered they can compel politicians to take action against climate change.

France’s Council of State has given the government of Emmanuel Macron an April 2022 deadline (one month before the election) to ensure the country will meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990.

Germany’s Constitutional Court issued a similar ruling in April and gave the government an end-of-year deadline to update its policy.

A Dutch court has gone further, ordering Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, to reduce not just its own carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent but those of its customers and suppliers as well.

It’s like we’re living in a kritocracy. Read more “Judges Need to Know Their Place”

Macron Should Go Ahead with Pension Reforms

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French president Emmanuel Macron chairs a meeting in the Elysée Palace in Paris, August 27, 2020 (Elysée/Philippe Servent)

Emmanuel Macron is reportedly mulling pension reforms that were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are risks: reforms will almost certainly spark protests, including from trade unions, which oppose raising the retirement age. Macron can ill afford social unrest a year away from the election.

But it could also burnish the French president’s reformist credentials after the COVID-19 crisis forced him into a more managerial role.

Macron is expected to unveil his plans when he addresses the nation ahead of Bastille Day on July 14. The fact that it has leaked he may bring back reforms suggests he is testing the waters. So let me add my arguments to the discussion.

I’ll take the political first before covering the — more important — substantive arguments. Read more “Macron Should Go Ahead with Pension Reforms”

Republican, Socialist Incumbents Win French Runoffs

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Le Mabilay in Rennes, France, February 21, 2019 (Unsplash/Howard Bouchevereau)

France’s traditional major parties are projected to defend their control of the country’s thirteen regions in Europe in the second voting round on Sunday.

Last week, the center-left Socialists and center-right Republicans placed first in all regions, pushing Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and President Emmanuel Macron’s liberal En Marche! into third and fourth place.

The runoffs this weekend confirmed the results with exit polls giving the Republicans 38 percent support nationally, followed by the Socialists and Greens (who allied in the second round) at 35 percent and National Rally on 20 percent.

Elections were also held in France’s five overseas regions. Read more “Republican, Socialist Incumbents Win French Runoffs”

Regional Vote Throws Doubt on Macron’s Reelection Strategy

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron meets with his staff in the Elysée Palace in Paris, February 5, 2020 (Elysée/Soazig de la Moissonniere)

The unexpectedly strong performance of the center-right in France’s regional elections calls Emmanuel Macron’s reelection strategy into question.

The liberal incumbent has been leaning to the right expecting he would need their support to defeat the far right’s Marine Le Pen in a presidential runoff.

But if the center-right Republicans regroup, Macron risks not even qualifying for the runoff. Read more “Regional Vote Throws Doubt on Macron’s Reelection Strategy”