Fuel Tax Is Excuse for Reactionary France to Riot

French president Emmanuel Macron answers a question from a reporter in Helsinki, Finland, August 30
French president Emmanuel Macron answers a question from a reporter in Helsinki, Finland, August 30 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

Protests against a fuel tax increase in France have morphed into violent demonstrations against the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

This weekend alone, 260 rioters were arrested in Paris, where cars were set ablaze and stores looted. A woman was killed in Marseille when a protester threw a tear gas canister through the window of her home.

The so-called Yellow Vests movement, named after the fluorescent safety vests French motorists are required to keep in their cars, started in opposition to higher taxes on diesel and gasoline. The increases are meant to help France meets its climate goals.

Diesel tax would rise 6.5 cents per liter, gasoline tax 2.9 cents. Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg calculates that the average motorist would end up paying €13 more per month. Hardly worth setting Paris on fire for.

The movement isn’t really about taxes then. It is that they have become a symbol for reactionaries who feel Macron has ignored them. Read more

Eurozone Budget Could Take Years

French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte during a European Council meeting in Brussels, June 24
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte during a European Council meeting in Brussels, June 24 (Elysée)

The Financial Times reports that Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have made a “breakthrough” on eurozone reform: the French and German leaders agree the currency union should get its own budget.

The move is good news for the French president, who has long believed that giving the single currency area its own resources will make it more resilient to economic crises.

But it is unlikely to come into being any time soon. Read more

Don’t Panic About Macron’s Falling Popularity

French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of a guest outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 6, 2017
French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of a guest outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 6, 2017 (World Bank/Ibrahim Ajaja)

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, Merkel Agree on Eurozone Reforms

French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel meet in Meseberg, June 19
French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel meet in Meseberg, June 19 (Bundesregierung)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has met many of French president Emmanuel Macron’s demands for eurozone reform during a meeting in Meseberg outside Berlin. Read more

Macron Unveils Small-Business Reforms and Privatizations

Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23, 2017
Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23, 2017 (BKA/Andy Wenzel)

French president Emmanuel Macron has unveiled new economic reforms benefiting small- and medium-sized businesses:

  • Streamlining bankruptcy procedures.
  • Easing auditing requirements.
  • Advising companies on digitalization and exports.
  • Lifting the thresholds at which higher tax and social charges as well as employment rules kick in. Read more

EU Policy Recommendations for Biggest Member States

Flags of the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, July 22, 2016
Flags of the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, July 22, 2016 (European Commission)

The European Commission has released its annual policy recommendations for the 28 member states.

Here are the highlights for the biggest economies on the continent. Read more

Italian Pact Would Deprive Macron of Ally for EU Reform

Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni is received by French president Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017
Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni is received by French president Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017 (Elysée)

For the first time in its postwar history, Italy could soon be ruled by anti-EU parties. The populist Five Star Movement and (formerly Northern) League are on the verge of forming a coalition government.

Such a pact would deprive French president Emmanuel Macron of a key ally for EU reform. Read more