Arguments For and Against Macron’s Mercosur Threat

French president Emmanuel Macron answers a question from a reporter in Helsinki, Finland, August 30, 2018
French president Emmanuel Macron answers a question from a reporter in Helsinki, Finland, August 30, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

French president Emmanuel Macron has threatened to hold up ratification of an EU trade deal with Mercosur unless Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro does more to fight fires in the Amazon Rainforest.

Canada, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands have backed Macron up. Germany is less sure. Donald Trump is expected to side with Bolsonaro at the G7 summit this weekend.

Here are the arguments for and against the threat. Read more “Arguments For and Against Macron’s Mercosur Threat”

French Center-Right Needs More Than New Leader

France's Laurent Wauquiez attends a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, October 17, 2018
France’s Laurent Wauquiez attends a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, October 17, 2018 (EPP)

France’s center-right Republicans will be looking for a new leader after Laurent Wauquiez stepped down in the wake of a disappointing European election result.

His party got just 8.5 percent support, placing fourth behind President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and the Greens.

Wauquiez had been at 8 to 10 percent support in polls for the next presidential election, which is due in 2022.

But the party needs more than a fresh face. It needs a better strategy. Read more “French Center-Right Needs More Than New Leader”

France’s Old Parties Suffer Another Blow in European Election

The sun sets on the Bourbon Palace, seat of the French National Assembly, in Paris, June 8, 2007
The sun sets on the Bourbon Palace, seat of the French National Assembly, in Paris, June 8, 2007 (jrrosenberg)

France’s once-dominant center-left and center-right parties still haven’t recovered from their defeat two years ago at the hands of Emmanuel Macron.

The Socialists got only 6 percent support in European elections on Sunday, the same share as the far left. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicans got 8.5 percent, down from 21 percent five years ago.

Most of the media attention has gone to the winners: Macron’s liberal-centrist alliance, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and the Greens, who got almost 60 percent support combined. But the collapse of the old parties — and with it an era in French politics — is just as big a story. Read more “France’s Old Parties Suffer Another Blow in European Election”

France’s Traditional Parties Still Haven’t Recovered from Macron

The facade of the French National Assembly building in Paris, June 21, 2011
The facade of the French National Assembly building in Paris, June 21, 2011 (cactusbeetroot)

Two years into Emmanuel Macron’s presidency, France’s old political parties still haven’t recovered.

The Socialists, the party of Jacques Delors and François Mitterrand, are polling at a measly 6 percent for the European elections in May. The Republicans, who trace their political roots to Charles de Gaulle, are at 12 percent. Macron’s En Marche! (“Forward!”) and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally split 40 percent of the vote. The remainder goes to splinter parties on the left and right. Read more “France’s Traditional Parties Still Haven’t Recovered from Macron”

Small EU Countries Resist Franco-German Push for Protectionism

French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte during a European Council meeting in Brussels, June 24, 2018
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte during a European Council meeting in Brussels, June 24, 2018 (Elysée)

Since the European Commission blocked a landmark merger of the French and German train manufacturers Alstom and Siemens, France and Germany have come out in favor of a “genuine European industrial policy” to compete with China and the United States.

Smaller countries, led by the Netherlands and Poland, are wary. Read more “Small EU Countries Resist Franco-German Push for Protectionism”

Germany’s Kramp-Karrenbauer Answers Macron’s Call for EU Reform

Then-Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of Saarland attends a session of the Bundesrat in Berlin, Germany, July 10, 2015
Then-Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of Saarland attends a session of the Bundesrat in Berlin, Germany, July 10, 2015 (Bundesrat/Henning Schacht)

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats and likely successor to Angela Merkel, has answered Emmanuel Macron’s call for a European “renaissance” in an op-ed for Die Welt. (English version here.)

She embraces some of the French president’s proposals but warns against overreach. Read more “Germany’s Kramp-Karrenbauer Answers Macron’s Call for EU Reform”

Macron Doesn’t Need to Appease the Far Right

Xavier Bettel Emmanuel Macron Justin Trudeau
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, 2017 (NATO)

The worst argument against French president Emmanuel Macron’s latest EU reform push — made, among others, by the Russian-born Leonid Bershidsky, who writes for Bloomberg View from Germany, and the Dutch political commentator Peter van Nuijsenburg — is that it only provides ammunition for rival parties opposed to more European integration.

There are fair criticism to be made. Bershidsky also argues that Macron’s call for a European “renaissance” largely consists of adding more EU agencies and that what the bloc really needs is a shared Franco-German vision.

But the idea that less ambitious proposals, or no proposals at all, would appease the Euroskeptics is wrong. Read more “Macron Doesn’t Need to Appease the Far Right”

How Likely Is Macron’s European Renaissance?

French president Emmanuel Macron gives a news conference in Brussels, June 23, 2017
French president Emmanuel Macron gives a news conference in Brussels, June 23, 2017 (Facebook)

In op-eds in newspapers across the continent, French president Emmanuel Macron has called for a renewal, or renaissance, of the European project.

It is his second big push for EU reform since his speech at the Sorbonne in September 2017.

At the time, I divided Macron’s proposals, which ranged from a common eurozone budget to a single European asylum office, into the difficult, doable and low-hanging fruit. (I didn’t get everything right; there is still no single European asylum policy but there will be a eurozone budget, if a much smaller one than Macron envisaged.)

Let’s use the same division this time. Read more “How Likely Is Macron’s European Renaissance?”

Macron Fights His Way Back

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)

Commentators outside France have been predicting Emmanuel Macron’s downfall from the beginning of his presidency.

My own view throughout has been that unpopularity is unlikely to keep Macron up at night. He has been reforming France so thoroughly and at such a fast pace that he was bound to make enemies everywhere. He has a long-enough mandate (five years) to see his reforms bear fruit. And because both the center-left and center-right are in disarray, there is no strong opposition against him.

That threatened to change this winter, when opponents of a fuel-tax increase donned fluorescent yellow vests and took to the streets. Suddenly reactionary France had a movement. Polls showed massive support. Macron hastily canceled the tax hike, the first time he had bowed to public pressure. His political obituaries were being rewritten again. Read more “Macron Fights His Way Back”

Kurzism Doesn’t Travel Well

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Republican party leader Laurent Wauquiez and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Salzburg, September 19, 2018
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Republican party leader Laurent Wauquiez and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Salzburg, September 19, 2018 (EPP)

The Financial Times wonders if Austria’s Sebastian Kurz is the savior of Europe’s center-right or an enabler of the far right.

His supporters, including the liberal-minded former prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, see the Austrian as the antidote to Orbanism:

He talks about an open world, internationalism and is pro-European. But he is pragmatic about solving issues. And one of the big issues is immigration.

Critics argue that by taking a hard line on immigration, Kurz is legitimizing the far right. “You don’t fight fire with kerosene,” according to former chancellor and former Social Democratic Party leader Christian Kern. Read more “Kurzism Doesn’t Travel Well”