Macron Should Go Ahead with Pension Reforms

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron chats with a guard at the Elysée Palace in Paris, December 19, 2017 (Elysée/Ghislain Mariette)

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”

Don’t Bet Against Israel’s Anti-Netanyahu Coalition Yet

Avigdor Lieberman Benny Gantz Yair Lapid Naftali Bennett
Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel attend a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 13 (Flash90/Yonatan Sindel)

Israel’s new left-right coalition has suffered its first defeat in the Knesset.

Amichai Chikli, a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina (Rightward) party, sided with the largely conservative opposition to block an extension of the family reunification law.

Two members of the governing United Arab List, known by its Hebrew acronym Ra’am, abstained, arguing a proposed compromise, which would have granted residency to some 1,600 Palestinian families, did not go far enough.

Without their support, the vote ended in a 59-59 tie, which means the law expires. Read more “Don’t Bet Against Israel’s Anti-Netanyahu Coalition Yet”

Swedish Housing Crisis Has Similarities with Netherlands

Stockholm Sweden
View of Södermalm from the island of Riddarholmen in Stockholm, Sweden (iStock/Goncharova Julia)

Stefan Löfven may be Europe’s first prime minister brought down by a housing crisis, but he is unlikely to be the last.

Löfven, a social democrat, lost the support of the far left over a proposal to allow landlords to freely set rents for newly-built apartments.

Rents in Sweden are usually negotiated between landlords and tenants’ associations.

Other countries struggle to find the right balance between public and private in housing too. Berlin instituted a citywide rent freeze last year, but it was struck down as unconstitutional by Germany’s highest court. Spain’s central government is challenging a Catalan rent cap. Authorities in Barcelona want to extend a moratorium on evictions that has been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But perhaps the best comparison is with the Netherlands, which organizes public housing in much the same way as Sweden. Read more “Swedish Housing Crisis Has Similarities with Netherlands”

The EU’s Farm Deal, Explained

Nantes France cow
A cow in Nantes, France (Unsplash/Mathieu Odin)

Nobody is happy with the EU’s new farms policy. Greens argue ambitions for biodiversity and sustainability are too low. Agricultural groups complain they are too high, and farmers will receive lower subsidies to boot.

Which suggests the compromise — the outcome of two years of negotiations — may not be unreasonable.

Here are the most important things to know. Read more “The EU’s Farm Deal, Explained”

Republican, Socialist Incumbents Win French Runoffs

Xavier Bertrand
Xavier Bertrand, the president of Hauts-de-France, meets with the mayors of Pas-de-Calais in Nordausques, France, May 26 (Se Battre Pour Vous)

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”

What Sánchez Should Do Next for Catalonia

Pedro Sánchez
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez delivers a news conference outside the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, June 22 (La Moncloa)

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez has pardoned the nine Catalan separatists who were imprisoned for organizing an unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017.

The pardons fall short of an amnesty. Former regional vice president Oriol Junqueras and the other politicians who were convicted to between nine and thirteen years in prison for “sedition” against the Spanish state and misuse of government funds are still barred from holding public office.

“Sedition” remains a crime. (Although Sánchez’ government is looking into revising the arcane statute.) A vote on Catalan independence would still be illegal. It’s why I argued a month ago a pardon was the least Sánchez could do.

Here’s what he should do next. Read more “What Sánchez Should Do Next for Catalonia”

Regional Vote Throws Doubt on Macron’s Reelection Strategy

Jens Stoltenberg Emmanuel Macron
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and French president Emmanuel Macron deliver a news conference outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, May 21 (NATO)

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”

Republicans, Socialists Defend Control of French Regions

France flag
Flag of France (The Prime Minister’s Office/Arron Hoare)
  • France’s traditional left- and right-wing parties won the first round of regional elections on Sunday.
  • They were eclipsed in the 2017 national and 2019 European elections by Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally.
  • Neither Macron nor Le Pen is likely to win one of France’s eighteen regional presidencies, but they are still polling in first and second place for the 2022 presidential election.
  • The second round of the regional elections will be held next week. Read more “Republicans, Socialists Defend Control of French Regions”

French Regional Elections Guide

Marseille France
Skyline of Marseille, France, June 13, 2021 (Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

All eighteen regions of France — thirteen in Europe and five overseas, counting Mayotte — hold assembly elections this Sunday and next. The assemblies in turn elect regional presidents, whose powers are more limited than those of American and German state governors.

More than 4,000 council seats across 96 departments — the administrative level between regions and municipalities — are also contested.

These are the last major elections in France before the presidential and National Assembly elections in April of next year. They are less a test of President Emmanuel Macron’s reelection prospects than a preview of whether he will be challenged by the center-right or far right.

Here is everything you need to know. Read more “French Regional Elections Guide”

Boris Johnson’s Blue Wall Starts to Crack

Boris Johnson Angela Merkel
British prime minister Boris Johnson and German chancellor Angela Merkel pose for photos at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, June 11 (10 Downing Street/Simon Dawson)

British Conservatives woke up Friday morning to the news that a once-safe seat in Parliament was no longer blue.

Liberal Democrat Sarah Green overturned a majority of 16,000 in Chesham and Amersham, bordering the London Green Belt, with a remarkable 25-point swing away from the Conservatives. It is one of the largest swings away from the ruling party since the early 1990s, when Tony Blair launched New Labour.

Extrapolating from a by-election is risky. Britain has had many by-elections which were heralded as the dawning of a new political era that never arrived. But a center-right party losing the suburbs after lurching to the populist right sounds like a familiar story. Read more “Boris Johnson’s Blue Wall Starts to Crack”