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Posts Tagged ‘France’

France is leaving lockdown. Now the trouble begins

Posted by hkarner - 17. Mai 2020

Date: 14‑05‑2020

Source: The Economist

The process is hampered by adversarial labour relations and distrust of government

On the estuary of the river Seine in Normandy, the Renault factory at Sandouville lies silent and empty. Usually, the 1,900 workers at this plant turn out 132,000 vehicles a year, mostly delivery vans. But on May 7th a court in Le Havre ordered Renault not to reopen fully as planned on May 11th, when France began its déconfinement, or emergence from lockdown. It upheld a complaint brought by the Confédération Générale du Travail, a union with historical links to the Communist Party, that the firm had not followed procedure for consulting employees about reopening. Pending an appeal, the factory remains shut.

After eight weeks of confinement, France was supposed to resume work this week. Forms for permission to pop to the shops have been binned. Public transport was running at 75% of normal in Paris, with masks compulsory. Hairdressers, clothes shops, bookstores and all other commerce—except restaurants and cafés—were allowed to reopen. Some primary‑school pupils returned to class. It was “essential” for the economy to get going again, said Bruno Le Maire, the finance minister. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Emmanuel Macron’s reforms are working, but not for him

Posted by hkarner - 23. Februar 2020

Date: 20‑02‑2020

Source: The Economist

Unemployment in France is falling. So are the president’s poll ratings

Abroad grin spreads across Aboubacar Koumbassa’s face as he displays the result of his morning’s class: a tray of oven‑hot pains‑aux‑raisins (currant pastries), which he and his classmates have baked for the first time. The 18‑year‑old, in a white chef’s cap and apron, had originally hoped for an apprenticeship as an electrician. But it was easier to secure one at a bakery. He now spends one week in three in the classroom, travelling over an hour by train. The other two weeks he is learning on the job. “I made the right choice,” he says, carefully inspecting his pastry, “because this is teamwork. Here we learn the theory, and at my firm we are really working.”

Apprenticeships offer a much‑needed path out of France’s highly academic school system and into the world of work. The Campus des Métiers, where Mr Koumbassa studies, lies in the Paris suburb of Seine‑Saint‑Denis, a neighbourhood of brutalist tower blocks with a poverty rate twice the national average. The centre trains some 1,400 apprentices, in subjects ranging from car mechanics and plumbing to hairdressing and patisserie. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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France Moves to Slow European Union’s Balkan Expansion

Posted by hkarner - 25. November 2019

Date: 24-11-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Critics say French proposals could freeze out new members for a generation

BRUSSELS—A long-delayed European Union goal of expanding to include more countries in the western Balkans is slipping further out of reach following French moves to rework how new members join the bloc.

Talks to add Albania and countries from the former Yugoslavia have been stymied for years by wariness among current members over enlargement and slowness among candidates in implementing political and economic overhauls. Current political developments in the EU pose new threats to the vision.

Britain, an ardent proponent of enlargement, is almost out of the EU. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also an enlargement supporter, is entering her swan song. Pushing back, France’s increasingly assertive president, Emmanuel Macron, is arguing that deepening integration among current EU members is more important than expanding the bloc. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The End of “Peak Germany” and the Return of France

Posted by hkarner - 19. August 2019

Arnab Das

Arnab Das is Global Market Strategist at a London-based asset management firm.

Jacek Rostowski was Poland’s Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister from 2007 to 2013.Europe works best, as the old quip has it, with the Russians out, the Germans down, and the Americans in. Today’s new European order has the Russians up, the Germans on the way down, the Americans potentially bowing out, Britons struggling toward Brexit – and France rising.

LONDON – At first blush, the result of the European Parliament election in May, and the subsequent nomination of the European Union’s new leadership team, augur continuity and not disruption for the bloc. Nationalist parties failed to make any significant gains in the election, and then large Western European status quo powers hand-picked federalists for the top EU jobs. In particular, the choice of Ursula von der Leyen to be the next president of the European Commission – making her the first German to hold the post in a half-century – seemed to confirm Germany’s continued dominance in Europe.

Yet undercurrents frequently diverge from the surface flow. History suggests that hegemons often assume formal leadership as their power wanes, not when it is strengthening. Today, several factors threaten Germany’s status as the EU top dog – and France stands to be the main beneficiary.Until now, German dominance has rested on two main pillars: seemingly permanent American defense guarantees, and the country’s world-leading manufacturing firms and massive net-creditor position. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Neue Kommissionschefin von der Leyen: Partystimmung in Paris

Posted by hkarner - 23. Juli 2019

Während in Deutschland viele mit Ursula von der Leyen hadern, ist die Freude in Frankreich riesig. Die Wahl der CDU-Politikerin zur neuen Kommissionschefin ist für Emmanuel Macron ein großer Erfolg.

Von Georg Blume, Paris

Sonntag, 21.07.2019 00:22 Uhr. spiegel.de

„Es lebe Europa, vive l’Europe, long live Europe!“ – so hatte Ursula von der Leyen am Dienstag ihre Rede vor dem Europaparlament in Straßburg beendet. Das Werben war erfolgreich. Die Abgeordneten wählten die CDU-Politikerin zur neuen Präsidentin der EU-Kommission. Hinterher warfen deutsche Kritiker von der Leyen jedoch zu viel Pathos in ihren Worten vor. In Frankreich wiederum ist man so etwas längst gewöhnt. Präsident Emmanuel Macron schließt fast jede seiner Rede mit einem „Vive la République!“ Kein Wunder, dass ihm von der Leyens Auftritt gut gefiel.

Die frühere Verteidigungsministerin verkörpere in einer Person „ein deutsch-französisches Paar“, heißt es aus dem Kreis von Macrons Beratern im Élysée-Palast. Der Präsident hatte sich bislang mit Reaktionen auf von der Leyens Aufritt eher zurückgehalten – ganz bewusst. Es hätte zu sehr nach Selbstbeweihräucherung ausgesehen. Schließlich hat Macron nie einen Hehl daraus gemacht, dass er es war, der von der Leyen im Kreis der europäischen Regierungschefs vorgeschlagen hatte. Doch nun sind ein paar Tage vergangen. Und inzwischen will man in Paris durchaus durchblicken lassen, wie froh man mittlerweile nach Brüssel blickt. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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France Starts a Digital Tax War

Posted by hkarner - 18. Juli 2019

Date: 17-07-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal By The Editorial Board

Macron’s levy on U.S. tech giants plays into Trump’s hands.

French President Emmanuel Macron

Rule No. 1 for international economic affairs ought to be “Don’t give Donald Trump a legitimate excuse for a trade war.” French President Emmanuel Macron missed the memo, which explains why Paris is pushing a new digital tax that even the Germans don’t want for Europe.

The digital services tax approved by the National Assembly last week imposes a 3% levy on sales by global tech companies in France. If the companies have no profits, they will still pay the tax. The theory is that 80-year-old global agreements that tax profits in a company’s home country are outdated in the digital era: Tech companies are too good at exploiting loopholes that allow them to book profits arising from their intellectual property and other intangible assets somewhere other than where they earn revenue. Instead, the thinking goes, they should have to pay tax where the sales are made.

Plenty of European Union countries would love to impose a tax of this sort on U.S. tech, and the U.K., Italy and Spain are debating their own versions. But most Europeans worry about retaliation, which is why governments like Germany’s scuttled earlier proposals for an EU-wide version of the French plan. Mr. Macron seems to hope his unilateral act will spur others to move faster.

Instead he may spur a trade war. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office last week opened a Section 301 investigation to determine whether the French tax unfairly discriminates against American companies. This would pave the way for retaliatory tariffs. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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New ways of selling books clash with France’s old pricing rules

Posted by hkarner - 7. Juli 2019

Date: 04-07-2019
Source: The Economist
Can a “one book, one price” principle survive e-commerce?

A book is so much more than mere ink and paper. So insist French booksellers, who for nearly four decades have successfully lobbied to keep the forces of the free market at bay. A law passed in 1981 bans the sale of any book at anything other than the price decreed by its publisher. Authorities are cracking down on those trying to flog the latest Thomas Piketty or j.k. Rowling at a discount.

The fixed-price rule is meant to keep customers loyal to their local bookshop and out of the clutches of supermarkets and hypercapitaliste American corporations. But the advent of e-commerce and e-readers has prompted questions worthy of their own tomes. Can you fix the price of a book if it is part of an all-you-can-read subscription service? Are audiobooks books at all? And what of authors who self-publish? Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Europe’s gaseous political alliances

Posted by hkarner - 23. Juni 2019

Date: 22-06-2019
Source: The Economist: Charlemagne

The old Franco-German pact has given way to shifting coalitions

“Schmidt and Giscard supported each other on every point which came up during this European Council,” scribbled Roy Jenkins in his diary in 1977. The former British home secretary had just become president of the European Commission, the eu’s executive. He was struck by the extent to which West Germany (led by by Helmut Schmidt) and France (led by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing) looked out for each other. Back in those days Europe’s two central powers sorted out their differences in private, and then used their combined weight to set the agenda for the entire club.

Today things work differently. On many policy subjects, France and Germany are now openly divided. The former wants to cut short the endless Brexit negotiations; the latter is willing to prolong them. France backs the European Intervention Initiative, a European military force willing to act even when some eu states disagree; Germany is keener on Permanent Structured Co-operation, a broader but less dynamic forum for eu security co-ordination. France wants to integrate the euro zone further, to prepare it for the next crisis; Germany frets about moral hazard.

The more the eu gains members, shrinks in relative global weight and faces ever-tougher circumstances, the more it struggles to present a common front. The eu summit starting on June 20th, which will focus on allocating the union’s big jobs, will illustrate that truth. The choice of president for the next European Commission will be the main bone of contention. Angela Merkel is supporting Manfred Weber, a Bavarian candidate whom her European People’s Party (epp), the main centre-right grouping, backs. Emmanuel Macron, France’s liberal president, wants to block him and appoint instead Michel Barnier, a Frenchman and the lead Brexit negotiator, who is also in the epp, or perhaps Margrethe Vestager, the eu’s formidable Danish competition commissioner who hails from his own liberal group. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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French Protesters Hang Up Their Yellow Vests

Posted by hkarner - 17. Juni 2019

Date: 16-06-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Battered by leadership crisis and flagging support, movement that tested President Emmanuel Macron now faces uncertain future

Yellow-vest protesters marching in Paris in May. The demonstrations began in November as an act of defiance against the government’s plans to raise fuel taxes.

PARIS—For months, Yves Garrec dedicated his Saturdays to slipping on a yellow road-safety vest and hitting the streets in protest. Not any more.

“I’ve put my yellow vest back in the car glove compartment,” the 60-year-old chauffeur says.

Seven months after waves of demonstrations first washed over France—bringing the government to its knees—the yellow-vest movement has run out of steam. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Why the EU Election Was a Win for Macron

Posted by hkarner - 30. Mai 2019

Although the far-right National Rally edged out La République en Marche ! in the European Parliament election, broader trends in European politics now look favorable for French President Emmanuel Macron. His party will now lead a pivotal centrist bloc, and will be able to work closely with the newly reinforced Greens on crucial reforms.

PARIS – Though the final vote tally might seem to suggest otherwise, the European Parliament elections were a strategic success for French President Emmanuel Macron. There are four reasons why this is so.

First, Macron succeeded in framing the election as a contest between progressives and populists. Though he has been assailed at home in recent months – including by some on his own “side” – it is worth remembering that this message did not emerge out of thin air. Rather, it harks back to Macron’s 2017 presidential campaign, which itself tapped into a broader political sea change taking place across Europe. In that election, he overcame the traditional right-left divide. Two years later, this was replicated in the European Parliament elections. Historically, the Republicans on the right and the Socialists on the left have dominated French politics. Yet these parties’ combined share of the popular vote was under 15%, whereas Macron’s La République en Marche ! won 22.4%, and the far-right National Rally (formerly the National Front) picked up 23.3%. Behind these figures is an unprecedented collapse of the mainstream French right, which has failed to reconcile identity politics with traditional liberalism. Though some French conservatives have migrated to the National Rally, much of the center-right electorate has gravitated toward Macron’s party, owing to efforts by Prime Minister Édouard Philippe (formerly of the Republicans).Moreover, most of those who switched to La République en Marche ! are pensioners who did so despite being hit hard by Macron’s tax reforms (some of which have been reversed). This suggests that Macron’s progressive-versus-populist narrative helped to re-mobilize France’s – and perhaps Europe’s – pro-European electorate. While the National Rally performed well and Italy’s right-wing League party made gains, they failed to trigger the EU-wide political earthquake that many had come to expect.The second reason the election represents a victory for Macron is that his party will now be able to claim leadership over a pivotal centrist parliamentary group of 110 members. The relative losses suffered by the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), combined with the surge in support for the Greens, means that the European Parliament is entering a period of quadripartite governance. Provided these groups are able to compromise, the new arrangement will probably be an improvement on the old one, wherein the EPP and S&D divvied up all of the jobs. For the first time in the European Parliament’s history, the number of MEPs affiliated with the two main parties represents only 44% of the total.A more fluid parliamentary composition will allow for more ad hoc majorities to emerge in support of various policy proposals, given that there is so much common ground between La République en Marche !, the S&D, and the Greens. And, as an added bonus, the end of the EPP/S&D duopoly also marks the end of German hegemony in the Parliament.

Third, the Spitzenkandidaten process – whereby the largest party grouping selects the president of the European Commission – is likely to collapse, and this may also work to Macron’s advantage. The system is a first-past-the-post mechanism in a proportionally elected Parliament, and has more to do with partisanship than with democracy, because it gives automatic power to the largest group.

But while the EPP won the most parliamentary seats, its Spitzenkandidat, Manfred Weber, is very controversial. Just before the election, he was weakened by the political demise of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose government was by the release of a video in which his vice chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party, appears to offer a quid pro quo for electoral help from Russia. But Merkel still defends Weber, and, apart from Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, most EU leaders are reluctant to confront the European Parliament on the Spitzenkandidaten issue. That may shorten the odds for Margrethe Vestager – who is not from the EPP, but who is, in a sense, a liberal Spitzenkandidat – while while lengthening them for Michel Barnier, who is from the EPP but is not a Spitzenkandidat. If the Council succeeds in ruling out Weber and his populist supporters, Macron will claim it as a success.Finally, the election provides a check on German hegemony within the EU more broadly. Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has been weakened, and the country’s Greens have grown stronger. For his part, Macron will find the Greens much easier to work with on eurozone reform, especially if they end up joining a new German coalition government.Taken together, these post-election considerations paint a rather positive picture for Macron. The question now is whether he can use his strength at the EU level to shore up his domestic position. This will not happen automatically. With the fall of the French right, there may be a temptation to position La République en Marche ! as a new home for right-wing French voters. But while this might capture Paris’s bourgeois 16th arrondissement, doing so would be a mistake. Instead, Macron should focus on securing more of the atomized left, particularly those who have moved to the National Rally.As matters stand, La République en Marche !’s base remains limited to the “winners” of globalization. Rural, alienated, and economically vulnerable voters remain in the National Rally’s camp. To win them over, Macron must reduce the polarization between the two parties.

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