Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

It Could Happen Here: Chronicle of a (not so) Foretold Election

by Bernard Tue Apr 19th, 2022 at 08:20:31 PM EST

It was pretty much written in advance. All pundits agreed. Emmanuel Macron was leading the polls, far ahead of his challengers. Politicians from the French Social-Democrat party, the Parti Socialiste (PS), moved to support Macron, leaving the official candidate, Anne Hidalgo, in the dust. So did other politicians from the mainstream right-wing, the former Gaullist party of Chirac & Sarkozy, Les Républicains, this time, to the detriment of the Les Républicains candidate, Valérie Pécresse.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine even boosted Macron's lead in the polls, leaving his main challenger, Marine Le Pen, several percentage points behind, with the only left-wing candidate,  Jean-Luc Mélenchon (France Unbowed) far behind, and fascist firebrand Eric Zemmour numbers sinking fast.

For the second round, coming up next Sunday, 24 April, every polls showed Macron leading by a wide margin, regardless of his opponent. All pundits agreed: Macron was all but sailing to re-election.

Not so fast.

Read more... (65 comments, 1122 words in story)

Chronicle of a Foretold Election

by Bernard Sat Apr 2nd, 2022 at 08:47:16 PM EST

The title of this diary is, of course, totally stolen from a well known Colombian novelist, Nobel prize in literature.

This April, there will be elections in several European countries, starting Sunday, April 3, with general elections in both Serbia and Hungary. Also, parliamentary elections in Slovenia will take place on April 24 - Polls often take place on Sundays on the European continent.

Since I don't know much about the Hungarian, Serbian or Slovenian politics, I will focus on the upcoming French presidential elections instead:

  • First round is scheduled for Sunday April 10: there are twelve candidates, including the incumbent, Emmanuel Macron.
  • Second round is scheduled for Sunday April 24: the two candidates with the most votes at the end of the first round, will enter a run-off second round.

Read more... (45 comments, 1200 words in story)

After Merkel: German Elections 2021

by Bernard Fri Sep 24th, 2021 at 08:46:08 PM EST

Next Sunday, September 26, German voters will renew their Federal parliament, the Bundestag.

Angela Merkel, aka Mutti, aka the Queen of Europe, is retiring after 16 years at the helm as Federal Chancellor, so this is a momentous event, not only for Germany but for the all or Europe.

There are (most likely) two possible names for her replacement: Olaf Scholz from the SPD or Armin Laschet from the CDU, Merkel's party.

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Hiding behind a sofa: European hypocrisy

by Bernard Mon Apr 19th, 2021 at 06:26:45 PM EST

Coming back to the infamous "sofagate" incident after two weeks, there are still a couple of points that look important and are worth pointing out.

First, cui bono? There are good arguments that the snub wasn't deliberate because (1) Erdogan had nothing to gain from humiliating VDL and the EU, and (2) Turkey wanted to cool down the relations that had gone quite tense with EU countries like Greece or Cyprus (or even France), and discuss more concrete things like customs union, which is very important for Turkey. The former Turkey ambassador to the EU blames the faux-pas on "on inexperience and a lack of institutional memory on both sides."

Then again, the opposite view is that Erdogan did humiliate the EU because he could and would never do that to, say, Merkel. In any case, there could have been a mixture of both, actually.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Brexit: There's a Deal

by Bernard Thu Dec 24th, 2020 at 04:12:03 PM EST

Looks like there will be a Brexit deal for Christmas, after all.

Brexit: EU, UK clinch trade and security deal - DW

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said at a press conference that the two sides "finally" reached a deal.

"It was a long and winding road, but we have a good deal to show for it," she said on Thursday.

She added that the UK and the EU will continue cooperating on areas of mutual interest, naming climate, energy, security, and transport.

"I believe, also, that this agreement is in the United Kingdom's interest. It will set solid foundations for a new start with a long-term friend. And it means that we can finally put Brexit behind us, and Europe is continuing to move forward," she added.

Frontpaged - Bernard

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EU Trade Commissioner Hogan resigns following 'Golfgate'

by Bernard Thu Aug 27th, 2020 at 07:03:14 PM EST

Phil Hogan, in charge of the Trade portfolio in the EU Commission, announced his resignation yesterday night (August 26), following a week long political storm dubbed 'Golfgate'.
Hogan traveled to his native Ireland a couple of weeks ago for a short summer break, but he also attended a dinner in a golfing resort near Galway, on the western coast of Ireland, on Wednesday 19, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the parliamentary golf society, along with 80 other Irish politicians. The problem? Ireland's coronavirus safety rules were just being strengthened to limit all gathering to just six people.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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France Municipal Elections: The Aftermath - Part 2

by Bernard Sat Aug 8th, 2020 at 06:53:44 PM EST

Recap from Part 1 and eurogreen's diary: Municipal elections were held in France last spring to elect the municipal council (and the mayor) in the 35,000-odd municipalities throughout the country, ranging from small villages with 10 inhabitants to major cities like Lyon, Marseille or Paris, and as far away as Papetee, French Polynesia.

In about 30,000 cities, the municipal council was elected after the first round held on March 15, by getting over 50% of the vote. For the remaining 4,600 cities, including most big cities, the second round, initially due for March 22, eventually took place on June 28, after the country-wide lockdown from March 18 to May 11.

These were local elections and not necessarily an indication of national political trends for the next presidential elections in 2022, when E.Macron is expected to run for re-election.

Still, do these unusual elections give us any indication as to the mood of the French electorate? Are they showing any significant evolution? Do we see similar trends in other European countries?

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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France Municipal Elections: The Aftermath - Part 1

by Bernard Wed Jul 15th, 2020 at 08:40:31 PM EST

As the French farmers say: It's only once the cattle fair is over that you can count the cow pies.

After three years of Macron presidency, the municipal elections were seen as a sign of where the French people stand vis a vis the main political parties, and, of course, would these local elections point to any trend for the future presidential and legislative elections scheduled the spring of 2022. Especially after a long story of protests against the Macon-led neo-lib agenda: first, the "gilets jaunes" Winter of Discontent, then the 2019 protests and strikes against the retirement reforms; finally, in the wake of the global movement spurred by the killing of George Floyd, a general protest against police brutality and an endemic everyday racism.

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

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LQD: EU27 [including France] not to say "non"

by Bernard Tue Sep 10th, 2019 at 07:21:21 PM EST

The title is, of course, a tongue in cheek reference to ATinNM"s diary based on a Deutsche Welle article reporting:

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said that under the current circumstances, France won't offer the UK another extension to its withdrawal from the EU.

Of course, all members of the EUCO have a right to veto an A50 extension should Boris follow the law and request it, but a "France says 'non' to Brexit delay" headline sells more copy in the English speaking world than, say "Luxembourg says 'non' to Brexit delay".

In any case, it doesn't matter: if the UK manages to ask for an extension, the EU27, including France, will grant one, however reluctantly. Here's why.

Read more... (14 comments, 562 words in story)

Continent preparing for Brexit

by Bernard Sun Sep 1st, 2019 at 04:40:45 PM EST

It started with a question from Frank:

how France will respond to a no deal Brexit at an elite and popular level. Will UK exports be "discouraged" at Calais? Will "sectoral agreements" in the absence of a withdrawal deal be permitted? Will Johnson et al be indulged afterwards or shunned like the plague?

Since my answer was running a bit long, I've put this diary together.

The French government has - quietly - started Brexit preparations for quite some time now; they even have an official government Brexit portal. Different ministries also have their own Brexit web pages.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger - we need more diaries on prepartions for Brexit in other EU states

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LQD: Von der Leyen confirmed as new Commission president

by Bernard Tue Jul 16th, 2019 at 06:28:37 PM EST

Von der Leyen confirmed as new Commission president by paper-thin majority - Euractiv

The European Parliament confirmed on Tuesday (16 July) Ursula von der Leyen by a paper-thin majority as the new European Commission president, giving her the reins of the EU executive for the next five years.

The German defence minister - a surprise candidate from the EPP, picked by the member states on 21 June - managed to convince a majority of Socialists and liberals in the Parliament with promises of reforms and climate action. She won 383 votes, compared to the minimum of 374 votes necessary, in a secret paper ballot - only nine more than the required minimum.

The votes against were 327 with 22 abstentions or blank vote.

In comparison, five years ago Jean-Claude Juncker was elected with 422 votes. The difference, however, is at that time, there were no doubts that the former prime minister of Luxembourg would get the top EU job. In the case of von der Leyen, a less known figure, who moreover was not even a Spitzenkandidat, uncertainty prevailed in the few weeks before the vote.

More importantly, it appears that the three mainstream groups, EPP, S&D and RE, voted predominantly in favour of the nominee proposed by EU heads of state and government,  forging a majority which would be much needed in the years to come.

Other coverage from Deutsche Welle and the Grauniad.

Secret ballot, so no detail on how many in the EPP, S&D and RE voted for or against her.

Comments >> (35 comments)

Above the Law. Jupiter, the Ministers and the Bodyguard

by Bernard Sun Jul 22nd, 2018 at 04:02:36 PM EST

Last week-end, French President Emmanuel Macron was on top of the world.

On Saturday, July 14, he and his wife Brigitte had attended the Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Élysées (this year, sans Donald Trump), given the customary press interviews and then flew to Moscow to attend the FIFA World Cup final game between France (Les Bleus) and Croatia. On late Sunday afternoon, Les Bleus had done it again: they won the World Cup for the second time in history, exactly 20 years after the first 1998 win by the Zidane generation.

Front paged by Frank Schnittger

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European Trumps

by Bernard Sat Feb 24th, 2018 at 06:05:50 PM EST

Frank has posted a diary on the triumph of Trumpism across the Atlantic. But Trump and his tactics have inspired a number of politicians, or even entire parties, in Europe as well.

Since DJT's election, many European politicians have been nicknamed "the <insert country name> Trump". One such example is Laurent Wauquiez, aka "the French Trump", who has succeeded Nicolas Sarkozy at the helm of the LR (Les Républicains) mainstream right wing party in the wake of humiliating defeats for Sarkozy (in the primary) and Fillon (in the general election). Wauquiez's "strategy" is one that others have tried before him: emulating the Front National's themes, especially the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, while keeping a plutocrat-friendly "pro-business" agenda, despite some vague (pre-election, obviously) protectionist noises.

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French elections: Second Round Open Thread

by Bernard Sat May 6th, 2017 at 07:29:14 PM EST

What do you know: it's Saturday and voting has already started. Polling stations are open in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, French Caribbean islands like Guadeloupe, Martinique or St Martin (the French half that is), French Guyana, French Polynesia and also in various French consulates across the Americas. Situations seems to have improved in Montréal were the voters had to stand in line for several hours two weeks ago.

Moving westward, tomorrow, polling stations will open in New Caledonia, Wallis & Futuna and French consulates in Oceania, Asia and Europe. Polling stations in mainland France will be open at 8:00 CEST (UTC+2) and will close at 19:00 CEST in most places, 20:00 in "big cities". As for the first round, two weeks ago, all polls are under embargo, by law, until the 20:00 closure time. Of course, the embargo doesn't apply to Belgian and Swiss media.

frontpaged - Bjinse

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French elections: First Round Open Thread

by Bernard Sun Apr 23rd, 2017 at 08:58:25 AM EST

Polling stations are open since 8:00 this morning in mainland France. Polls are also open in overseas territories like Réunion island, New Caledonia and various French consulates throughout Asia, Oceania, Africa and Europe: pretty much all places west of the International Date Line up to the eastern shores of the Atlantic (including UK, Ireland, Portugal, Morocco and western Africa). For instance, there are 54 polling stations in the UK (42 in London - source).

For the Americas, Caribbean and Pacific islands east of the International Date Line, the polls were held yesterday, due to the time difference. At the French consulate in Washington DC, voter registration was up 30%. In Montréal, only a single polling place was open and the line stretched for more than 1 km; same in Toronto where the voters had to wait in line for more than 2 hours.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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French presidential elections 2017: First Round

by Bernard Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 08:09:56 PM EST

With two weeks to go until the first round, the Presidential contest has entered the official phase: since this Monday, the media are obliged by law to give equal time to each and every candidate, regardless of notoriety, or big party backing her or him. Each candidate will also have the opportunity to air their own 15 minutes segments for free on public TV.

For instance, Philipe Poutou, a factory car worker at a Ford Motor Company plant near Bordeaux,  running for the Trotskyst "New Antcapitalist Party", will get the same air time on national television than the other candidates like Macron, Fillon or Le Pen.

Since my first diary, the race for the coveted second round runoff on May 7 has been led by Le Pen and Macron in the polls. The recent developments seem to be Macron's support tapering off, but still keeping in the same range as Le Pen, with Mélenchon clearly rising over Hamon, the official PS candidate that many PS officials are openly betraying.

The scandal ridden Fillon is still polling several points behind the two front runners and about level with Mélenchon. But no matter what, even though this looks like "a four horse race" (to quote eurogreen), there's only room for two in the second round. So who will they be?

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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European Elections 2017, next stop: France

by Bernard Mon Mar 27th, 2017 at 08:14:30 PM EST

After the Netherlands, France is next in line in the EU 2017 elections cycle. It'll start in about four weeks from now with the first round of presidential elections on Sunday 23 April.

There are 11 contenders for this first round and only the first two will face each other in a run off two weeks later, on Sunday 7 May.
But French voters won't be done with visiting their polling stations this spring yet: Sunday 11 June will be the first round of "legislative" elections to renew the 577 members of the National Assembly, with a second round scheduled the following Sunday, on 18 June.

To some extent, the parliamentary elections may be even more important to determine the direction of French policies, as I argued in my diary, five years ago.
But let's start with the Presidential contest.

Front-paged Frank Schnittger

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Brexit: Get on with it already?

by Bernard Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 08:46:57 PM EST

Until last Friday, when Brexit was just a possibility and European governments were drawing contingency plans, there was a consensus that, should it come to pass,  within a week or so, David Cameron, or his successor, would arrive at a special European summit to officially announce UK's intention to start the leave process and trigger the famous article 50.

At least, this is more or less what most people were expecting.
Well, it looks like the British leadership will eventually start negotiations with the EU27, but they're going to take their sweet time doing so.

David Cameron resigns after UK votes to leave European Union | Politics | The Guardian

Cameron said it would be best for his successor to negotiate the terms of Britain's exit - and to trigger article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which begins the formal process of withdrawal, adding that he had already discussed his intentions with the Queen.

The prime minister promised to stay on until the autumn, to "steady the ship"; but suggested a new leader should be in place by the start of the Conservative party's conference in October.

In October?

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (55 comments, 841 words in story)

ECB Independence, Then and Now

by Bernard Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 04:28:46 PM EST

This was then.

Spring 2012: the financial crisis that struck four years ago has thrown more people into unemployment and the economy has still not recovered. The ECB is running a tight money policy and the official priority of the Eurozone is to reduce state debt and budget deficits. Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland have been subjected to austerity policies, with the understanding that Italy and maybe France may be further down the line.

In France, outgoing president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is running for re-election. It's an uphill battle: unemployment has increased during his term and for those who still have a job, their wages have stagnated or even receded. The economy hasn't recovered to pre-recession levels. Many are calling for the ECB to do more to "support economic growth" in addition to its main mandate to keep inflation in check; Sarkozy eventually joined this choir:

Sarkozy puts role of ECB back on French election agenda -- EUbusiness.com | EU news, business and politics (17 April 2012)

Sarkozy launched the last week of his difficult re-election campaign with a veiled swipe at the independence of the European Central Bank (ECB).

"On the role of the Central Bank in supporting growth, we are also going to open a debate and we will push Europe forward," he told an election rally on Sunday.

"If the Central Bank does not support growth, then we will not have enough growth."

Despite the so-called "Merkozy" alliance, reaction from Berlin was swift:

Germany stresses ECB independence after Sarkozy comments | Reuters  (17 April 2012)

Germany on Monday rebuffed calls by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to extend the mandate of the European Central Bank (ECB) to include supporting economic growth, citing the central bank's independence.

"The German position on the ECB and its independent role is known and is also known in Paris and has been unchanged for a long time," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

[Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger]

Read more... (27 comments, 1727 words in story)

LQD: The Economist worried by "abnormal profits"

by Bernard Wed Apr 6th, 2016 at 04:02:44 PM EST

Something you wouldn't necessarily expect to find in The Economist: a piece worrying about... too much profits.

Too much profits, by US companies mostly and on their domestic market: an effect of undergoing "consolidation".

Too much of a good thing | The Economist

What is true of the airline industry is increasingly true of America's economy as a whole. Profits have risen in most rich countries over the past ten years but the increase has been biggest for American firms. Coupled with an increasing concentration of ownership, this means the fruits of economic growth are being hoarded. This is probably part of the reason that two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, have come to believe that the economy "unfairly favours powerful interests", according to polling by Pew, a research outfit. It means that when Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the Democratic contenders for president, say that the economy is "rigged", they have a point.

You say "rigged"?
Too much of a good thing | The Economist

Profits are an essential part of capitalism. They give investors a return, encourage innovation and signal where resources should be invested. Their accumulation allows investment in bold new ventures. Countries where profits are too low--Japan, for instance--can slip into morbid torpor. Firms that ignore profits, such as China's state-run enterprises, lurch around like aimless zombies, as likely to destroy value as to create it.

But high profits across a whole economy can be a sign of sickness. They can signal the existence of firms more adept at siphoning wealth off than creating it afresh, such as those that exploit monopolies. If companies capture more profits than they can spend, it can lead to a shortfall of demand. This has been a pressing problem in America. It is not that firms are underinvesting by historical standards. Relative to assets, sales and GDP, the level of investment is pretty normal. But domestic cash flows are so high that they still have pots of cash left over after investment: about $800 billion a year.

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