Category Archives: France

(Economist) France’s victorious footballers do Emmanuel Macron a favour

(Economist) “Democratic heroes”, he believes, bring out the best in the French

WHEN Emmanuel Macron was a child, growing up in the northern French town of Amiens, he was a fervent supporter of a southern club, Olympique de Marseille. In 1993, the year they won the European Champions League, the club’s captain was a certain Didier Deschamps. On July 15th, under torrential rain after France’s victory at the World Cup final, it was as president that Mr Macron clasped in a tight embrace the same Mr Deschamps, captain of the French team that won the World Cup back in 1998, and now manager of the French champions.

Today France welcomes home Les Bleus, their national team, after a 4-2 defeat of Croatia in Moscow. A million people descended last night on Paris as the sun began to set, chanting, rocking Metro carriages, clambering onto bus shelters and up lamp posts, and setting off flares and firecrackers. The capital’s arteries emptied of cars and turned into a flag-waving, chanting human flow.

The team will this afternoon parade down the Champs-Elysées (past a station that the Paris Metro briefly renamed “Deschamps-Elysées”) in an open-top bus, to a reception hosted by Mr Macron at the presidential palace. They have warmed hearts and made history. Mr Deschamps has become only the third person to win the World Cup as both player and manager. Kylian Mbappé, a striker who grew up in the Paris banlieue of Bondy, is only the second teenager, after Pelé, to score a goal in the World Cup final.

Football for Mr Macron, who did not conceal his joy in the presidential box during the match, is more than just a sport. A left-back when he played as a student, he enjoys the game, and took his presidential campaign to Sarcelles, a Paris banlieue, where he kicked a ball about with youngsters. Yet football matters to him for other reasons too, and not least because, although he will doubtless be accused of exploiting victory for political ends, he may well get a poll bounce as the country’s mood lifts. In 1998 the sitting president, Jacques Chirac, saw his popularity leap from 45% in June to 59% in August after France’s victory. It remained above 50%, amid a broad economic recovery, for the next 18 months.

One reason this victory suits Mr Macron is that, at a time when the president is accused by his detractors of contempt for those less fortunate than him, and of a drift to the political right, football in France represents the sort of social mobility that he approves of. Sport, he said on a trip to Marseille during the election campaign last year, “kills house arrest” for those living in the country’s banlieues. Greater Paris, ringed by brutalist housing estates where many families of immigrant origin live, has a thriving network of after-school amateur football clubs that has become a giant talent pool for the national team. Training and talent are central to Mr Macron’s vision of how to combat poverty, and football offers a potent symbol of this.

A second reason is that the team itself has become a classy advertisement for France. In 1998 the country was still so unsure about its multicultural identity that the team was tagged “black, blanc, beur” in reference to its multiracial make-up. At the tournament in South Africa eight years ago, the French side, made up of supersized egos, went on strike during a training session, and later departed in disgrace after crashing out of the tournament. This year Mr Deschamps has forged a side of likeable team players, who were as boisterous in the dressing-room after the match as they were disciplined, focused and ruthless during the tournament. Mr Mbappé has spoken of wanting “to give everything to France”. Antoine Griezmann, another goalscorer, tweeted simply, “CHAMPIONS DU MONDE. Vive la France!”.

Mr Macron, who will have enjoyed the symbolism of victory in Russia, which he suspected of trying to hack his election campaign, has a final reason for embracing this team. This is to do with what he calls “democratic heroes”. From the president’s speech at Johnny Hallyday’s funeral, to that during the entry of Simone Veil to the Panthéon, Mr Macron regards the celebration of the lives of popular, or historic, figures as a chance to try to bring out the best in the French. Liberal democracies, he has argued, faced with the dark menace of nationalism, need heroes if they are to rouse a positive national spirit and defeat the “sad passions” fanned by populists. In the 23 players and their manager who brought home the World Cup, the luckiest man in French politics has found his heroes.

(ynet) Panthéon burial honors French rights icon, Holocaust survivor Simone Veil

(ynet) Thousands of people gather in Paris to pay their final respects to Simone Veil a year and a day after she died at the age of 89; ‘She’s not going into the Panthéon as a Holocaust victim but as someone who overcame this horror and that’s why she’s in people’s hearts,’ one French citizen says.

Thousands of people gathered in Paris on Sunday to pay their final respects to Holocaust survivor and women’s rights icon Simone Veil as she was given the rare honor of burial at the Panthéon a year and a day after she died.

Veil’s death at the age of 89 prompted an outpouring of emotion as she had long been considered one of France’s most popular and trusted public figures.

The Panthéon in the heart of Paris houses the remains of many great French figures, including Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola. But Veil is only the fifth woman to be buried there, being laid to rest alongside her husband Antoine, a high-ranking civil servant who died in 2013.

French Republican Guards arrive to carry the coffins of Simone Veil and her husband Antoine Veil to the Panthéon on Sunday (Photo: EPA)

French Republican Guards arrive to carry the coffins of Simone Veil and her husband Antoine Veil to the Panthéon on Sunday (Photo: EPA)

 

Their two coffins were escorted by Republican Guards through Paris from the Holocaust Memorial where they had stood for 48 hours to allow the public to pay their last respects. The coffins were then placed on funeral biers before carried by pall-bearers on a blue carpet leading to the Pantheon.

Among the crowds were many women wearing T-shirts with the slogan: “Thank you Simone.”

Simone Veil had long been considered one of France's most popular and trusted public figures (Photo: AFP)

Simone Veil had long been considered one of France’s most popular and trusted public figures (Photo: AFP)

 

“She broke every glass ceiling, in terms of women in society, but also that of (France’s role in) the extermination of the Jews: it was taboo,” said Bernard Greensfeld, one of those standing outside the Holocaust memorial.

“She’s not going into the Panthéon as a Holocaust victim but as someone who overcame this horror and that’s why she’s in people’s hearts,” he told AFP.

The 5th woman

Simone Veil was 16 when she was deported along with family members in 1944 to Auschwitz. Her mother, father and brother were killed in the Holocaust. After her return, she became a resolute advocate of women’s rights as well as European reconciliation, securing her biggest political victory in 1974 by convincing the French parliament to legalize abortion despite fierce opposition.

She also became the first elected president of the European Parliament in 1979, a post she held for three years.

 (Photo: EPA)

(Photo: EPA)

 

The move to have Veil’s remains transferred to the Panthéon began immediately after her death on June 30, 2017, with two petitions quickly gaining hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Until now, only four women have been interred there: scientist Marie Curie, Sophie Berthelot, who was buried alongside her chemist husband Marcellin Berthelot and two resistance fighters Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz and Germaine Tillion.

A national decision

As the sun beat down, a large crowd gathered for the ceremony which was attended by members of her family, and a host of politicians and dignitaries, among them the former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy.

At the ceremony, President Emmanuel Macron said the decision to bury her in the Panthéon was a decision taken by the entire nation.

President Macron stands by the coffins (Photo: EPA)

President Macron stands by the coffins (Photo: EPA)

 

“It is… what all French people wanted,” he said. “With Simone Veil, all the women that have made France are here.”

The transfer of Veil’s remains had began on Friday, when the couple’s coffins were exhumed from the Montparnasse cemetery and brought to the crypt of the French Holocaust Memorial in central Paris, which she helped found.

After Macron’s address, the two coffins were transferred into the Panthéon where the coffins will lie in state until Monday, with admission free until July 8.

(BBG) Emmanuel Macron Misses a Chance to Stay Quiet

(BBG) The dispute with Italy over the Aquarius migrant ship was diplomatically inept and hypocritical.

Two weeks before a crucial meeting of EU leaders, member countries are at loggerheads again over immigration. A diplomatic spat between France and Italy’s new populist government shows how difficult it will be for the European Council to strike a meaningful deal at the end of June on topics such as relocating refugees or deepening the monetary union.

The problem is tone as much as substance. So long as politicians keep playing to their domestic galleries, the compromises Europe needs to thrive will remain elusive.

The transalpine rift started when Italy turned away a boat full of migrants, the Aquarius, after Malta had just done the same. Spain eventually said it would welcome the vessel (the boat has currently been re-routed toward the waters around Sardinia because of adverse sea conditions). But the Italian decision prompted furious reactions across the EU. In particular, French president Emmanuel Macron said it was “cynical and irresponsible.” Rome reacted angrily. Its foreign ministry summoned a senior French diplomat for a dressing down. Giovanni Tria, Italy’s finance minister, cancelled a visit to Paris.

There’s little doubt that Matteo Salvini, Italy’s new home affairs minister and leader of the anti-immigration League, used the 629 migrants stranded at sea to score cheap political points. But the reaction from Paris was clumsy – and hypocritical. France has repeatedly turned back migrants who want to cross the Italian border, hiding behind an EU rule that says asylum seekers should be processed in the state where they first enter the bloc.

Italy has punched well above its weight in rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean, receiving precious little help from the rest of the EU. However irresponsible Salvini’s behaviour – and troubling the signal about the populist government’s attitude toward migrants – Macron could have let this one pass.

His reaction was diplomatically inept too. Rome’s new rulers thrive on attacks from abroad, which Salvini and his ilk depict as insults to Italy’s sovereignty. The best course of action, as shown in a recent interview with Olaf Scholz, Germany’s finance minister, is to steer clear of public criticism and simply recall that all countries have obligations to meet. The irony here is that neither Rome nor Paris ended up offering to rescue the migrants stranded at sea. It was Madrid. Macron missed a good opportunity to shut up.

None of this is to exonerate Italy. The continuous lashing out at other countries could take a toll diplomatically. Since the formation of the government, Rome has indulged in angry spats with Tunisia, Malta and France over refugees, and relentlessly criticized Germany about the economy. Tria has been a welcome exception. The attacks may play well at home, but might be counter-productive in the long run.

A lot depends, of course, on what the populists actually want to achieve during their time in power. Maybe the Five Star Movement and League would like to provoke their European partners to such an extent that Italy is pushed out of the EU and the euro zone – creating an “Ital-exit” by the back door. But if that’s not what they have in mind, they need allies rather than sparring partners.

It’s reasonable to want to change the so-called Dublin regulation to achieve a fairer distribution of asylum seekers, but this needs the backing of other countries. On the economy, Italy requires support to bring about more financial risk-sharing across the euro zone, including a joint guarantee on bank deposits and, eventually, a euro zone Treasury. With Germany very skeptical of these plans, Italy’s best hope is Macron and his dreams of closer monetary union.

Unfortunately, the transalpine rift confirms a sad truth about the EU. While countries need each other to find answers to the problems affecting their voters, with immigration among the thorniest trans-national issues, politicians will always pander to their domestic audience. That’s how they win and lose elections.

Yet Britain’s constant sniping at the EU has already helped push that country toward its vote to leave. Without some careful leadership on both sides, this could happen again.

(BBG) Guests Worth $120 Billion Sup With Trump at First State Dinner

(BBG) Eight of the world’s wealthiest people attended President Donald Trump’s first state dinner last night along with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron.

Five of them — LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Blackstone Chief Executive Officer Steve Schwarzman, leveraged-buyout tycoon Henry Kravis and Federal Express founder Fred Smith — have a combined net worth exceeding $114 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Other billionaires present were Carlyle co-founder David Rubenstein, cosmetics heir Ron Lauder and Trump himself, all with fortunes below the $4 billion cutoff for the ranking of the world’s 500 richest people.

The Trump administration has been good to his guests. Since his election in November 2016, the fortunes of the five wealthiest have surged almost 70 percent, more than triple the gains of the S&P 500 Index.

(BBG) Macron Tells U.S. Turning Its Back on World Is Bigger Risk

(BBG) French President Emmanuel Macron told U.S. lawmakers they must join with the international community to help preserve and extend the benefits of the postwar world order.

Addressing a joint session of Congress Wednesday on the third day of a state visit, Macron appealed to the U.S. not to turn inward as he listed a host of threats facing the world from climate change and rogue nuclear weapons to inequality and fake news.

“We have to keep our eyes wide open to the new risks right in front of us,” he said. “The only option is to strengthen our cooperation. We can build the new 21st century world order on a new breed of multilateralism.”

Macron’s trip has been dominated by rifts between the U.S. and the European Union stemming from President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy. With the U.S. threatening to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and impose tariffs on its trading partners, the French leader set out an alternative world view in which nations act together to control dangers and help the middle classes.

“The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism,” he said in his speech in English. “You are the one now who has to help to preserve and reinvent it.”

Pence’s Poker Face

Macron was loudly cheered by Democrats, in particular when he predicted that the U.S. would one day rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Vice President Mike Pence didn’t move in response to that comment and several passages drew only sparse applause from the Republicans.

“France is a great international ally, but you have to remember this president is center left or even more left,” Brian Babin, a Republican from Texas, said. “I think we need to really, really keep a sober mind and a sober eye.”

The U.S. Capitol has a long history as a setting for French leaders looking to make their mark on world affairs. The Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who fought for the U.S. in the Revolutionary War, was the firstforeign dignitary to address Congress in 1824 and Macron’s speech comes on the anniversary of one by Charles de Gaulle in 1960. Nicolas Sarkozy was the last French President to appear before U.S. lawmakers in 2007.

Macron the previous day had proposed a new agreement with Iran in an effort to persuade Trump not to reimpose sanctions. The French plan would involve another pact extending restrictions on its nuclear program, restricting its ballistic missile work and limiting Iran’s broader influence in the Middle East.

Trump seemed at least somewhat interested in Macron’s blueprint, calling it a “new deal” with “solid foundations.” Teams of American negotiators have been working with European allies for weeks on a new accord along the lines of what Macron laid out. Like Macron, their biggest challenge is the absence of any guarantee that Trump will accept the result.

Historic Allies

Macron’s speech was aimed at rallying broader support for that initiative, and for the principle of cooperation between nations. Macron vowed that Iran would never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons and pledged to remain engaged in the Middle East, appealing to the U.S. to maintain its presence alongside French troops.

There were long passages about historic battles when French and U.S. troops fought alongside each other with eulogies to soldiers who lost their lives defending western values. Nationalism, he said, is an “illusion.”

On trade, he defended “free and fair” relationships, but said that grievances between nations should be pursued through the World Trade Organization since a conflict over commerce was in no one’s interests.

As a former investment banker and economy minister, Macron may be more in line with traditional Republicans than their own president. His recognition that some countries engage in trade violations and overcapacity of steel and aluminum — but that Europe isn’t the problem — tracks closely with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s response to Trump’s tariff announcement last month.

Congressional Republicans have urged the Trump administration to be more targeted in its trade policy, rather than instituting broad measures that impact traditional allies like France. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit the White House Friday with a similar message.

+++ (JN) Governo francês desenvolve rival da WhatsApp e Telegram

(JNO governo francês está a desenvolver o seu próprio serviço de mensagens encriptadas. Inicialmente, o serviço será usado apenas pelo Executivo gaulês, mas poderá ser disponibilizado ao público em geral.

Governo francês desenvolve rival da WhatsApp e Telegram
Bruno Simão/Negócios

O governo francês está a desenvolver um novo serviço de mensagens encriptadas, similar ao WhatsApp e Telegram, que deverá ser de uso obrigatório por todos os membros do Executivo já no Verão, indicou esta segunda-feira uma porta-voz do Ministério Digital gaulês.

A medida surge por receios de que entidades estrangeiras possam espiar as conversas privadas entre os membros do governo. Quer o WhatsApp quer o Telegram estão baseados em França, o que aumenta o risco de violação de dados nos servidores localizados fora do país.

Cerca de 20 membros do governo e altos cargos da administração pública estão a testar a nova app que foi criada por uma empresa contratada pelo Estado.

“Precisamos de encontrar uma forma de ter um serviço de mensagens encriptadas cuja encriptação não seja feita nos EUA ou Rússia”, referiu a porta-voz. “Pensando nas potenciais falhas que podem acontecer, como vimos no Facebook, entendemos agir”, acrescentou.

O WhatsApp foi comprado em 2014 pelo Facebook, que tem estado sob fogo devido ao acesso indevido a dados dos utilizadores da maior rede social do mundo por parte da consultora política Cambridge Analytica.

A nova app francesa poderá eventualmente ser disponibilizada ao público em geral, admitiu a porta-voz.

O presidente francês, Emmanuel Macron, bem como o seu círculo mais próximo usa frequentemente o Telegram, criado por um empresário russo. Moscovo começou a bloquear o acesso ao Telegram após a empresa ter recusado cumprir uma ordem que dava acesso às mensagens dos utilizadores por parte dos serviços de segurança russos.

+++ (BBC) Nicolas Sarkozy: French ex-president says funding probe is ‘hell’

…Everybody and their dogs are saying the claims are true…

…And they are saying that Mr Sarkozy was very keen to attack Libia to destroy evidence of the illegal funding…

(BBC)

Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) with Gaddafi in Libya in Tripoli, 25 Jul 2007Image copyrightEPA
Image captionMr Sarkozy clinched big trade deals for France with Libya’s Gaddafi in 2007 when he was president

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy says allegations he received campaign funding from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are making his life “hell”.

“I am accused without any physical evidence,” Mr Sarkozy told magistrates, Le Figaro newspaper reports.

He has been placed under formal investigation for illicit election campaign financing in 2007, misappropriation of Libyan public funds and passive corruption.

Mr Sarkozy, 63, denies any wrongdoing.

The centre-right politician, who was in police custody being questioned for two days this week, says his Libyan accusers are seeking vengeance for his decision to deploy French warplanes during the uprising which overthrew Gaddafi in 2011.

On Thursday, Le Figaro published what it said was the full court statement made by Mr Sarkozy to French investigators (in French).

In it, he says that he is aware the allegations against him are “serious”, but that they amount to “slander” and have made his life “hell” since 11 March 2011, when the claims were first made by Gaddafi.


Hammer blow for ex-leader

Analysis by Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy enters his car as he leaves his house in Paris, 21 March 2018Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMr Sarkozy has been questioned in police custody

These accusations against Nicolas Sarkozy are in a different realm from all those other judicial problems that he has faced. The others are classic allegations of illegal party funding and abuse of influence.

This one is about taking money from a foreign dictator.

In each case, presumption of innocence has to prevail. Mr Sarkozy’s key argument is that he is the victim of a left-wing vendetta: judges out to get him.

On Libya, he points out that his accusers – henchmen of Gaddafi and sleazy middlemen – are not exactly paragons of veracity.

But the truth is that this is a hammer blow to the former president. The judges believe there are “serious and coherent” indications that he did indeed take money from the Libyans, and on that basis they will now conduct their investigation.

The implications are devastating. If the charges are true, then the whole story of Sarkozy’s presidency will have to be re-assessed. More importantly, what would it say about the French-led campaign to topple Gaddafi in 2011? A campaign in which the UK was persuaded by France to take part.

Big questions – if the charges are true. But don’t expect any quick answers. This case could drag on for years.


What is the Libya case about?

In 2013, France opened an investigation into allegations that Mr Sarkozy’s campaign had benefited from millions of euros of illicit funds from Gaddafi.

He failed in his bid to return to power in 2012, however, losing to Socialist candidate François Hollande.

The claims came from a French-Lebanese businessman, Ziad Takieddine, and some former Gaddafi regime officials.

In November 2016, Mr Takieddine told the French news website Mediapart that in 2006-2007 he had handed over three suitcases stuffed with 200- and 500-euro notes to Mr Sarkozy and Claude Guéant, who was his chief of staff.

Mr Takieddine alleged the cash came from Gaddafi and totalled €5m (£4.4m; $6.2m).

Mr Sarkozy was detained in 2014 in a separate investigation into alleged campaign funding abuses – the first time this has happened to a French ex-president.

Mr Guéant, who was managing Mr Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007, told the franceinfo website on Tuesday that he had “never seen a penny of Libyan financing”.

He was placed under formal investigation earlier this year over a €500,000 bank transfer in 2008. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed the money came from the sale of two paintings.

Does Sarkozy face other charges?

Criminal proceedings have been launched against Mr Sarkozy in one other case of alleged illicit campaign financing.

It is alleged that he engaged in accounting fraud to overshoot the ceiling for campaign expenditure in 2012, which was €22.5m.

Mr Sarkozy denies he was aware of the overspending.

The affair is known as the Bygmalion scandal.

In connection with his 2007 campaign, Mr Sarkozy was previously cleared over claims that he had used secret funding from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and that he had tried to influence investigating magistrates.

(SKY) Ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy arrested over campaign financing

(SKY) The Former French president is being questioned in connection to alleged Libyan funding for his 2007 election campaign.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is understood to be in police custody
Image:Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is understood to be in police custody

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is being held by police in connection to alleged campaign funding from late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Mr Sarkozy is being questioned as part of an investigation into “irregularities” in election campaign financing, a French court source told Reuters.

He is said to have accepted €50m from Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, claims which have been repeated by the late Libyan dictator’s son and French businessman Ziad Takieddine.

Nicolas Sarkozy (L) greets Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2007 in Paris
Image:Nicolas Sarkozy (L) greets Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2007 in Paris

The amount would be more than double the legal spending limit in French elections at that time, which was €21m.

Alleged payments would also violate French laws on foreign financing and declaring the source of campaign funds.

Mr Sarkozy and his campaign manager have repeatedly denied accepting money from Libya.

According to Le Monde, this is the first time Mr Sarkozy has been questioned in relation to this investigation, which was opened in April 2013.

Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine admitted delivering three cash-stuffed suitcases from the Libyan leader to French former President
Image:Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine admitted delivering three cash-stuffed suitcases from the Libyan leader to Mr Sarkozy

He can be held for up to 48 hours and presented to a magistrates’ court for indictment if police seek charges.

Mr Sarkozy has already been ordered to stand trial in a separate case, concerning the financing of his 2012 re-election campaign, when he lost to Francois Hollande.

In March 2011, Saif al Islam Gaddafi, the late dictator’s son, told Euronews: “Sarkozy has to give back the money he accepted from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We financed his campaign and we have the proof…

“The first thing we’re demanding is that this clown gives back the money to the Libyan people.”

Saif al-Islam Kadhafi, son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, previously said Sarkozy took money
Image:Saif al Islam Kadhafi, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, previously said Mr Sarkozy took money

Mr Takieddine claims he delivered three suitcases stuffed with cash to Paris between 2006 and 2007, and handed them over to Mr Sarkozy in the interior ministry when he was a minister.

Mr Sarkozy was president of France from 2007 until 2012.

He attempted to stage a comeback for the 2017 election, but failed to convince the voters in his own party to support him and had to concede to Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe.

(BBG) Altice Confirms Plan to Sell French, Portugese Phone Towers

(BBG) Altice NV confirmed plans to sell its telecommunications towers in France and Portugal as billionaire Patrick Drahi’s phone and cable company seeks to dispose of assets to cut debt.

The company is targeting signing a deal for about 13,000 tower sites in the two countries in the first half of this year, Amsterdam-based Altice said in a statement presenting fourth-quarter results late on Thursday. The portfolio is the largest to ever come up for sale in Europe, Altice said.

American Tower Corp. and private equity firm KKR & Co. are among bidders for the assets, which could be valued at about 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion), people with knowledge of the matter said this week. Shares in Altice rose 5.7 percent to 8.53 euros at 9:28 a.m. in Amsterdam.

Drahi has been attempting to reassure investors jumpy over a European business with around 31 billion euros of debt by halting acquisitions, committing to asset sales and spinning off its U.S. unit. After a rout in Altice’s stock that erased almost half of its value late last year, the Moroccan-born billionaire has also shuffled management and pledged to reduce borrowings.

Drahi’s businesses have been built after years of debt-fueled expansion in Europe and the U.S., where he assembled Altice USA — the division that includes the former Cablevision Systems and Suddenlink — through $26 billion of acquisitions. The U.S. unit has helped Drahi diversify Altice beyond a stagnant European telecommunications market and expand in sports and other media.

Altice reported a 1.9 percent decline in fourth-quarter pro forma revenue to 3.72 billion euros for its European operations. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in Europe rose 5.2 percent to 1.47 billion euros.

“Overall these results are slightly better than a very low bar of expectations –- but the challenging key performance indicators/divisional revenue trends show that there remains significant pressure on the business,” Credit Suisse analyst Jakob Bluestone said in a note to clients.

Altice this week said it started exclusive talks with Tofane Global to sell its international wholesale voice carrier business in France, Portugal and the Dominican Republic. In December, the company agreed to sell some Swiss telecom operations and data-center businesses valued at more than $200 million.

+++ (BBG) Macron Says ’France is Back’ as Trump Debut Nears: Davos Update

(Bloomberg) — Billionaires, world leaders and investors
are gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic
Forum’s annual meeting to hobnob and discuss topics ranging from
the global economy and sexual harassment, to the risks and
opportunities of artificial intelligence. Not to mention hear a
speech by President Donald Trump.
Here are the latest developments, updated throughout the
day. (Time-stamps are local time in Davos.)

Macron Backs France (6:00 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron declared “France is back”
as he used the main stage at Davos to argue the global elite
needs to invest, share and protect in a bid to narrow
inequalities that have resulted from excess global capitalism

Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Built for Speed (5:22 p.m.)

President Trump’s proposal would not only make available $1
trillion for infrastructure projects but it will also speed
permitting processes, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said
on Bloomberg Television.

Trump Likely to Showcase His ‘Duality’ (4:49 p.m.)

Donald Trump’s speech this week will likely underscore the
“duality” of the U.S. president’s personality, former White
House aide Anthony Scaramucci tells Bloomberg Television. Trump
wants the U.S. to be part of the global system, “but he doesn’t
see that as going against being an ‘America First’ leader.”

Israel Lobbied Germany for Iran Deal Fixes (4:45 p.m.)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told German
Chancellor Angela Merkel at Davos that the only option for
saving the Iran nuclear deal “is to insert real, not cosmetic,
fixes that will prevent Iran’s nuclearization,” Netanyahu’s
office said in statement.

U.S. Delegation Dodging Russians (4:18 p.m.)

Davos “is a small village, but they don’t want to talk,”
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said, adding he
was ready for contacts with members of U.S. delegation. “It is
not Russia who is hiding from dialog.”

Google Happy to Pay More to the Tax Man (4:14 p.m.)

Google is willing to pay more tax globally, said Sundar
Pichai, the head of Alphabet Inc.’s largest business unit. “We
are happy to pay more tax, whatever the world agrees to, but the
question is where Google should pay it, Pichai said.

Chinese Companies Finding It Harder to Enter U.S. (3:51 p.m.)

The head of China’s second-largest e-commerce operator said
mainland companies are finding it harder to enter the U.S.
market. “I can feel the protectionism is quite serious there,”
JD.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Richard Liu said via a
translator. “It’s not a good thing. It will hurt the US economy
too.”

‘America First’ Endangers U.S. Influence in Africa (3:48 p.m.)

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp. and the second-
richest person in the world, said there’s a danger that U.S.
President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach could damage
the U.S.’s influence in Africa in the long term. Other countries
like China are continuing to push into the African continent,
and the U.S. should not pull back, Gates said in an interview
with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait.

Merkel Pleas for Cooperation Over Isolation (3:28 p.m.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against the “poison”
of populism that leads states to become increasingly inward-
looking, as she made the case for a common European approach to
more areas of policy making. “We have to advocate for our
multilateral approach,” Merkel said in a speech. “You need to
have the patience to find multilateral solutions and not slip
into the apparently easier solution of acting in national
interests.”

Wall Street Cozies Up to Trump (3:20 p.m.)

Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein gave credit to the U.S.
president for policies that they said will help boost economic
growth and drive markets higher. “What I’m bulled up about is
that policy makers are making good policy decisions in the U.S.
about taxes, about proper regulatory reform,” Dimon, who runs
JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
“I like a lot more stuff than I don’t like,” Blankfein, chief
executive officer ofGoldman Sachs Group Inc., said in an
interview on CNBC.

Bonds Face Historic Bear Market (3:09 p.m.)

Billionaire hedge-fund manager Ray Dalio said that the bond
market has slipped into a bear phase and warned that a rise in
yields could spark the biggest crisis for fixed-income investors
in almost 40 years. “A 1 percent rise in bond yields will
produce the largest bear market in bonds that we have seen since
1980 to 1981,” the founder of Bridgewater Associates said in a
Bloomberg TV interview.

France’s Macron Calls on Elite to Share (2:52 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Davos with a
new message for the global elite: invest, share and protect. He
will tell business leaders it’s up to them to narrow the
inequalities that have resulted from the excesses of global
capitalism, an aide from the president’s office said. Macron is
due to speak at 5.30 p.m. local time.

Morgan Stanley Wary of Market Exuberance (2:51 p.m.)

It’s not the Federal Reserve that keeps James Gorman up at
night. The chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley said he’s
more worried that the stock market has reached record highs in
recent months with technology stocks lat very high multiples.
“You’ve got markets at record highs, and as we know, these
things don’t go in a straight line,” Gorman said in an interview
on Bloomberg Television. “Markets are expensive, but they’re not
ridiculous.”

Aramco’s Tax Burden Depends on Oil Prices (2:39 p.m.)

Saudi Arabia plans to link the most important tax paid by
state-owned energy giant Aramco to the price of oil, a
significant move ahead of the company’s initial public offering
this year, Amin Nasser, chief executive officer of Saudi Arabian
Oil Co., said in a Bloomberg Television interview. Adjusting the
20 percent royalty on oil revenue Aramco currently pays would
help the kingdom to raise extra money if prices climb. While not
unusual in commodities industries, the move may not prove
popular with potential investors. It would protect them from
downturns, but also reduce their gains at times of rising
prices.

Italy Lobbies for Financial Services in Brexit Deal (1:45 p.m.)

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that any accord
reached between the U.K. and the European Union must include
financial services, because excluding them “is totally
unrealistic,” he said in an interview. Among the remaining EU
states there was a “strongly prevailing position supporting the
necessity of having a good deal with the U.K.”

Faster Fed Tightening Could Create Trump Tension (1:37 p.m.)

Stronger inflation that sparks more aggressive Federal
Reserve tightening and rattles markets could be a source of
tension between the U.S. central bank and President Donald
Trump, Harvard University professor Kenneth Rogoff said in an
interview with Bloomberg Television’s Tom Keene. “There could be
lot of tension between Donald Trump and the Fed if the stock
market falls for some reason and they need to raise interest
rates. We could suddenly see tweets about Jay Powell in the
middle of the night.”

Bond Market in Bear Phase, Dalio Says (1:34 p.m.)

Billionaire hedge-fund manager Ray Dalio said the bond
market has slipped into a bear phase and warned that a rise in
yields could spark the biggest crisis for fixed-income investors
in almost 40 years. “A 1 percent rise in bond yields will
produce the largest bear market in bonds that we have seen since
1980 to 1981,” Bridgewater Associates founder Dalio said in an
interview with Bloomberg Television.

China Vows Further Opening (1:32 p.m.)

China will introduce more reform measures to open up its
economy this year, according to Liu He, the top financial and
economic adviser to President Xi Jinping. “Some measures will
exceed the expectations of the international community,” Liu
said. “Opening up is not only important for China, but also for
the whole world,” adding that a fresh reform push was also a
celebration of the 40th anniversary of the nation’s shift away
from a closed Communist system.

‘Play Own Game’ on Trade, Gentiloni Urges (1:28 p.m.)

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said U.S. President
Donald Trump’s protectionist push threatens global growth,
urging Europe to “play its own game” to fill any gap left by
American businesses. Gentiloni said in an interview with
Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait that all leaders
were allowed to protect their own workers. “But there is a limit
and the limit is defending our free trade, defending the model
which has brought us to this kind of growth,” he said.

Alibaba Scared of Weaponized Trade (12:46 p.m.)

It’s easy to launch a trade war but difficult to prevent
the disastrous fallout, Alibaba’s Executive Chairman Jack Ma
said during a panel discussion. “I am scared. I am concerned.
Don’t use trade as a weapon.”

Trump Team Sharpens Trade War Talk (12:35 p.m.)

President Donald Trump’s top economic advisers set the
stage for the rollout of his “America First” manifesto on the
world stage. A day before Trump’s scheduled arrival, Treasury
Secretary Steven Mnuchin endorsed the dollar’s decline as a
benefit to the American economy and Commerce Secretary Wilbur
Ross said the U.S. would fight harder to protect its exporters.

Spain Pushes for EU Reforms (12:10 p.m.)

The EU must “reinvent itself,” Spain’s King Felipe said.
The bloc’s leaders need to embark on an ambitious and far-
reaching round of integration, highlighting monetary union and
defense policy as priority areas.

Currency War Would Be ‘Devastating’ (11:35 a.m.)

Jacob Frenkel, chairman of JPMorgan Chase International,
said a currency war must be prevented at all costs, as the
consequences would be “devastating” for the global economy. “A
currency war in the monetary sphere is the mirror image of
protectionism in the real sphere,” he said in an interview with
Bloomberg Television, adding that “we should prevent it at all
costs.”

Italy Defends Free Trade (11:23 a.m.)

National governments have a duty to protect their citizens
and markets, but the principles of free trade must not be called
into question, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.
Italian policy makers must continue with economic reforms after
the March 4 election, he added.

U.S. Readies Its Troops for a Trade War (10:48 a.m.)

Ahead of President Donald Trump’s speech later this week,
U.S. administration official laid the ground work by signaling a
toughening stance on trade. “A trade war has been in place for
quite a little while, the difference is the U.S. troops are now
coming to the rampart,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.
Breaking with traditional U.S. policy of support for a strong
currency, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin endorsed the
dollar’s decline as a benefit to the U.S. economy.

EU Doesn’t Want a Trade War With the U.S. (10:24 a.m.)

A more robust European single market rather than a trade
war will be the “right answer” to challenges presented by
protectionist policies such as the tariffs imposed by U.S.
President Donald Trump, according to Portuguese Finance Minister
Mario Centeno. “We are always worried about protectionist
policies, which I really don’t think is the way to lead our
economies,” said Centeno, who on Monday had his debut presiding
over the gatherings of euro-area finance ministers. “But we have
to be ready and prepared to respond to that with the highest
levels of competitiveness from our side.”

Kostin Decries ‘Economic War’ Against Russia (10:11 a.m.)

The U.S. Treasury Department’s compilation of its first
official list of “oligarchs” close to President Vladimir Putin
constitutes “economic war,” VTB Group CEO Andrey Kostin said.
“I’m not so much concerned about personal sanctions, which would
be the least evil, but of course any further sanctions on
Russian financial institutions would substantially undermine our
relationship with America,” Kostin said in an interview with
Bloomberg Television.

Europe Faces Lost Generation (10:00 a.m.)

Europe’s youth risk being left behind unless the European
Union takes steps to address the growing income divide across
generations, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said.
“Working-age people, and especially the young, are falling
behind,” she said. “Without action, a generation may never be
able to recover.”

U.S. Cheers Weak Dollar (9:48 a.m.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the dollar’s
decline provides a boost to the U.S. economy through trade,
breaking with the usual practice of the U.S. government
advocating for a strong greenback. “A weaker dollar is good for
us as it relates to trade and opportunities,” Mnuchin told
reporters on Wednesday.
The Trump administration is not concerned about the U.S.
Treasury market, with Mnuchin saying the market is “one of the
largest and most liquid in the world. He added that the U.S.
government “couldn’t be happier” about the reactions to Trump’s
tax reforms.

U.S. Warns of More Trade Measures Ahead (9:47 a.m.)

There will be more measures coming, U.S. Commerce Secretary
Wilbur Ross said when asked about President Donald Trump’s
decision to impose tariffs on solar panels and washing machines.
“What has provoked a lot of the trade actions is inappropriate
behavior on the part of our counterparties,” Ross said.

Corruption Will Soon Be History in South Africa (9:44 a.m.)

South Africa is in a much better place now than when
previous credit-rating actions took place, according to Reserve
Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago. “We have got a good case to
make” to ratings companies and “corruption and misrule will soon
be history,” Kganyago said in an interview with Bloomberg
Television.

Euro Strength Not a Problem, Centeno Says (9:33 a.m.)

Exporters are doing well, and the relative strength of the
euro is no reason for nations in the single currency area to be
concerned, said Mario Centeno, the president of the Eurogroup of
finance ministers. “Things are looking good, and I think they
will continue like that,” Centeno said in an interview with
Bloomberg Television. “We have been able to show a lot of
resilience to external shocks.”

Bitcoin Risks ‘Massive’ Drop (8:56 a.m.)

UBS Group AG Chairman Axel Weber said the Swiss bank won’t
trade bitcoin or offer it to retail clients as increased
regulation could lead to a “massive” drop in value. “This is
something where the price is really unclear,” Weber said in an
interview Wednesday with Bloomberg TV. “We fear that in the
future if these investments implode and the market corrects,
then investors will be looking at who sold us this.”

‘The Brain’ Behind China’s Overhaul (7:46 a.m.)

When Liu He takes to the lectern in Davos later, the
Harvard-educated technocrat will move further into the spotlight
that’s been aimed at him since his elevation to China’s top
political body last year. “Liu will be like a Chinese version
combining both Larry Summers and Ben Bernanke, plus the chairman
of the president’s economic council,” according to Shen
Jianguang, chief Asia economist at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd.
in Hong Kong.

Davos Crowd Warms to Trumponomics (7:00 a.m.)

Have criticisms of Donald Trump’s economic policy gone too
far? Whisper it quietly, but 12 months after the beginning of
the Trump presidency, several economists and business leaders
appear willing to give Trump and his tax reform a chance,
Bloomberg View’s Ferdinando Giugliano writes.

Another Day, Another Davos (7:00 a.m.)

The second full day of talks will get underway shortly.
Among those attending are German Chancellor Angela Merkel,
French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. Treasury Secretary
Steven Mnuchin.
A takeaway from Tuesday was that many of the executives are
admitting Trump hasn’t been bad for business. The question they
have is whether the good times can last and some of the bankers
already see signs of complacency in financial markets. For the
politicians attending, most are doubling down on globalization
as Trump imposes tariffs and prepares to join them in the Alps.

Here’s What Happened Tuesday:

* Global finance executives warned of parallels between today’s
soaring stock markets and the pre-crisis years as complacent
investors risk being wrong-footed by central banks raising
interest rates.
* From the U.S. to the U.K., an unusual number of Western
leaders are arriving in the Swiss Alps with their influence on
the wane, with countries like China and India keen to fill the
void.
* Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Asia’s third largest
economy is “removing the red tape and laying out the red carpet”
as he attempts to attract foreign investment and kick start
sclerotic growth.
* Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed a Pacific
trade pact without the U.S.
* Europe’s revival drew widespread praise, putting the region in
position to be a counterpoint to Trump’s protectionist policies.
* Trump’s tax cuts got mixed reviews with some lauding the boon
to corporate budgets, while others questioning the long-term
impact. U.S. officials said he will meet with executives at a
reception during his time in Davos.
* Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo signaled that the
country is willing to negotiate a reworking of Nafta all through
the run-up to July’s presidential election.
* Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is setting his sights on making the
embattled company profitable within three years, he said in an
interview with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait.

+++ V.I. (BBG) Macron Urges EU-27 Brexit Unity, Warning of ‘Prisoners Dilemma’

(Bloomberg) — French President Emmanuel Macron urged
fellow European leaders to maintain their unified stance as the
Brexit talks move on to phase two, warning of the dangers of
each pursuing their own interests.
Leaders of the EU-27 last month gave the green light for
discussions to progress to the second phase — negotiations on a
future trade deal between the U.K. and the EU, after hammering
out the outline of a deal on Britain’s divorce from the bloc.
Asked by the Daily Telegraph how the talks were going, Macron
said the EU would maintain its unified approach of seeking a
common negotiating mandate.
“This is the right method as it avoids divisions and once
again allows us to preserve the collective interest,” Macron
said late Wednesday, the Telegraph reported Thursday. He then
went on to warn about the “prisoner’s dilemma,” a situation in
game theory whereby two self-interested individuals fail to
cooperate, even if that would be in their best interest.
Detailed negotiations on a future trade deal won’t start
until March, though European Council President Donald Tusk has
said exploratory talks can begin before then. The risk of the EU
position fracturing in the second phase of talks is greater than
in the first phase because of the differing existing social and
economic relationships with Britain.
“Each of us can have our own interests,” Macron said.
“That’s what the prisoner’s dilemma is all about. Everyone can
have an interest in negotiating on their own, and think they can
negotiate better than their neighbor. If we do that, it is
probable that collectively we will create a situation which is
unfavorable to the European Union and thus to each one of us.”
The U.K. is already seeking to find chinks in the EU armor.
While EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier has said Britain can’t
negotiate a bespoke trade deal that includes services because no
such model yet exists, Prime Minister Theresa May last month
cited comments by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni as evidence that other EU
leaders are open to Britain carving out a custom-made deal.

(BBC) Le Pen decries ‘fatwa’ on National Front bank accounts

Whether one likes the Front National or not, this conduct by the banks involved is very dangerous and should be condemned and sanctioned.

FCMP

(BBC)

Leader of France's National Front, Marine Le PenImage copyrightAFP
Image captionMs Le Pen has been fighting for her political survival since losing France’s presidential election to Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen has claimed her National Front party is the victim of a “banking fatwa” after banks closed its accounts as well as her own personal account.

The leader of the far-right party told a news conference she would be lodging complaints against Société Générale and HSBC.

Under French law, banks are allowed to close accounts unilaterally.

But Ms Le Pen accused “financial oligarchies” of trying to “suffocate” the political opposition and democracy.

“This is a political decision on the part of Société Générale and not a dispute between a customer and their bank,” she was quoted as saying after insisting the party’s finances were stable.

Ms Le Pen has been fighting for her political life since losing May’s presidential election to Emmanuel Macron and performing poorly in subsequent legislative elections.

Her party has been riven by feuds, she has been put under formal investigation over a European Parliament funding scandal, and earlier this month she was stripped of immunity from prosecution over a series of grisly images she published on Twitter.

This is not the first instance of antagonism between the National Front (FN) and the banks.

In 2014, it accepted Russian loans of €11m (then worth £9m or $15m) when French banks declined to lend it any money. It was also refused loans to fund its campaign for the presidency, and has subsequently appealed directly to supporters for loans.

Ms Le Pen said the FN would be filing a complaint against Société Générale and its subsidiary Crédit du Nord. She also vowed to complain to HSBC after, she said, it closed her own personal account.

None of the banks confirmed that they had taken these steps, citing rules on confidentiality.

The FN’s banking relationship with Société Générale is said to go back 30 years.

In France, banks are allowed to close accounts without notice or explanation. However, access to a bank account is a right in France and the Bank of France can designate a bank which is then required to open an account.

The FN’s complaint against Crédit du Nord is that when it was required to open an account it then refused to process cheque and credit card payments, reports Reuters news agency.

(BBG) Editorial Board: Next Steps in the Macron Revolution

(BBG) The French president has made a good start, but there’s a long way to go.

French President Emmanuel Macron has accomplished more in six months than his predecessor managed in five years. Trouble is, that’s a low bar — and Macron will need to keep pushing if France’s economy is to achieve its full potential.

Macron’s first phase of reforms addressed the country’s 3,000-plus pages of labor rules. The changes are aimed at lightening the burden of regulation on employers — for instance, by letting more of them negotiate terms directly with employees. They’re valuable, especially for the small and medium-sized firms that account for nearly half of France’s workforce. The new rules will also make it easier for multinationals to fire workers at struggling French subsidiaries — encouraging them to hire more workers when times are good.

Yet these changes, welcome as they are, don’t go far enough. Macron agrees, and he’s embarking on a more ambitious second phase of reforms to help tackle France’s biggest labor-market problem: an unemployment rate that has stood at roughly 10 percent for years.

Europe’s cyclical recovery has helped to get joblessness down a bit lately, but around a quarter of France’s young people are still looking for work. Government spending isn’t the issue. (France already spends generously on finding jobs for the unemployed.) The real obstacles are housing and skills.

Affordable homes are in short supply, especially in the cities where jobs are more plentiful. And France’s system of subsidized accommodation often ties workers to particular places — in many cases with non-transferable lifetime rights. As well as reforming those rules, France needs to build more low-cost housing and supporting infrastructure in disadvantaged areas. At the moment, local authorities often block new construction.

Skills should be the other priority. France’s highly centralized education system has failed to deal effectively with low levels of literacy and a lack of skills for the digital economy. Vocational training has also been weak — plagued by a huge number of competing approaches, and run by officials who see little value in apprenticeships, which have proved so effective elsewhere.

Macron is making a start on broader educational reform — reducing class sizes in poorer areas and giving universities more autonomy — but this won’t yield quick results. Reforming the country’s apprenticeship program may be the best and fastest way to improve the job prospects of French youth.

The most successful apprenticeship programs, like those in Germany and Switzerland, emphasize on-the-job training and encourage businesses to help devise the programs. France’s system relies more on classroom instruction. This approach fails to reach the students who most need help, and participation of unskilled youngsters has been dropping.

Macron wants to simplify the system and get employers more involved. This might not be easy: It will mean reducing the role of France’s powerful ministry of education. It’s essential nonetheless.

This second phase of reform, even more than the first wave, will upset some unions and a lot of civil servants accustomed to getting their way. Macron needs to stick with it. His opponents are divided, which helps, and his commitment to change seem undimmed. He’s achieved a lot already. Best of all, he seems to understand that there’s a lot more to do.

(P-S) Can France and Germany Come Together? – DOMINIQUE MOISI

(P-S) The crisis in Catalonia and the resilience of European populists have made a well-functioning Franco-German partnership more important than ever. But if the European project is going to have any chance of surviving, the gap between German prudence and French audacity will have to be bridged.

PARIS – Seven months ago, when Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front had a chance of winning the French presidency, Germany feared for France’s future. But after Germany’s federal election in September, France has not been particularly afraid for its neighbor. The extreme-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), for all its gains, is not about to come to power. Germany, after all, is not Austria.

Nevertheless, French and German elites have found a common cause for concern: Germany may be unable to seize the exceptional opportunity created by French President Emmanuel Macron’s victory. Before, the problem was not that Germany was too strong, but that France was too weak. Now the problem is not that France is too ambitious for Europe, but that Germany is not ambitious enough.

For years, Germans complained that France was incapable of domestic reform, and that the French did not understand the meaning of “federalism” in the context of the European Union. Against that backdrop, Macron took the stage, presenting himself as an activist philosopher-president. He is a disciple of the French philosopher Paul Ricœur, and speaks of “European sovereignty” in the same way that German philosopher Jürgen Habermas speaks of “European citizenship.”

It will be difficult to strike a harmonious balance between a French president at the dawn of his power and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who seems to be in the twilight of hers. Above all, it will require Germany to match France’s new audacity.

Of course, Germany’s suspicion of greater risk-sharing in the eurozone, which Macron’s EU reform agenda seems to imply, is understandable. For Germans, that sounds like an updated version of the old EU mantra: “Germany will pay.” But the enthusiasm gap between the two governments need not be an unbridgeable abyss.

Le Pen often quipped during the French presidential campaign that, “Whatever the election results, France will be governed by a woman: It will be either me or the chancellor of Germany.” The line was witty and provocative; but it was also wrong. Today, Le Pen is well on her way to being a mere detail of history. And while Merkel is still the wise statesperson to whom much of Europe looks for leadership, she is no longer in a position to set the EU’s agenda unilaterally.

Clearly, French and German politics are on different emotional trajectories. Germany is more or less satisfied with itself and its place in the world. Merkel’s decision to open the country’s borders at the height of the refugee crisis surely cost her previous coalition votes in September’s election. But, on the whole, Germans remain unwilling to change a European status quo that has proved highly successful for their country.

France, by contrast, feels that change must come now or never. If France and Europe wait until tomorrow to do what should have been done today, then all will have already been lost. From France’s perspective, history seems to be accelerating. The United Kingdom is currently negotiating the terms of its withdrawal from the EU; Catalonia’s regional parliament has just declared independence from Spain; and populism is resurgent in Central and Eastern Europe.

If France wants to remain relevant in Europe, it must use the current moment to reform itself. And if the EU wants to remain relevant in the world, especially now that America has lost its way, it needs to put European integration back on track.

The gap between France and Germany is largest when it comes to defense and security, owing to a deep cultural divide between the two countries. To be sure, most French and German citizens identify as European, as opposed to UK citizens, who identify as British – or even as English, Irish, Scottish, or Welsh. This is why German and French critiques of the EU generally focus on the bloc’s performance, whereas the British often strike at the European project itself.

But when it comes to security and defense, these affinities are reversed: France and Britain are very likeminded, while Germany, owing to its history, has long shied away from martial pursuits of any kind.

Of course, there are many differences between Britain and France with respect to how they engage with the United States and NATO. The UK is naturally closer to NATO than France is. But the UK, mortified by US President Donald Trump, has also grown more distant from the US, while France, under Macron, has grown somewhat closer. Unlike Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May is not convinced that she can charm Trump.

The Franco-German partnership has long been the pillar of EU stability. And given the deepening  and the resilience of European populists, the bilateral relationship is more important than ever.

Put bluntly, Macron and Merkel represent European liberal democracy, based on reason and openness, in contrast to the populist vision represented by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and de facto Polish leader Jarosław Kaczyński. With recent elections in Austria and the Czech Republic moving Central Europe toward what might be called an Austro-Hungarian populist empire, Germany has as much at stake in successful EU reform as France does. The ball, as the Americans say, is in Merkel’s court.

(EUobserver) Fiat-Chrysler ‘obstructed justice’ reports Le Monde

(EUobserver) French newspaper Le Monde cited a letter from the country’s anti-fraud authority on Monday, which said Italian-American carmaker Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has obstructed the French investigation into possible emissions fraud. Following the revelation of the emissions scandal by competitor Volkswagen in September 2015, allegations of cheating also were made against FCA, which has always claimed it has not broken any EU laws.

(EUobserver) Macron’s EU vision doesn’t fit Europe

(EUobserver)

  • Macron is not letting himself be slowed down one iota by the German election result of 24 September. (Photo: Reuters)

It is admirable that French president Emmanuel Macron laid out his vision for the Europe of 2024 in his speech on Tuesday (26 September).

He didn’t behind abbreviations and jargon understood only by the Eurocrats at Schuman Square in Brussels.

In doing so, he is furthering an ancient tradition in which France attempts to set the European debate.

It’s also striking that Macron is not letting himself be slowed down one iota by the German election result of 24 September.

Nevertheless, with his speech, he even seems to be muscling in – wittingly or unwittingly – on the coalition talks in Berlin.

A “sovereign, democratic and unified Europe”, is how Macron sees the EU – with a much bigger budget, harmonised corporate taxes, a unified social policy, and a unified asylum policy.

A European industrial policy, a European minister for finance, the relaunch of the European Financial Transaction Tax, new European environmental taxes, a European public prosecutor, European universities, much more European solidarity, and the list goes on.

Challenges ahead

Not seeing the wood for the trees is the first challenge.

What Macron proposes is revolutionary: no longer are member states sovereign, let alone the people – but “Europe” is.

His reasoning: to be able to face up to the US and China, the EU must become a strong economic and industrial power, which he believes is only possible by shifting all these new powers to Europe.

And the member states? They become the de facto provinces of that unified block.

Well, Macron’s vision for the EU doesn’t fit Europe.

There is no support among the population for further centralisation and there is no enthusiasm for being governed by a far-off bureaucracy.

People themselves want to be able to choose who comes to live in their country, which economic policies are pursued, how they guarantee their social security. And they certainly won’t entertain the thought of paying a ton of taxes for citizens from other countries.

Macron’s claim that a top-down centralised Europe would produce an economic global player also doesn’t ring true.

While a politically unified Europe would indeed conjure up the illusion of economies of scale, in practice it often results in large-scale squandering.

Outlining the same economic policy from Brussels – for Malta and Ireland, for Slovenia and Flanders – is absurd.

What is needed is tailor-made policy for all those very different local economies, and that’s not something you get by regulating, harmonising and coordinating everything at EU level.

Typically French

An industrial policy at European level is also a typical French request.

When Macron advocated for a more innovative Europe in his speech, he proposed creating a European Innovation Agency.

However, innovation comes from the bottom up – often from small businesses, start-ups and scale-ups, or from universities – not from the top down, and not from bureaucrats.

Macron also wants a much bigger budget for the EU. A eurozone budget with its own parliament with the “sovereignty” to levy new European taxes – taxes that will mostly be paid in the North and spent in the South. A Union in which money never stops flowing from North to South: like in Belgium.

It’s the cause of great political frustration and not much in the way of economic results.

So are these proposals good for Europe? No.

They are first and foremost good for France, with Brussels as an extension of Paris. That’s always been the mindset in the French presidential palace.

The French want to make Europe into a dam that protects Europe against the rest of the world. But it’s primarily France that the dam protects. Or more accurately, it shields France.

The French don’t like the free market, don’t like trading. The French look to the state, l’Etat. They want the EU to reinstate their vanishing political grip on the economy.

The French want a government to be a dirigeant, not a service provider.

Clear alternative

The alternative is clear. The EU must not become a state.

We will not become stronger by all doing the same things, but we will by playing to the strengths of each member state.

The EU must therefore only intervene where absolutely necessary, with regard to security and the closure of borders, for example.

At the same time, the EU must become more flexible in many areas and give the member states more freedom. It’s precisely decentralisation and political diversity that form the strength of Europe.

Competition between cities, regions and countries is pushing us onward. Let there be differences. No “ever closer union” in every domain. Cooperation – yes. Total unification – no.

Only in this way will we obtain an EU that serves all member states, including the smaller ones, and not solely the heavyweights in the form of France and Germany.

And one that serves all European citizens, not just the southern Europeans.

It’s clear that Macron’s vision fits the French. It just doesn’t fit Europe.

Sander Loones is an MEP in the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.

(PUB) As propostas de Macron para o relançamento da União Europeia – Francisco Assis

(PUB) Ao opor desta forma uma nova soberania europeia às velhas e tradicionais soberanias nacionais, Macron dá um passo decisivo para o relançamento do debate em torno da natureza mais profunda da União Europeia.

1. Emmanuel Macron proferiu recentemente dois relevantes discursos sobre o tema europeu. Não por acaso, escolheu como cenários dois locais repletos de simbologia pela importância que têm na história cultural do Ocidente: a colina da Pnyx, em Atenas, sítio onde habitualmente decorriam as assembleias amplamente participadas pelos cidadãos atenienses no período clássico, e a Sorbonne, que representa a tradição de reflexão associada ao mundo universitário europeu.

O Presidente francês, que muito rapidamente se tornou na nova bête noire da extrema-esquerda, reiterou uma vez mais o seu compromisso com aquilo que convencionalmente designamos por projecto europeu. Em Atenas, recorrendo a um discurso um pouco mais abstracto do que é comum nos dirigentes políticos, atribuiu especial ênfase ao conceito de soberania europeia, aproximando-se desta forma de um pensamento federalista que nos últimos anos não tem encontrado destacados defensores. Nisso, Macron singulariza-se e dá sinais de ousadia e coragem. As suas palavras foram muito claras, começando por afirmar a importância do conceito de soberania enquanto expressão da capacidade dos povos decidirem por eles próprios, de fixarem as suas regras e de escolherem o seu futuro, para logo de seguida recusar frontalmente a identificação absoluta deste conceito com a dimensão nacional. Ao opor desta forma uma nova soberania europeia às velhas e tradicionais soberanias nacionais, Macron dá um passo decisivo para o relançamento do debate em torno da natureza mais profunda da União Europeia.

Já em Paris, na quarta-feira, concentrou-se na enunciação de propostas concretas imbuídas da vontade de dar expressão prática ao que antes tinha tão bem teorizado em Atenas. Defendeu a ideia da existência de uma vanguarda europeia constituída pelo conjunto dos países empenhados em avançar mais depressa na incrementação dos mecanismos integradores nos domínios económico, orçamental, fiscal e social; preconizou a existência de listas de âmbito transnacional nas eleições para o Parlamento Europeu, que conviveriam com as listas nacionais actualmente existentes; voltou a insistir na tese da criação de um ministro europeu das Finanças e no substancial aumento do orçamento da zona euro.

A circunstância de este discurso ter sido proferido três dias depois da realização das eleições alemãs, onde se verificaram resultados aparentemente desfavoráveis ao sucesso das posições do Presidente francês, apenas realça a sua clara vontade de restituir à França um papel determinante na condução dos destinos europeus. Macron sabe que a primeira condição para que isso possa acontecer é a da reconstituição do chamado eixo franco-alemão, numa base de equiparação da importância e do estatuto dos dois países. Nos últimos anos não foi isso que se verificou, dada a posição hegemónica assumida pela parte germânica. Dando provas de pragmatismo, e ao mesmo tempo que se assume como um igual da chanceler Merkel, o Presidente francês empenha-se em remover alguns dos assuntos que poderiam suscitar profundas reservas da parte alemã, como a ideia da mutualização das dívidas públicas passadas, sem contudo pôr de lado a emissão de eurobonds para financiamento de novos projectos de financiamento, visando o aumento da competitividade das economias europeias. Este misto de voluntarismo e de realismo confere a Macron uma credibilidade e um prestígio que nenhum outro Presidente francês logrou alcançar no decorrer das duas últimas décadas.

É verdade que não será fácil o caminho que os defensores de uma Europa mais integrada se propõem percorrer nos próximos tempos. Os resultados eleitorais alemães vieram lembrar-nos isso mesmo. Angela Merkel terá pela frente uma tarefa muito difícil, dada a necessidade de conciliar orientações sobre a política europeia nitidamente diferenciadas seja qual for a solução governativa que vier a concretizar-se. O crescimento da extrema-direita, com a consequente erupção da mesma no plano parlamentar, e o mau resultado obtido pelo SPD, poderão conduzir a um afastamento de posições mais centristas por parte dos dois maiores partidos germânicos, o que teria consequências muito negativas no plano europeu. Esse é aliás um dos maiores riscos com que a Alemanha se vai defrontar nos próximos anos. Daí que não possa deixar de sublinhar quão errados são os comentários produzidos por algumas personalidades da esquerda portuguesa que optaram por se comprazer com aquilo que designaram como uma derrota dos entendimentos ao centro. Na sua ânsia de vergastar as posições mais moderadas, esta esquerda de vistas curtas abre a prazo as portas ao sucesso dos extremismos. Cá estaremos para continuar a combatê-la.

2. A Espanha está a viver a sua situação interna mais tensa desde a tentativa de golpe de Estado de 23 de Fevereiro de 1981. O que se está a passar na Catalunha é de tal modo complexo e importante que suscita o interesse de uma vasta parte da opinião pública internacional. Por razões óbvias, nós, portugueses, temos uma propensão especial para acompanhar e analisar tudo o que ali se tem vindo a passar. O problema catalão só pode ser resolvido através de respostas de natureza política que terão de ser encontradas num contexto de negociação pacífica entre as diferentes partes envolvidas. Uma coisa, porém, deve ser afirmada no presente contexto: são intoleráveis as acusações que de forma desvairada têm sido dirigidas ao Estado espanhol, como se este não obedecesse, na sua configuração e no seu funcionamento, ao modelo constitucional democrático-liberal que garante as liberdades públicas e o respeito pelo pluralismo das opiniões. Acresce ainda que a moderna Espanha democrática consagrou um modelo de organização territorial que confere às autonomias verdadeiros poderes em múltiplas áreas de grande importância. Ignorar tudo isto e pretender atribuir às instâncias políticas ou judiciais deste Estado democrático comportamentos idênticos aos que vigoram nos regimes autoritários releva da pura má fé. Uma coisa é admitir a necessidade de promover concertadamente alterações constitucionais, que no limite possam mesmo permitir a realização de um refendo sobre a independência da Catalunha. Outra coisa é insultar uma bem-sucedida experiência democrática como é aquela que se tem verificado em Espanha após o fim do Franquismo.

Nos últimos dias foram publicados textos ? nalguns casos assinados por figuras relevantes do presente situacionismo nacional ? em que se chegava a apelar aos méritos da insubordinação civil contra as regras de um Estado de Direito em termos tais que não podem deixar de suscitar uma profunda preocupação. Não será aliás por acaso que alguns dos autores desses mesmos textos se tenham destacado no passado por sempre se terem recusado a condenar os crimes terroristas praticados pela ETA. Ora, uma tal incapacidade de condenação do terrorismo assassino da ETA releva da pura abjecção. Não venham agora personagens deste calibre dar lições de democracia à generalidade dos espanhóis.

+++ (BBG) Reaction to Macron’s Europe Speech Says Much About Divisions

(BBG) Macron Unveils Plan to Reform Europe

French President Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious proposals for enhancing the European Union’s power and institutions earned responses ranging from praise in Brussels to wariness in Berlin and outright hostility in Prague.

The reaction said as much about the current state of Europe as did his calls to reform it.

In a major speech in Paris, Macron detailed a wide range of proposals for future European policies including defense and migration, as well as a new joint office for investment and an industrial program to foster clean vehicles. Speaking for almost two hours on Tuesday, he went on to say that the euro zone is the core of the European project that offers its members the prospect of economic power to rival China and the U.S.

“The Europe we know is too weak, too slow, too ineffective,” Macron said. “Europe can assure real sovereignty, our ability to exist in the world of today.”

Strip it down, and the reactions to the speech, whether the overall tone or its constituent parts, shone a light on the political complications in applying any kind of coherent policy to the as-yet still 28-member club.

“Europe requires courage,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted from Brussels. “We now need a more closely united, stronger and democratic Europe.”

Italy too had warm words. “There are no local solutions to transnational problems,” Sandro Gozi, Italian junior minister for European affairs, told ANSA newswire. “Macron has just reminded us of this, and his idea of Europe is also ours.”

‘Bold, Passionate’

In Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is about to embark on tricky talks to form a new coalition to help steer Europe’s biggest economy, the reaction illustrated the divided political approach to Europe, offering the French president both encouragement and a warning of the challenges ahead.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the speech was a “bold, passionate plea against nationalism and for Europe,” adding that “we have to use this chance of a German-French initiative to together make Europe more democratic, involve its citizens and better prepare it for the future.” Macron, he said, “can count on us.”

But with his Social Democratic Party pledging to go into opposition after suffering a historic defeat in Sunday’s election, Gabriel’s words risked sounding a little hollow.

‘Deepening Split’

The other end of the German spectrum was reflected by Hans Michelbach, a member of Merkel’s parliamentary caucus from her CSU Bavarian sister party, who didn’t wait for Macron to finish speaking before issuing a statement saying the president’s proposals were “unsuited to moving Europe forward.”

“They don’t lead to a deepening, but rather to a deepening split in the EU,” said Michelbach, who routinely opposed efforts to aid Greece and other euro-area countries.

Macron’s proposals were also meant to notify Germany of France’s demands before leaders in Berlin set about negotiating their coalition agreement. As he acknowledged that his vision will require Merkel’s support to push through, Macron was cautious not to go into too many details ahead of time, and said he was confident potential coalition leaders will keep an open mind on his proposals.

“It was a visionary speech and it will accelerate the process” of European integration, said Guntram Wolff, director of the Bruegel think tank in Brussels. “Will the Germans and other European countries take him up on that? On some points, yes,” but on others not immediately, he said.

Greens vs FDP

The Greens, possible allies in a three-way coalition led by Merkel, praised Macron’s contribution. “Strong speech,” Greens co-leader Cem Oezdemir said on Twitter. “Now need close collaboration with Paris.”

Merkel’s other potential coalition allies in the Free Democratic Party were more critical. Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, an FDP member of the European Parliament, welcomed the speech as “brave and refreshing,” in the Rheinische Post newspaper, but criticized Macron for relying too much on the state and new taxes, and ruled out a euro-zone budget.

The European Conservatives and Reformists Group, which includes U.K. Conservatives as well as founding members of the Alternative of Germany party who split off when it embraced an anti-immigration agenda, said the speech was “smoke and mirrors.” Instead of real reform, it meant “more Europe, further integration, more agencies.”

In Prague, the billionaire who’s set to become the next Czech prime minister was dismissive of Macron’s European drive, warning that closer integration could lead to more members joining the U.K. in quitting the bloc.

“He should really concentrate on France,” Czech ANO party leader Andrej Babis said in an interview. “All these proposals that we’ll have a minister of the euro zone and all of this further integration — Juncker and Macron should think of why Brexit happened.”

Macron, though, sought to be generous in tone. While France is often perceived has the toughest major EU country lined up against Britain as it negotiates to leave the EU, Macron stressed that the U.K., with a long history as both friend and foe, would remain a close ally.

“In this re-vamped and simplified EU, I can’t imagine that the U.K. won’t find its place,” he said.

(BBG) Macron’s Grand Ideas Will Be Shot Down, One by One

(BBG) All but the softest and least important projects the French president proposed for Europe face strong, well-defined opposition.

Other audiences will be less friendly.

Photographer: Ludovic Martin/AFP/Getty Images

The barrage of reform proposals French President Emmanuel Macron unleashed on Europe Tuesday came so fast and furious that listeners had no time to wonder which ones were feasible or even desirable. It’s worth asking that question now, even as German political party leaders prepare to discuss Macron’s ideas during the coalition talks.

Macron’s ideas have to be tested against the positions of four sets of forces that can influence progress: the EU bureaucracy; the German political establishment; the renegade Eastern European nations; and the fiercest tax competitors in the EU, such as Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Cyprus. Almost each important Macron proposal goes against the interests of one of these groups.

The Brussels establishment will probably prove the least resistant to the French proposals. Juncker praised Macron’s “very European” speech, and his chief of staff Martin Selmayr even live-tweeted it admiringly, especially Macron’s insistence that companies (read U.S. digital platforms) be taxed where they make their money, not where they choose. Perhaps the only Macron proposal the commission is likely to fight is the one to cut the commission itself to 15 members from 28.

The French leader’s idea of harmonizing corporate taxes and social contributions is doomed, however, except in some limited version. There is no reason for the smaller, low-tax nations to undercut their own competitiveness. Notably, none of these nations signed up to the French initiative of imposing a temporary turnover tax on U.S. internet companies until a more solid common tax framework can be laid down.

Macron suggested starting the harmonization project with Germany. Maybe if a grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats were in power for the next four years, that would have been possible. But now that the Social Democrats are bent on a period in opposition, Chancellor Angela Merkel is more likely to draft the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party into her government. Macron won’t have a problem with the Greens, whose leader Cem Oezdemir tweeted his admiration of the speech — and then repeated it in French: They are strong European federalists. But the FDP presents a major hurdle. It’s in favor of each EU state determining its own economic policy, and it’s firmly against Macron’s proposal of a common euro-zone budget. FDP leader Christian Lindner called for winding down the European Stability Mechanism, out of which a common budget might grow; he’s also called euro zone fiscal transfers a “red line” in coalition talks — something that earned him a personal line in Macron’s speech: “I have no red lines, only horizons.” That line is unlikely to sway Lindner.

Building a coalition is a priority for Merkel now. German coalition agreements are detailed, binding documents. There’s no going back on them. Everyone compromises, and some deal will need to be reached between the FDP and the Greens on European integration, but Merkel herself isn’t likely to push enthusiastically for Macron’s plan. Fiscal transfers are a sore point with all German center-right and right-wing voters, and she’d promised to claw them back after losing millions of them in last Sunday’s elections. Merkel doesn’t have much political space to accommodate Macron; even if talks with the Social Democrats are resurrected, she’ll tread extra carefully.

It is, however, the Eastern Europeans that will present the biggest obstacle to most of the Macron ideas. They are wary of going too far toward the creation of an EU army, since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is no fan of the idea and the eastern nations put too much stock in U.S. protection to risk undermining that with any potential European “intervention force.”

They will also firmly reject the creation of a common asylum office and handing over their external borders to a common EU force: The nationalist governments of Poland and Hungary and the party likely to win the Czech election all oppose any refugee policy that could force them to accept more immigrants, and they’re worried about their sovereignty. They will have heard Macron’s praise of the European Commission’s efforts to uphold the rule of law; the French president makes no effort to hide his enmity towards all they stand for.

These countries also don’t want a carbon tax on energy imports because a rise in energy prices would be more acutely felt than in wealthier western European economies. They would also hate a forced minimum wage and a convergence in social contributions, especially if, as Macron suggested, it would be linked to EU budgetary allocations. And if a reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy might worry French farmers, Poland is by far their biggest net recipient, and it will fight tooth and claw to keep them and to avoid any political preconditions for receiving the money.

Macron’s insistence on any and all of these proposals is tantamount to the old idea of a “two-speed Europe,” in which core nations integrate quickly and leave the peripheral doubters behind. In fact, Macron said in the speech that “those who want to go further and faster need to be able to do so unhindered.” That’s where he diverges with Juncker who, in the state of the union speech, argued against the two-speed model.

Of all the ideas that poured out of Macron’s horn of plenty, only the least ambitious ones are feasible. There will likely be little opposition to development aid for Africa, the creation of European universities to facilitate student exchanges, and a better procedure for mutual diploma recognition; cross-border lists for European Parliament elections probably wouldn’t spook too many people, either. These are cherries every power center in the EU would gladly pick off Macron’s multi-layered cake.

The French president would have done better to focus on a few of his potentially unpopular proposals if he really wants to overcome resistance to them — or better, work quietly with the stakeholders, the way it’s usually done in Europe. Even at home, where he enjoys vast executive power and a strong legislative majority, Macron worked diligently with the labor unions and employers before he presented his labor reform to the public. In Europe, he’s adopted a different tactic for some reason — perhaps because he knows the opposition will be formidable, and it’s more important to him to declare where he stands than to overcome it.