Category Archives: France

(Politico) Santa Macron blows hole in budget

(Politico) Concessions to buy off protesters set to breach EU deficit limits.

 

The political cost to Macron’s authority and European standing are already high | Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

 

PARIS — Santa Claus came early for millions of French people on Monday.

But President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to buy off a nationwide protest movement with handouts for low-paid workers and retirees is likely to come at a cost — inflating the budget deficit, pushing the national debt over 100 percent of gross domestic product and reneging on EU commitments to fiscal discipline.

After a month of a sometimes violent revolt by Yellow Jacket protesters against fuel tax hikes and the cost of living, Macron announced an immediate €100 a month increase in the minimum wage without extra cost to employers, the removal of social charges and income tax on overtime payments, and the scrapping of a tax rise on poorer pensioners.

The young president admitted in a televised address to the nation that he had underestimated public anger, failed to grasp the distress of families and the elderly struggling to make ends meet, and offended people with arrogant or offhand remarks.

“I accept my share of responsibility. I may have given you the feeling that I didn’t care, that I had other priorities,” a chastened Macron told prime-time viewers.

The political cost to Macron’s authority and European standing are already high | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

He gave no clue as to how he would finance the concessions, which together with last week’s scrapping of contentious planned tax hikes on gasoline and diesel could lead to at least €10 billion in lost revenue and an extra cost to the 2019 budget — roughly 0.5 percent of GDP.

The president refused to go back on his unpopular 2017 decision to scrap a wealth tax on the rich, which yielded €4 billion but was hated by investors who cited it as a barrier to creating jobs. But he said he would meet investors and business leaders in the coming days to see how they could contribute more to the economy.

Activists from the leaderless Yellow Jackets movement, which has spread like wildfire via social media, acknowledged first steps had been taken to meet their demands but many said Macron’s response was inadequate and vowed to keep up their roadblocks.

However, the government is hoping a combination of targeted measures, protest fatigue, revulsion at violence and looting, and the onset of the Christmas holidays will snuff out the protests before the end of the month.

Italy’s populist leaders, who have openly defied Brussels with a rule-busting increased budget deficit for 2019, must be laughing.

The political cost to Macron’s authority and European standing are already high.

The pro-European president pledged when he was elected in May 2017 to finally respect France’s EU commitments on budget discipline, saying this was vital both to restoring public finances and to rebuilding trust, notably in key partner Germany.

But while increased growth and tax measures brought the deficit below the EU’s 3 percent ceiling last year for the first time in almost a decade, the centrist government has so far failed to cut public spending, which at 57 percent of GDP is among the highest in Europe.

The European Commission has already voiced concern about the feasibility of Paris’ plans to shave the deficit to 2.8 percent of GDP next year. That modest reduction now looks unattainable, not only because of Macron’s latest giveaways but also because the economic disruption of a month of protests is set to reduce growth this year and make next year’s 1.7 percent growth target, on which the budget is based, hard to achieve.

Italy’s populist leaders, who have openly defied Brussels with a rule-busting increased budget deficit for 2019, must be laughing.

Yellow Jacket protestors take notes as they watch French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech on December 10 | Guillaume Souvant/AFP via Getty Images

Although Rome, which is facing an EU excessive debt procedure, is a separate case and of greater concern to financial markets, Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said the Commission was watching France’s situation closely.

The Bank of France halved its growth forecast for the final quarter of 2018 on Monday to 0.2 percent from 0.4 percent. Retailers said supermarket sales were 15 percent to 20 percent below normal for the fourth straight Saturday due to the blockades and fears of violence.

While the president did not say how he planned to achieve the promised €100 increase in the minimum wage, which affects 1.6 million people directly and 11 million through knock-on effects, an increase in a state-funded income supplement known as the “activity premium” seems the most likely way to avoid extra cost for employers.

French presidents for the last 25 years have been forced to retreat from economic and education reforms by street protests. Macron’s predecessors Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande retreated into immobility after bruising outbursts of public anger.

Despite his determination to be different, and his youthful energy, Macron started down the same road on Monday. Whether he can restore his authority and revive his reform agenda looks far from certain.

(LeMonde) Les « gilets jaunes » vus de Moscou : une « révolution de couleur » fomentée par les Etats-Unis

(LeMonde) Selon Dmitri Kisselev, présentateur vedette de la chaîne russe Rossiya 1, il semblerait que, tout comme lors de la « révolution orange » en Ukraine, les Américains sont à la manœuvre en France.

Manifestation des « gilets jaunes », place de l’Etoile, à Paris, le 1er décembre.
Manifestation des « gilets jaunes », place de l’Etoile, à Paris, le 1er décembre. Julien Muguet pour « Le Monde »

Comme partout, la sidération l’emporte en Russie après les violentes émeutes survenues le 1er décembre à Paris lors de la nouvelle manifestation de colère des « gilets jaunes ». Mais Dmitri Kisselev a son interprétation : le jaune est une couleur, les événements mettent en péril le pouvoir, donc, c’est une « révolution de couleur », orchestrée en sous-main, comme toutes les autres avant elles – notamment la « révolution orange » en Ukraine –, par les Etats-Unis.

Lire aussi  « Gilets jaunes » : le point sur les blocages et les concertations en cours

Dimanche 2 décembre au soir, sur la chaîne publique Rossiya 1, le directeur de la chaîne et présentateur vedette de l’émission « Vesti » (nouvelles) – la préférée, dit-on, de Vladimir Poutine – a avancé cet argument imparable à ses yeux pour décrire la situation en France : « Cela ressemble à l’exportation américaine d’une révolution de couleur, et tout cela parce que le président Macron a parlé de la nécessité d’une armée européenne. »

Car sinon, a développé le présentateur devant un fond écran sur lequel s’inscrivaient en grosses lettres les mots « révolte exportée ? », comment expliquer qu’une « microscopique augmentation du prix de l’essence provoque dans la rue des scènes de pillage, la mobilisation d’une armée de policiers, de la fumée, des tirs, du sang, des nuages de gaz lacrymogène, des éclats de verre partout ? » Non, non, « le prétexte est disproportionné », assure Dmitri Kisselev, qui s’est renseigné. Certes, « le prix de l’essence est deux fois plus cher en France qu’en Russie », mais il est encore plus élevé en Grèce ou aux Pays-Bas.

Et puis comment croire cet enchaînement improbable : une coordination de protestation sur les réseaux sociaux avec des vidéos « réalisées soi-disant par de simples Français », et l’apparition de surcroît d’un « nom aussi accrocheur » que celui de « gilets jaunes » ? « Vraiment, enchaîne le présentateur, les Etats-Unis peuvent-ils tolérer une alternative à l’OTAN en Europe ? Pensez ce que vous voulez, mais la première vague des émeutes liées au prix du carburant a balayé la France une semaine seulement après la déclaration de Macron sur la nécessité de créer une armée européenne. » Les images de l’Arc de triomphe et de l’avenue des Champs-Elysées dévastés ont suivi l’exposé.

Connu pour ses outrances

Dmitri Kissilev n’est pas tout à fait un présentateur comme les autres. Connu pour ses outrances, inscrit sur la liste européenne des personnalités russes placées sous sanctions, il est aussi et surtout le patron de Rossia Sevognia, la maison mère de la chaîne de télévision RT et le site Sputnik, les deux médias implantés dans le monde entier pour exporter la voix du Kremlin. Mais dimanche, la leçon s’adressait d’abord aux Russes : révoltez-vous et vous aurez le chaos.

Depuis 2014 et le soulèvement ukrainien sur la place Maïdan, Vladimir Poutine n’a cessé de marteler ce même message : les Etats-Unis sont derrière chaque révolte. « Ils ont commencé à soutenir à toute force les révolutions de couleur, y compris le prétendu printemps arabe et à quoi cela mène-t-il ? Au chaos », répétait encore le chef du Kremlin lors du forum économique de Saint-Pétersbourg en juin 2016.

On notera tout de même aussi cette contradiction parmi les sources influentes en Russie. Dans un tweet envoyé à la veille des rassemblements du 1er décembre en France, Alexandre Douguine, un intellectuel proche des milieux d’extrême droite qui a inspiré le virage eurasien et antioccidental du président russe, écrivait : « Je suis “gilet jaune”. » En français dans le texte.

(EurActiv) A double failure for France in creating European taxes

(EurActiv)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron arrive for a press conference following a visit at the Humboldt Forum construction site in Berlin, Germany, 19 April 2018.

France has failed to unblock EU tax proposals on financial and digital transactions, two measures for fiscal justice that Paris has attempted to push for a long time at European level. EURACTIV France reports.

The outcome of meetings between Eurozone and EU finance ministers held earlier this week (3 and 4 December) disappointed Paris, which had hoped to make progress in creating these European taxes.

Paris and Berlin jointly brought compromises on two key measures of European tax reform: the tax on financial transactions, and a digital tax.

The two taxes, presented as tools of fiscal justice, have been under discussion for several years. However, no compromise has been reached between EU capitals, despite strong public support in favour of such measures.

Financial Transaction Tax (FTT)

The Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) is the oldest of the two. It has been discussed by a group of EU 10 countries under a so-called “enhanced cooperation” mechanism since it was put on the table by the European Commission, in 2011.

On Monday (3 December), France and Germany presented a compromise proposal that would see the existing French FTT extended to other countries. The proposal will be discussed again in January.

Germany and France will outline on Monday a joint proposal for a financial transaction tax for the European Union that is based on a model already tested in France, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported late on Sunday (2 December).

At the end of the meeting, the ministers said they were ready to resume work on the basis of the French model. They also stated their intention to allocate funds to the Eurozone budget, which countries do not want to fund by an additional national contribution.

This will bring the debate to the level of the Eurogroup, which brings together the 19 member states of the eurozone. In the past, some of these countries have been openly hostile to the FTT, such as the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the Republic of Ireland.

“The tax option on the table is a discount version, with a reduced base, and revenues allocated to the European budget, rather than 100% of the revenues going to climate mitigation and international solidarity,” regretted Robin Guittard from Oxfam France.

“In these times of social and taxation protests, our leaders have to be listening,” Guittard said, adding the FTT was a measure for fiscal justice that is very popular with European citizens. “We need to reach an agreement at the beginning of 2019 and not settle for the initial excitement at announcements about the umpteenth relaunch of the process,” Guittard said.

Digital tax

The other awaited tax, the one on digital matters, was also undermined by European ministers. Bruno Le Maire, the French Minister of Economy and Finance, arrived with a hard-fought compromise with Germany, which is more cautious than Paris on the issue of taxing digital giants.

France and Germany sought on Monday (3 December) to salvage a proposed EU tax on big digital firms by narrowing the focus to cover only companies’ online advertising revenue, a European source said.

Consequently, rather than taxing the digital giants’ turnover at 3%, the Franco-German partnership has proposed that the tax will only concern digital platforms’ advertising turnover. This model would notably spare Amazon and Apple, but would focus more on Facebook and Google.

Another of the proposal’s concessions is that this tax would only be implemented if the negotiations at the OECD level for taxing the digital sector by 2021 are unsuccessful.

Despite this watered-down version of the digital tax, the ministers did not reach an agreement and intend to reconsider the Franco-German compromise at a later stage, depending on advances made by the OECD.

“Whereas European governments had committed to making concrete progress on the issue of the GAFA [Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon] companies, the compromise proposed by France and Germany is a superficial agreement to save face,” regretted Quentin Parrinello of Oxfam France.

“It completely empties the tax of its substance and will enable a large number of businesses in the digital sector to continue to evade taxes in countries where they are, however, making record turnovers,” he added.

France and Germany presented on Tuesday (4 December) revised plans for the EU’s proposed digital tax reforms under which large firms would pay a levy only on advertising sales and not on total revenues, representing a significant reduction of the Commission’s original scope.

The French European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, Pierre Moscovici also regretted the lack of agreement on taxing the digital sector.

“Tax on digital giants: no agreement at #ECOFIN but I’m not giving up. Fiscal injustice is still here and has to be rectified. The EU’s demand is still here and has to be met. Let’s keep discussing and find an agreement by March! #FairTaxation,” Moscovici tweeted.

Pierre Moscovici

@pierremoscovici

Taxe sur les géants du numérique: pas d’accord à l’ mais je ne baisse pas les bras. L’injustice fiscale est toujours là et doit être corrigée. La demande des 🇪🇺est toujours là et doit être satisfaite. Continuons de discuter et trouvons un accord d’ici mars!

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The European inability to move forward on fiscal matters is notably due to the fact that these decisions are subject to unanimity. This is a restraint which almost systematically blocks all drives for reform.

One of the solutions could be moving to qualified-majority voting, believed Moscovici. “I would like to put my foot in the door of unanimity. There are topics where unanimity is neither desirable nor defendable,” he explained.

But such a change would have to be voted unanimously by member states, which makes its adoption as uncertain as the tax reforms currently dividing the member states.

(OBS) Três erros sobre a França dos coletes amarelos – Rui Ramos

(OBS) Os apelos do costume já não funcionam: nem o medo do “caos”, com que Macron tentou assustar os franceses; nem o medo do “fascismo”, com que as esquerdas se habituaram a inibir as direitas. E agora?

Em França, a revolução sai à rua; em Espanha, entrou, por enquanto, num parlamento regional. Os apelos do costume já não funcionam: nem o medo do “caos”, com que o presidente Macron tenta assustar os franceses; nem o medo do “fascismo”, com que as esquerdas até hoje se habituaram a inibir as direitas. Em Espanha, vamos talvez descobrir que “geringonças” há muitas; em França, que quando o poder se propõe pôr os cidadãos “em marcha”, os cidadãos às vezes marcham mesmo, mas não necessariamente segundo a vontade do poder.

Há três erros que podemos cometer em relação aos “coletes amarelos”. O primeiro é contemplar tudo como um problema simplesmente francês. Não é. A União Europeia é uma aliança franco-alemã. Para que possa haver UE, é necessário que a Alemanha e a França funcionem.  Há quinze anos, a Alemanha reformou-se para competir nos mercados globais. Não resolveu todos os seus problemas, mas resolveu alguns: tem excedentes e emprego. A França, pelo contrário, não fez reformas. É o país dos défices e do desemprego. A questão é saber se a Alemanha, onde a validade de Merkel expirou entretanto, está disposta a ser o Atlas que carrega o vizinho aos ombros. Nas ruas francesas, joga-se o destino da UE.

O segundo erro é pensar que se trata apenas do fracasso de Emmanuel Macron. Não é. Porque antes de um fracasso de Macron, ainda por confirmar, estão os fracassos já confirmados da direita gaullista, com Nicolas Sarkozy, e da esquerda socialista, com François Hollande. Desde os anos 90, qualquer reforma em França serviu apenas para os governos serem humilhados por protestos e motins. Daí a lenda do “país irreformável”. Entretanto, os grandes partidos de governo da V República, que já só sobreviviam chantageando o eleitorado com a ameaça dos Le Pen (ou nós, ou o “fascismo”), desapareceram. Em seu lugar, as elites aglomeraram-se à volta de um jovem que era suposto fazer as reformas sem o empecilho da velha dicotomia esquerda-direita. Um colapso do “macronismo” dificilmente significaria o regresso ao anterior sistema partidário. Comecem, à cautela, a imaginar o inimaginável.

O terceiro erro está na nossa economia de esforço interpretativo. Para explicar os coletes amarelos, preferiu-se em geral traduzir os contrastes americanos que, há dois anos, serviram para dar conta de Trump: os “deploráveis” contra as elites, o campo contra as  cidades, a tasca contra o Starbucks, o nativismo contra o cosmopolitismo, etc. Não digo que não haja alguma coisa disso, mas vale a pena desconfiar de qualquer análise que acabe em recomendações natalícias de “compreensão mútua”. O risco, neste caso, é perder de vista o que, numa revolta contra o preço dos combustíveis, é o problema: uma crise fiscal. Na década de 1990, já eram óbvios os desequilíbrios dos regimes sociais europeus. Mas acreditou-se que a “globalização” (que outros achavam ser o problema) poderia resolver a dificuldade, através da criação de riqueza nos mercados globais. Acontece que no caso francês (e em outros), esses mesmos desequilíbrios limitam a competitividade do país. A França enfrenta assim um paradoxo que Portugal e a Europa do sul conhecem bem: quanto menos dinâmica é a economia, mais castigada é a sociedade por impostos, porque os governos precisam de compensar as clientelas, e não há outra via senão o fisco e a dívida. Eis como duram os Estados europeus, navegando entre duas revoltas possíveis: a dos contribuintes e a dos dependentes.

Finalmente, poupemo-nos às analogias ignorantes com os anos 30. Estamos a passar pelo que parece ser o fim de uma época. O pior que podíamos fazer era olhar com os olhos de ontem.

(GUA) French government ‘to suspend fuel tax increase’

(GUA) Reports say the PM, Édouard Philippe, will announce suspension following protests

‘Gilets jaunes’ protesters block the road leading to the Frontignan oil depot in the south of France on Monday.
 ‘Gilets jaunes’ protesters block the road leading to the Frontignan oil depot in the south of France on Monday. Photograph: Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images

The French government will announce it is suspending plans to introduce an eco-fuel tax after three weeks of increasingly violent protests, according to reports in French media.

The prime minister, Édouard Philippe, was due to meet cabinet ministers on Tuesday morning to agree a response to a weekend of rioting, looting and destruction in Paris by an extreme fringe of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement.

The tax on petrol and diesel, due to increase next month in a move towards cleaner fuels, sparked national demonstrations that quickly grew to encompass wider anger and frustration at the country’s leaders.

President Emmanuel Macron had repeatedly vowed not to give in to street rule, but has been forced to reconsider after the worst violence in Paris in half a century.

Agence France-Presse reported on Tuesday that Philippe would declare the fuel tax rises were being suspended during a meeting of MPs from the ruling La République En Marche (LREM). The PM met leaders of France’s main political parties on Monday.

On Monday evening, Macron held an emergency meeting at the Élysée Palace to deal with the political and social crisis, the most serious since he was elected on a centrist, reforming programme in May 2017.

Stanislas Guerini, the leader of the LREM parliamentary group, told French radio: “While there’s a debate, we stop writing, have a pause … there has to be a pause so the debate can happen.”

Philippe was due to meet representatives from the gilets jaunes on Tuesday afternoon, but the meeting was cancelled after the unofficial representatives were allegedly threatened and disowned by other protesters.

The protest movement, which has no organisation or leaders, has broadened its demands to include Macron’s resignation and the dissolution of the French parliament.

Macron has postponed a two-day visit to Serbia this week to deal with the crisis. On Saturday, police fought running battles with masked protesters who painted graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe, pulled down iron railings at the Tuileries Gardens, torched cars, set fire to buildings and looted luxury stores.

Three hundred and seventy-eight people were arrested; police said many were older males – aged between 30 and 40 – from outside the French capital who had come intending to fight police.

(BBC) Benin artworks: France to return thrones and statues

(BBC)

Three Great Royal Statues of ancient Dahomey (currently Benin, West Africa) are displayed at the Quai Branly Museum-Jacques Chirac in ParisImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionA report commissioned by the French president recommends that disputed artworks should be returned to their countries of origin

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that France will return 26 artworks taken from the west African state of Benin in the colonial era.

His announcement follows an experts’ report recommending that African treasures in French museums be returned to their countries of origin.

The 26 thrones and statues were taken in 1892 during a colonial war against the then Kingdom of Dahomey.

They are currently on display in the Quai Branly museum in Paris.

Benin officially asked for their return some years ago. President Macron said the statues would be returned “without delay”.

His office said the return of art to Benin should not be an isolated case.

The president “hopes that all possible circulation of these works is considered: returns but also exhibitions, loans, further cooperation”, the Elysee palace said.

A panel of experts, commissioned by the president to study the issue of African artworks in French museums, presented their findings to him on Friday.

Ousmane Aledji, director of the Benin cultural centre Artisttik Africa, told the AFP news agency he was pleased to see “a new form of cultural exchange” with France.

During colonial rule in Africa, thousands of cultural artefacts were seized from the continent by Western countries.

The official report states that most of the Africa collection in the Quai Branly museum – approximately 46,000 pieces – was acquired with some degree of duress.

France’s announcement comes as major museums across Europe have agreed to lend key artefacts back to Nigeria.

(BBG) France and Germany Said to Warn EU Not to Let U.K. Claim Victory

(BBG) Germany and France have privately warned the European Union to do more to prevent the U.K. from being able to claim victory in Brexit talks, according to EU diplomats.

In meetings over recent days, the EU’s most powerful governments expressed fears the bloc is giving too much away in the charge to get a deal. Confronting populist anti-EU forces across Europe, leaders want one last opportunity to show that leaving the bloc can’t be as advantageous as staying in, and some have called for stringent conditions to restrict the British economy, according to diplomats present in the talks.

As U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May prepares a flying visit to Brussels to meet EU chiefs this week, negotiators are finalizing a document that will form the basis of the two sides’ future relationship. The text, which falls a long way short of a full trade deal that some pro-Brexit ministers in the government once promised would be ready by now, is due to approved at a summit on Sunday.

EU officials said they are braced for a week of intense diplomacy between London, Brussels, Paris and Berlin. One of the concerns raised by diplomats from Germany was that May shouldn’t be able to get her so-called Chequers plan accepted “through the backdoor.” Earlier this year, the EU rejected the economic proposals of the plan because they didn’t do enough to stop the U.K. having a competitive advantage.

Brexit Consequences

France is leading a group of countries pushing the EU to include a string of conditions as part of agreements on future ties. France’s ambassador told the European Commission in a meeting on Sunday that the EU needs to reiterate that “Brexit should have consequences.”

“We do not want to reopen the agreement but we will be very vigilant about its implementation,” French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau told reporters in Brussels. “We will be very attentive to the political declaration on the future relationship, on the issues of fair competition.”

One of France’s key demands is that the U.K. commit itself to sticking to the EU’s tough environment standards, even if the EU makes them stricter after Brexit. It also wants Britain to sign up to so-called level playing field restrictions in areas of labor law, state aid and taxation as well as a pledge to allow European fishing vessels access to British waters.

Conditions Attached

Other countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark, are making their own demands. While they’ll back plans to offer the U.K. an “ambitious” free-trade deal, they’ve warned that the deeper it is, the more conditions could be attached. They’ve suggested that conditions to ensure that Britain can’t undercut the European economy could also cover services, according to one diplomat.

In the meetings with governments, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, cautioned against piling more conditions onto the U.K. for fear that it would open the way for Britain to push to reopen the divorce treaty that both sides declared done last week, according to the diplomats.

(ZH) Trump Mocks Macron: “They Were Starting To Learn German In Paris Before The US Came Along”

(ZHUpdate (8:50 am ET): The tweets appear to have stopped…for now, at least. Meanwhile, Macron’s office has refused to comment on Trump’s claims.

  • OFFICE OF FRENCH PRESIDENT MACRON SAYS IT REFUSES TO MAKE ANY COMMENT REGARDING TRUMP’S TWEETS CRITICISING FRANCE AND MACRON

* * *

Update III (8:35 am ET): Without directly referencing the rumors, Trump has branded reports that he refused to appear at a cemetery for American soldiers because he didn’t want to get his hair wet as “fake news.” In the tweet, Trump insisted that he wanted the Secret Service to drive him to the speech instead of taking a helicopter, but they refused because of security concerns. He added that he gave a speech at the cemetery the next day in the pouring rain – something that was “little reported”.

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Update II (8:20 am ET): Trump’s rampage against Macron continues. The president slammed his French counterpart for his low approval rating, as well as France’s high unemployment. Furthermore, in response to Macron’s “nationalist” snub, Trump pointed out that “there is no more nationalist country” than France…

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%. He was just trying to get onto another subject. By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!……..

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…before adding a spin on his classic slogan.

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Update (8:10 am ET): Trump’s rage against Macron continues, but this time, the topic is slightly more serious. What could be more serious than questioning the foundation of Post-WWII military alliances, you might ask? The answer is simple – trade!

Trump conceded that while France makes “very good wine” (an interesting claim from Trump, who doesn’t drink), the country “makes it hard for the US to sell its wine into France, and charges very big tariffs”. Meanwhile “The US makes it easy for French wines and charges small tariffs.”

“Not Fair, must change!”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

On Trade, France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S. The problem is that France makes it very hard for the U.S. to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs, whereas the U.S. makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!

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We now await Trump’s order of an investigation into the national security implications of imported French wine.

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President Trump isn’t ready to forgive the “French diss” served up over the weekend by President Emmanuel Macron.

French

During a ceremony honoring the 100th anniversary of World War I at the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron insulted Trump to his face by launching into a screed about the dangers of toxic “nationalism” and subtly accusing the US of abandoning its “moral values”.

This did not sit well with the US president, who was already facing criticism over his decision to show up late to a ceremony honoring the war dead (the administration blamed it on security concerns though it’s widely suspected that Trump didn’t want to get his hair wet), and Trump has let his displeasure be known in a series of tweets ridiculing Macron’s suggestion that Europe build its own army, saying that France and other European members of NATO would be better served by paying their fair share for NATO while daring them to leave and pay for their own protection.

And in his most abrasive tweet yet mocking the increasingly unpopular Macron’s imperial ambitions (no, really), Trump pointed out that, historically speaking, Europe has been its own worst enemy, and that while Macron wants to defend the Continent from the US, China and Russia, “it was Germany in WWI & WWII,” adding that “they were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!

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Of course, Macron isn’t the only French official calling for the creation of a “European army”. The country’s finance minister advocated for the creation of a Continental army during an interview with Germany’s Handelsblatt – a comment that was derided by the paper’s editors, who pointed out that Germans “weren’t very supportive” of the idea. One wonders why…

(BBG) Macron Says the Euro Is Not Yet an Alternative to U.S. Dollar

(BBG) French President Emmanuel Macron said that the euro is not “a clear alternative” to the dollar thanks to the U.S. currency’s international “strengths.”

“Until now, we fail to make the euro as strong as the dollar,” Macron, speaking English, said in an interview with CNN broadcast on Sunday. “We made a great job during the past years but it’s not yet sufficient.”

For the French president, European corporations and entities are too dependent upon the U.S. currency. “This is an issue of sovereignty for me. So that’s why I want us to work very closely with our financial institutions, at the European levels and with all the partners, in order to build a capacity to be less dependent from the dollar,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean to be opponents — but I think for the stability of the global order, you’ll need a strong currency like (the) dollar, but you need some alternatives. Euro has to be one of these alternatives, which means we have to better enhance our financial structures and the financing of our players at the euro-zone level,” Macron said.

Macron said the Chinese currency was a de facto alternative to the greenback, “not at the global level but for a certain region.”

(EurActiv) Macron calls for ‘true European army’ to defend against Russia, US, China

(EurActiv

French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by French Defense Minister Florence Parly and French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux,. Paris, France, 13 July 2018. [CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON]

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Tuesday (6 November) for a “real European army” to allow the bloc to defend itself against Russia and even the United States, a hugely sensitive idea amongst EU nations which jealously guard their defence.

Macron, who has pushed for a joint European Union military force since his arrival in power, said Europe needed to be less dependent on American might, not least after US President Donald Trump announced he was pulling out of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty.

“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States,” Macron told Europe 1 in his first radio interview since becoming president in May 2017.

“We will not protect Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.”

With Brexit looming, Germany and Britain ramp up defence cooperation

Britain signed a military cooperation agreement with Germany on Friday (5 October), emphasising London’s commitment to helping shield Europe from future security threats at a time when negotiations over its own exit from the EU are reaching a crunch time.

Macron has spearheaded the creation of a nine-country European force, independent from NATO, that could rapidly mount a joint military operation, evacuate civilians from a war zone, or provide aid after a natural disaster.

The nine countries’ defence ministers are set to meet for the first time on Wednesday in Paris to start thrashing out details of how the force will operate.

Finland is set to become the tenth country involved in the project, according to a source close to the talks.

Touchy subject

The wider EU is due to vastly expand its defence budget starting in 2021, allocating some €13 billion over seven years to research and develop new equipment.

Under an initiative known as PESCO, 25 EU countries have also pledged to better coordinate their defence spending and potentially their operations.

But talk of an “EU army”, an idea floated by European federalists for years, remains a deeply touchy subject amongst member states anxious to defend their sovereignty.

A French source said Macron was speaking about more closely coordinated defence rather than a truly supranational military spanning the continent.

The president “used the strong image of a ‘European army’ as a reminder” of the need for closer defence ties, the source said.

Europe aims for greater ‘strategic autonomy’ from US on defence

EU leaders pledged in Brussels on Thursday to intensify efforts to strengthen military cooperation within the bloc and reduce its reliance on the United States, amid growing doubts over the continued US involvement in transatlantic security.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that the EU backed “a more meaningful and assertive defence identity” but that this cooperation should start with joint research and procurement.

“I don’t think this defence identity will start with an EU army,” he said.

“We have to start with the rest and we’ll see that at some point in time.”

Bruno Alomar, a professor at the French War School which trains top military officers, said Macron’s vision of a tight-knit European defence force was a long way off.

“The idea of creating a common strategic culture is not a bad one,” he told AFP.

“But there’s a massive gap between the European defence that Emmanuel Macron dreams about and the reality of very powerful disagreements between European partners.”

Russian meddling fears

Macron, who is set to host dozens of world leaders on Sunday for commemorations marking 100 years since the end of World War I, said the 70 years of peace enjoyed in Europe could not be taken for granted.

“For millennia, it has never lasted so long,” he said in the interview, recorded Monday night in Verdun, northeast France, as part of a weeklong tour of former battlefields.

Faced with “a Russia which is at our borders and has shown that it can be a threat”, Macron argued: “We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States.”

Battle rages over EU defence pact

A diplomatic tussle has broken over the European Union’s flagship defence cooperation pact, amid warnings that the bloc could cut itself off from major allies like the US and post-Brexit Britain.

In another apparent reference to Russia, he insisted that “intrusion attempts in cyberspace and multiple interventions in our democracies” required a united response.

The centrist French leader has been waging a vocal war on nationalism in recent days as he prepares to host leaders including Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ahead of European Parliament elections next May – billed by many observers as a battle between Macron-style pro-Europeans and rightwing populists – he said politicians must respond to voters’ fear and anger.

Europe “has probably become too ultra-liberal”, he said, “which doesn’t allow the middle classes to live well”.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen – one of the targets of Macron’s anti-nationalist tirades – meanwhile accused him of seeking to turn Europe into an empire.

“And it was empires that were at the origin of World War I, not nations,” she told Radio Classique.

(EuroActiv) Macron loses out in polls as Le Pen surges forward

(EuroActiv)

French far-right political party National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen speaks with the journalists in front the statue of Joan of Arc during the party’s traditional May Day in Cannes, southern France, 01 May 2018. [EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER]

France’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party has overtaken President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist LREM in the latest poll of voting intentions ahead of the 2019 European Elections.

The poll, taken out by the Institut français d’opinion publique (IFOP), was published on Sunday (4 November), and showed that Macron’s centrist party Republic on the Move (LREM) had fallen to 19%, while Marine Le Pen’s RN — formerly the National Front — rose to 21%.

Sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan had scored 7%, while the two ‘Frexit’ parties, each who campaign for a withdrawal from the European Union and led by Le Pen associates Florian Philippot and Francois Asselineau, won 1% each.

Macron warns Europe of a return to 1930s

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned Europe of a return to the 1930s because of the spread of a nationalist “leprosy” across the continent, in an interview published Thursday (1 November).

There were approximately 1,000 participants in the poll, and they were asked about their voting intentions if the European Parliament elections were to be held imminently.

In an earlier poll released in September, the results had Macron and Le Pen tied for popularity at around 21% each, with the conservative Les Republicains in third with 14%, and Melenchon’s France Insoumise fourth with 12.5%.

This time, however, the far-left France Insoumise led by Jean-Luc Melenchon fell to 11%, after he was widely condemned for his behaviour towards police officers during a raid of his party offices.

Sunday’s poll shows results incongruous with the previous IFOP poll conducted in May, in which LREM was on top with 27% of this vote, while the far-right parties walked away with just 17%.

Many expect the European elections next year to be a fierce contest between pro-EU factions, such as Macron’s LREM and far-right parties that take a hard stance against immigration while also pursuing a nationally-focussed political agenda.

Italy and France far-right leaders slam Brussels ‘bunker’

Italy and France’s far-right leaders launched their European Parliament election campaign on Monday (8 October) with an attack on the “Brussels bunker” they hope to enter en masse after the May vote.

The elections will determine who has a seat at the table across the EU’s institutions, with the leader of the largest party in the European Parliament being given the golden role of the president of the European commission, under the Spitzenkandidat process.

Macron has ambitions to make a statement as part of the elections next year, but so far the signs aren’t in his favour. In a YouGov poll published last week, his popularity fell to its lowest level since French presidential election of 2017.

He has also faced setbacks after the brusque departure of two high-profile ministers, while stubbornly high unemployment, high taxes and rising fuel prices add to a general feeling of discontent amongst the French people.

(BBG) ‘Dead’ Ukrainian Found Living in Castle Arrested in French Probe

(BBG) French police arrested an unnamed “high-profile” Ukrainian who allegedly used forged death certificates to evade the authorities and now faces possible extradition to his home country.

The fugitive, identified only as the “King of the Castle” by the European Union’s law-enforcement agency Europol, was detained on Oct. 5 near Dijon, according to a Tuesday statement. Officers recovered 4.6 million euros ($5.3 million) of property, including a 12th-century feudal castle, a vintage Rolls Royce Phantom, jewelry and three works of art by Salvador Dali. In parallel, the spokeswoman of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said the country will seek to extradite Dmytro Malynovskyi from France.

“The suspect is thought to be behind a complex case of international fraud and money laundering,” Europol said. French police began investigations in January over alleged suspicious transactions relating to the purchase of the castle for 3 million euros by a company in Luxembourg “whose ultimate beneficial owner was a Ukrainian citizen suspected of corruption at a large scale in his country,” according to the statement.

The man was detained with three accomplices, according to the Hague-based agency, which said it had coordinated with French, Ukrainian and Luxembourg authorities to establish that the suspect who’d used false death certificates “was not only alive, but was enjoying a lavish lifestyle in France.

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Europol

@Europol

French @Gendarmerie arrest Ukrainian ‘King of the Castle’ and seized over EUR 4 million, with Europol’s support. The suspect is thought to be behind a complex case of international and .
Read more: https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/french-gendarmerie-arrest-ukrainian-%E2%80%98king-of-castle%E2%80%99-and-seized-over-eur-4-million 

The arrests highlight how graft remains a key political issue for Ukraine even after a 2014 revolution toppled then-President Viktor Yanukovych and exposed massive government corruption and bribery. The International Monetary Fund made the creation of an anti-corruption court a condition of unlocking its $17.5 billion bailout. Non-residents based in Ukraine were among customers implicated in about 200 billion euros that flowed through the Estonian unit of Danske Bank A/S between 2007 and 2015, much of which the lender regarded as suspicious.

The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general has prepared documents to seek the extradition of Malynovskyi, spokeswoman Larysa Sargan said Tuesday in a post on Facebook.

“The ‘resurrected’ citizen forged his death certificate and is now using a forged passport of a foreign country,” she said. Prosecutors found out that Malynovskyi stole 12 million euros from a private company in March to May 2015 and channeled the money to offshore accounts, she added.

Separately, France’s gendarmerie, a law-enforcement body that took part in the arrests, provided the name of the castle — the Château de La Rochepot, a quarter of an hour away by car from world-renowned vineyard village Chassagne-Montrachet.

A Dijon investigative magistrate leading the case charged two men of dual Ukrainian and Moldavian nationality and subsequently placed them in pretrial detention, the gendarmerie said in its separate statement. Two women, also dual nationals from the same countries, were charged and then released.

In France, investigative magistrates can decide to press charges in a procedure known as “mise en examen” when there is “serious and consistent” evidence showing likely involvement in the matter under investigation.

Separately, Swiss authorities froze $2 million in accounts belonging to a Yanukovych ally, Sergey Kurchenko, at the request of Ukrainian law enforcement, according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office in Kiev on Tuesday.

Ukraine ranked 130th with Sierra Leone and Myanmar in the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, lower than any European country except Russia.

(ZH) French PM Resignation Imminent As Macron Approval Hits All Time Low

(ZH) For all the discussion about Donald Trump’s (dis)approval rating, the western media has been surprisingly quiet over the collapse in popularity of Europe’s golden boy, French president Emmanuel Macron who last year triumphantly defeated nationalist Marine Le Pen with 66.1% of the vote as the youngest French president, and was repeatedly cited as Europe’s “liberal ideal” heir to Angela Merkel.

Fast forward one year, when things haven’t quite panned out as expected for the former Rothschild banker.

At the end of September, Macron has been hit with his lowest ever approval rating as his popularity continues to tumble with only 29% of French citizens saying they were satisfied with Mr Macron, according to a new Ifop poll – the lowest figure recorded by the firm during his presidency. The leader’s rating has fallen from 34% in August and 39% in July.

Macron’s fall from grace follows a series of high-profile departures from his government and a summer scandal over the firing of his bodyguard; the president was also heavily criticized in September week for telling an unemployed man he could easily get a job simply by “crossing the street”.

While the former investment banker pledged to modernize the French economy, many voters have complained that Macron is arrogant, out of touch, that his labor reforms have benefited only the country’s largest businesses and have grown impatient with the sluggish pace of economic growth and job creation.

And now, amid a plunge in approval, Macron will be force to undergo his first major restructuring of his cabinet just days after the resignation of his interior minister, as allies press for a broad rejig to draw a line under a tumultuous few months.

According to the French media, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will submit his government’s resignation to Macron as early as today. Macron would then ask Philippe to form a new government, on which parliament, dominated by Macron’s ruling party, would hold a vote of confidence according to Reuters.

Macron and Philippe were due to have lunch together on Monday, a weekly event, after being in “close contact” over the weekend, according to a source in the prime minister’s office. Officials neither confirmed nor denied that a wide reshuffle was on the cards. A presidency source said nothing was finalized and the reshuffle was still being worked on.

“We need to remain true to our initial project, but we need a breath of fresh air,” said Richard Ferrand, speaker of the National Assembly and close ally of Macron told the Journal du Dimanche, realizing that absent major changes to the cabinet, Macron’s popularity may soon rival that of his predecessor, socialist Francois Hollande.

As previously noted, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the departure of Gerard Collomb against Macron’s wishes; it exposed chinks in the armor of a president who has sought to lead with a tight grip on decision-making but who lacks political experience, having never previously held elected office.  Particularly damaging to Macron were Collomb’s criticisms that the president displayed a “lack of humility” and that there were few around him who would speak their mind frankly.

Collomb was the third minister to resign in five weeks, raising questions over the durability of the government, after the resignations of the popular ecology minister Nicolas Hulot and sports minister Laura Flessel.

Hulot, a popular former activist and TV presenter, complained about his disappointment in the government’s lack of ambition on climate issues. Meanwhile, sports minister Laura Flessel said she decided to leave for reasons linked to her “fiscal situation” as she had allegedly underreported her earnings.

And, as Reuters notes, a reshuffle presents Macron with a delicate balancing act. While a big rejig covering key posts such as the finance and foreign ministries might deliver a message of renewal, it could also be seized on by opponents as an admission of failure.

Political analysts have also said centrist Macron was likely to want to reshuffle his cabinet – that comprises ministers from the left and right – after next May’s European elections in response to the results of a vote that will come two years into his five-year mandate.

“We need to show more audacity with a big reshuffle, which we should have done as soon as Hulot left,” a lawmaker from the ruling Republic on the Move party told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

And while optically it represents a fresh start, it is unclear what a cabinet overhaul would achieve when it remains burdened by Macron’s flawed policies, and whether as public resentment against his rule grows and support for non-establishment politicians builds, if his opponent in 2022 will be a far more formidable populist candidate than Le Pen. Because if Europe loses France to the anger of the crowd – something Angela Merkel almost experienced herself – then the European experiment is as good as done.

(EUobserver) Iranian ‘plots’ in France and Denmark threaten EU solidarity

(EUobserver) France has accused Iran of plotting a bomb attack against an anti-Iranian group in Paris, the NCRI. Danish police, last Friday, also sealed bridges and ferries on suspicion Iranian intelligence was planning a strike against another anti-Iranian group, the ASMLA, in Denmark, which Iran blames for a recent terrorist attack in Tehran. The news threatens EU-Iranian solidarity against a US plan to scrap the Iran nuclear arms treaty.

(Algemeiner) Legendary French Singer Charles Aznavour, Whose Family Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, Dies at 94

(Algemeiner)

French singer Charles Aznavour performs during the Quebec Summer Festival, July 6, 2008. Photo: REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger/File Photo

Legendary French singer Charles Aznavour, whose family helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust, died on Sunday at the age of 94.

Aznavour, commonly referred to as the “Frank Sinatra of France” was active as a musician and actor for nearly 70 years, releasing his first album in 1953. He wrote over a thousand songs and performed to sold out audiences all over the world well into his 90s.

Born in France to Armenian parents who fled the Turkish genocide in the early 20th century, Aznavour grew up in an immigrant neighborhood which included many Jewish families. It was only late in his life, however, that Israeli professor Yair Oron revealed that the Aznavours had rescued many of their Jewish neighbors during the Nazi occupation of France, hiding them from the German authorities who sought to deport them to the death camps.

“We grew up together” Aznavour said of his Jewish neighbors in an interview with Haaretz. “My father’s stall in the market was next to the stalls of Jewish merchants. Armenian merchants, among them my father, protected the Jewish stalls after they were arrested in the great deportation of Parisian Jews in June 1942.”

JNS.org – Since its founding in 2005, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has targeted Israeli universities, businesses, and…

“Because of this,” he added, “the acceptance and concealment of Jews in our house during the war was the simple and natural thing from our point of view: They were our neighbors and friends, we had a shared life. We were for them and they were for us.”

Aznavour played in Israel numerous times, with his last appearance in the country taking place just last year. He had a lifelong affinity and affection for the Jewish state.

In an interview with Hebrew news site Walla before his last concert in Israel, Aznavour said, “I have many good memories of Israel. I love the country. In the last 70 years, you’ve succeeded in building a dynamic and passionate country. If only you could enjoy peace with your neighbors.”

Asked about his choice to play in Israel given the political situation, he replied, “To sing in Israel is not a political act. I am a free man — and I will sing wherever I want.”

Aznavour also had a little-known but strong familial connection to the Jewish people: His grandson was born to a Jewish father and eventually embraced his Jewish identity and became observant. In 2014, Aznavour took the opportunity of one of his appearances in Israel to attend his grandson’s belated Bar Mitzvah.

“I’m returning with my grandson,” he told Yediot Aharonot at the time. “His father was Jewish, but until recently he did not take part in the life of the community. In the last few years, he started to observe the Jewish holidays, so we thought we would celebrate his Bar Mitzvah — even if it’s belated. I know this will be complicated but I promised myself to at least try to make it happen.”

“I am a secular person,” Aznavour said, “but this is not a contradiction. Religion and faith are important. … My grandson wants to be a Jew. He wants to know more about his roots, and this is marvelous to me.”

(EUobserver) Macron party neck-and neck with far-right: poll

(EUobserver) French leader Emmanuel Macron’s party LREM is polling to win 21.5 percent of votes in next year’s EU election, compared to 21 percent by the far-right, the Rassemblement National (formerly called the National Front), according to a new survey by Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting. Macron said on Thursday he would plough €8bn into poverty reduction. A previous poll in May put his party on 27 percent versus the far-right’s 17 percent.

(Algemeiner) Antisemitism in France Has Moved ‘From Streets Into Homes,’ Says Head of French Jewish Community

(Algemeiner)

CRIF President Francis Kalifat (center), Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen (second left) and philosopher and human rights advocate Bernard-Henri Lévy (far right) were among those leading the March 2018 rally in Paris for murdered Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll. Photo: Reuters / Gonzalo Fuentes.

Antisemitism in France has moved “from the streets directly into the homes of Jewish people,” the head of the country’s 465,000-strong Jewish community told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

“The Jews in France feel threatened in their own homes,” Francis Kalifat — president of CRIF, the French Jewish communal body — said during a discussion of the antisemitism that has resulted in several deaths and injuries among French Jews over the past decade.

Kalifat underlined that “what used to be attacks on buildings, or insults thrown in the street, has evolved into the most violent acts.”

In the last eighteen months, two elderly Jewish widows in Paris — Sarah Halimi in April 2017 and Mireille Knoll in March 2018 — have been murdered in brutal antisemitic assaults, while several incidents of violent raids on Jewish homes involving gangs of mainly Muslim youths have also been reported.

Sadly, as Kalifat acknowledged, the problem is not new — though the pattern of Jewish response is changing.

Following what Kalifat called “the paroxysm” of antisemitic violence in 2012-13 — a year that witnessed the murders of a rabbi and three young children during a terrorist attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse — French aliyah to Israel climbed precipitously, with 8,000 Jews emigrating to Israel in 2015 alone. That trend has now slowed, Kalifat said, overshadowed by what some call an “internal aliyah.”

“We’re seeing a new phenomenon whereby Jews are leaving the neighborhoods where they were born and raised,” Kalifat said. “It’s happening in Paris, in Marseille, in Lyon, in Toulouse and in other cities. They are moving into neighborhoods that are more Jewish.”

This movement of population was the consequence of “day-to-day antisemitism,” Kalifat explained. “It’s not necessarily related to violence, often it’s more low level — for example mezuzot being ripped from the doorposts, hostile looks in the street, graffiti on the walls.”

The wider political environment in France isn’t necessarily more comforting. Kalifat pointed out that France has both a powerful extreme right, led by Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FN), and a powerful extreme left, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the head of a bloc of left-wing parties known as La France Insoumise.

“We reject both, because we believe that both of them are participating in the rise of antisemitism in France,” Kalifat remarked. “On the extreme right, we are talking about old-fashioned antisemitism, very often masked by positive comments about the State of Israel. On the extreme left, the antisemitism is masked by a very violent anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel, and there is strong support for the BDS movement.”

Kalifat continued: “We refuse to have relationships with these groups, because they are fueling antisemitism in our country.”

On the other hand, current President Emmanuel Macron — the victor in the bitterly-fought presidential election of April 2017 — does inspire confidence among Jews. “This president is very conscious of what Jews have brought to France and French culture,” Kalifat said.

“Macron, like former Presidents [Francois] Hollande and [Nicolas] Sarkozy, is very serious about fighting antisemitism and is willing to use the available means to do so,” Kalifat stated. All three administrations were distinguished by their support for their Jewish community in the face of indifference to antisemitism among the wider population, he added.

For now, French Jews are anxiously awaiting the next development in the investigation into the murder of Sarah Halimi. Having believed that Halimi’s killer, Kobili Traore, would be standing trial despite the efforts of his lawyers to have the case dismissed on the grounds of alleged mental illness, the community received a shock in July. A new assessment of Traore’s mental health commissioned by the investigating judge concluded that he lacked the mental awareness required for a charge of intentional homicide aggravated by antisemitic prejudice.

The panel’s finding flatly contradicted the conclusion of a previous expert, Dr. Daniel Zagury, who examined Traore in September 2017. As The Algemeiner reported at the time, Zagury deemed that Traore’s brutal assault on Halimi — which culminated in her being thrown to her death from a third-floor window — was both “antisemitic” and a “delirious act” influenced by the assailant’s heavy consumption of marijuana. However, Zagury was clear that Traore was not sufficiently intoxicated at the time of the attack to be absolved of criminal responsibility — a key demand of Traore’s lawyers.

“I can’t explain why the judge ordered a second expert assessment, and their conclusion is totally incomprehensible to us,” Kalifat said. “We have many reasons to believe that this was an antisemitic attack. He [Traore] chanted verses from the Quran as he was torturing Halimi, he shouted ‘Allahu Akhbar!’ when he threw her from the window.”

Kalifat said that a third assessment into Traore’s mental state had now been ordered, with a report expected later this year.

“We hope that at the end of the day, the killer will be held responsible,” Kalifat said.

He expressed the same hope with the more recent murder of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, whose assailants were reported by police to have talked about”rich Jews” prior to their frenzied assault.

Criminal trials in both the Halimi and Knoll cases would serve a dual purpose, Kalifat argued.

“On trial would be the killers themselves, alongside the system that enables antisemitism to kill in this country,” he said.

(Express) EU’S SCHENGEN CRISIS: Germany ‘considering proposal to impose border controls’ with FRANCE

(Express)

Germany

Germany has sent shockwaves to the rest of the Europe by threatening its fellow EU powerhouse France (Image: GETTY)

GERMAN interior ministers are considering imposing border controls with France it has been claimed, in what would be an unprecedented move in the era of the EU between the two powers.

Germany will send shockwaves to the rest of the Europe by proposing fellow EU powerhouse France with border controls, according to reports.

An interior minister official in Germany has told national media that they are considering reintroducing border controls on their shared frontiers with both Switzerland and France.

The official blamed the unprecedented measure on Spain’s recent rise in migration and warned that Germany would not repeat what they did in 2015.

At the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has succesfully struck deals with Greece and Spain to return people to those countries if they applied for aslyum there.

Mrs Merkel has confirmed Germany is also in “very advanced” negotiations on a similar deal with the Italian Government.

The German Chancellor is under pressure to avoid a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis, when the country welcomed over a million people.

According to Al Jazeera, the German government is mulling over replicating the police controls they have already imposed on the Austrian border with France as well.

Helmut Teichmann, junior minister for migration at the Interior Ministry, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the German cabinet is alarmed by developments in Spain.

He said: “We fear that many migrants could make their way to France, the Benelux countries and Germany.”

Following her deals with Greece and Spain, Mrs Merkel is now focused on striking an agreement with Italy.

A pact with Italy would represent the biggest breakthrough yet and relieve the pressure on the under-fire German leader.

However, Italy has so far been combative in talks with its European allies.

Last week, Italy warned Britain it would not offer safe harbour to 141 people rescued by the humanitarian ship Aquarius off the coast of Libya, demanding that Britain take them in.

(EurActiv) France, Spain, Portugal up energy links

(EurActiv) French President Emmanuel Macron (L) accompanied by the Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa (C) and the Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez (R) walking in Lisbon at the end of the Summit on Energy Interconnections between the Iberian Peninsula and France this afternoon at European Maritime Safety Agency in Lisbon, Portugal, 27 July 2018. [Miguel A. Lopes/EPA/EFE]

France, Spain and Portugal agreed on 27 July to build an undersea power line in the Bay of Biscay as they up electricity links aimed at helping the Iberian peninsula out of its energy isolation.

Speaking after a meeting in Lisbon, the three country leaders welcomed a deal signed on the sidelines of the gathering on financing construction of the 370-kilometre (230-mile) long power line linking France to Spain.

It’s “a very important step,” said Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Nos infrastructures doivent pouvoir être interconnectées entre elles et nous devons avoir une stratégie commune de transition énergétique.

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Ce sommet aujourd’hui à Lisbonne entre nos trois pays marque une étape importante pour une énergie decarbonée et compétitive, qui profite à tous les citoyens européens. pic.twitter.com/GX8NbeBPxH

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The European Commission will finance 30% of the project by bringing €578 million to the table, an unprecedented amount in the European Union for an energy project.

The power line should start operating in 2025, almost doubling the capacity for electricity exchange between France and Spain.

Spain and Portugal have long called for an end to their isolation from European networks of electricity and gas distribution.

Portugal will organise early next year a summit dedicated solely to energy interconnectors, as lawmakers work to end the Iberian peninsula’s energy market isolation.

Portugal has a surplus of electricity production that it could export further afield than Spain if there were more links with the rest of Europe.

Portugal produced more power from clean energy sources in March than it actually needed, marking the first time in the 21st century that renewables have topped 100% of its production. But a dearth of energy connections with the rest of Europe remains problematic.

Madrid and Lisbon would also like to be better connected to the European gas market by building a pipeline in Catalonia in Spain’s northeast.

That would complement another pipeline that has already been built west of the Pyrenees mountain range, linking Spain to France.

Both countries import gas from Algeria via a pipeline that became operational in 2011.

They also have seven ports that can handle liquified natural gas (LNG), which they import from Qatar and increasingly from the United States as it develops shale gas.

They say better connections would reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

But a study commissioned by the European Commission found that the pipeline in Catalonia, which would cost more than €440 million, would not be viable given other European countries already have many LNG ports that aren’t operating at full capacity.

President Donald Trump’s plan for “vast amounts” of US liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be sold to the European Union after trade talks with its top representative faces a reality test.

As such, France has been reticent.

But French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday he was open to moving forward on gas, although he cautioned “we will only build more pipelines if gas consumption in Europe remains significant.”

He said the pipeline in Catalonia would be built if it were shown to be cost effective in a scenario where demand for gas would increase as coal power plants are progressively shut down.