Displaying items by tag: Emmanuel Macron
The UK has accused France of the ‘offensive’ remark that Northern Ireland is not part of the UK. Since 2016 the two sides have been trying to work out how to deal with post-Brexit trade and Northern Ireland’s land border with the EU. The latest spat is centered on sausages. When Boris Johnson met Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit, he asked him to imagine if Toulouse sausages were barred from sale in Paris, which left Macron ‘astonished’. He told him Toulouse is part of the same territory, and inaccurately said, ‘Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom’. Johnson furiously replied, ‘Northern Ireland and Britain are part of the same country.’ After the testy exchange Johnson told the media, ‘Some of our friends seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country and a single territory. I think they need to get that into their heads.’
In 2017 Emmanuel Macron won 66% of the vote to become France's youngest-ever president. It was the first time in half a century that France had a president from outside its two main political parties. An incumbent's first term in office usually defines his political identity and policy agenda. But three years into a five-year term, in trying to win support from a politically diverse electorate, Macron has failed to define his political agenda or his natural political base. With preparation for re-election in 2022 firmly on his mind, he faces a series of challenges. His LREM party took a thrashing in recent local elections, a clear rebuke for tying his potential next term to a robust environmental and social agenda. The crushing of LREM's candidate in Paris' mayoral race was particularly embarrassing for the party.
Doctors and lawyers marched in Paris on 3 February, demonstrating against President Macron's pension reforms. It is the latest in a wave of protests against Macron's signature reform, streamlining France's complex and expensive pension system that allows some French workers to retire as young as 50. It has led to more than sixty days of strikes and protests by many different people, including transport workers, women's groups, and those in the tourism and energy sectors. These protests have seen tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower closed, and electricity and gas cut off by workers at energy plants. Macron hopes he can force his reform through parliament this month. Prime minister Edouard Philippe will negotiate with unions from 10 February to make the new retirement system financially sustainable.
Religion is again at the forefront of French public debate. After an 84-year-old former far-right candidate fired shots at a mosque in Bayonne, Emmanuel Macron evoked the French concept of ‘laïcité’ in a speech at the inauguration of a European Centre for Judaism. Defined as the concept of separation of church and state, it has also been at the centre of debates about wearing religious symbols in public. Macron said, ‘Laïcité is a tenet of fraternity that should live in each French person like a compass in their relationship to other citizens - that is essentially a form of French civility. I want to recall it at this moment in our nation's history, where these values of unity and cohesiveness are sometimes distorted and used by those who, seeking to sow hatred and division, use it to fight against this or that religion.’
The National Assembly president Richard Ferrand, a close ally of President Macron, was put under formal investigation in a financial impropriety case. In a statement on 12 September the assembly said that Ferrand, who denies any wrongdoing, would defend himself and was confident the case would be dropped. The previous day he was questioned at length by investigating judges. The situation is an embarrassment for Macron, and could bring renewed scrutiny to his promise to clean up French politics. Under French law, being put under formal investigation means there is ‘serious or consistent evidence’ that points to probable involvement in a crime. Ferrand was investigated for fraud before, and at that time he resigned as a minister. The latest probe relates, like the previous one, to his management of a health insurance company in Brittany.
Emmanuel Macron is launching a bid to block EU/US trade talks because of Donald Trump’s refusal to sign up to the Paris climate agreement. Trump enraged Brussels when he described the EU as ‘brutal trading partners’ in a tweet offering support to Britain after the Brexit summit, which also stated, ‘Things are about to change’. Brussels wants to keep new trade deals simple, but is unsure of unpredictable Trump. The US ambassador to the EU warned that Washington would fight ‘unfair barriers’ against American companies. An official said that France is opposed to the initiation of any trade negotiations with countries outside the Paris climate agreement. This stance is at odds with Germany’s position, and could lead to more friction between Paris and Berlin.
In Lyon a brawl between rival groups, fighting with fists, rocks, and sticks, highlighted bitter divisions among the ‘yellow vests’, who have now led anti-government protests for 13 consecutive weekends. The fighting is evidence of widening splits in the movement, that began over fuel prices then widened into uprisings against a political class ‘out of touch with common people’. The protesters are united in their opposition to President Macron while making radically different demands. A ‘yellow vest’ in Paris had four fingers blown off as police protected the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament. The assembly’s Speaker said a culture of violence engulfs French politics. Pray for hope to replace scepticism and concord to engulf those believing themselves to be failed by government.
Approximately 84,000 protested for the tenth successive weekend, despite President Macron spending hours in rural town halls debating with disgruntled mayors in a counter-offensive. The ‘yellow vests’ didn’t demobilise. In Paris, several thousand marched in freezing temperatures, many waving placards calling for Macron to resign or condemning police violence. The Paris rally and several others ended with police, tear gas and water cannon dispersing hooded protesters throwing paving stones and bottles. Macron, who had not previously held public office, was elected at the head of a grassroots movement going door-to-door asking people what kind of changes were needed. But once in office he has adopted a top-down approach more in keeping with post-war president Charles de Gaulle. He has defended his reforms vigorously in debates, while promising to be open to making adjustments. A protester, echoing the yellow vests' top demands, said, ‘What I want is citizen-sponsored referendums so that citizens can repeal laws, oversee spending, and recall senior officials or even the president.’
Emmanuel Macron delivered a defiant New Year's address on TV, vowing to push forward with economic reforms despite the protests by the ‘yellow vests’ over the past two months. He acknowledged their anger over injustices, but he also strongly condemned their leaders, ‘who claim to speak for the people, but in fact speak for a hateful mob - attacking elected representatives, security forces, journalists, Jews, foreigners and homosexuals - these are quite simply the negation of France.’ He promised that his economic reforms would continue despite the prolonged clashes between protesters and security forces that have turned French cities into battlegrounds, and rejected demands for referendums on major policy decisions and the possibility of ousting elected representatives, including the president himself. The ‘yellow vests’ vowed to continue their protests.
In Florian Dou’s shopping cart there was a packet of sausages and not much else. He had spent all his salary ten days before the end of the month. To survive when the money runs out before the next payday is a monthly challenge for him and many others in provincial French towns. Mr Dou was angry, and used what money he had left to drive 250 miles to join fiery protests in Paris, where police moved in with teargas, water cannon and rubber bullets against those protesting against fuel tax and price rises. Dou vowed the protesters are not going anywhere: see https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/02/world/europe/france-yellow-vest-protests.html The gilets jaunes (‘yellow vests’) protests have come to embody widespread disillusionment with President Macron and are gaining intensity. Macron has now abandoned fuel tax increases. Some protesters said his surrender came too late, and does nothing to quell the mounting anger at a government they consider out of touch with the problems of ordinary people.