France 2017-2019

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A Medieval Expert on the Symbolism of Notre-Dame and Hope for Its Future
Professor Nicholas Paul says losing the “collective effort” that went into the cathedral is a tragedy, but rebuilding is part of its history.
By Matt Stieb
(New York) The story of the Notre-Dame is the story of the city of Paris, the beating heart of medieval civilization. The church began to go up when the kingdom of France really for the first time began to exert itself on the European stage. The kingdom of France originated in the 10th century just on the Île de la Cité — the island in the Seine on which the Notre-Dame sits — and gradually radiated outward from France. I don’t think that’s a story you can tell about any other country. As a result, the Île de la Cité is super-significant to French history, and its most enduring point is Notre-Dame. The cathedral is a place of great innovation, particularly with music, where the concept of polyphony — voices singing in different pitches at the same time — entered the Western tradition.

General Strike in France Challenges Macron’s Latest Ambition for Change
The president wants to combine a complex of 42 different generous pension schemes into one state system. It scares fellow citizens. And his personal style grates on many.
Much of the country came to a halt as transport workers went on a strike that could last into next week. By some estimates nearly half a million took part nationwide in the demonstrations. Trains, subways and buses were canceled, many schools were closed, and thousands were forced to stay home from work across the country.
…behind the anger was the much-contested figure of the president himself, a former investment banker who was elected two and a half years ago promising to shake up a secure but sclerotic French system deemed too unfriendly to business, growth and job creation.
Analysts pointed out that Thursday’s protests completed the circle of anger against Mr. Macron begun last year by the Yellow Vests.
The Yellow Vests could only demonstrate on Saturdays because, marginally employed, they could not risk their jobs. On Thursday, it was the unionized employed — teachers, hospital workers, some civil servants — who came out, who weren’t risking employment, but who were expressing many of the same anxieties.

26 September
Jacques Chirac, France’s lovable failure
The former French president liked to grandstand but left France weaker.
(Politico Eu) Jacques Chirac was France’s favorite everyman politician. But if the former president, who passed away Thursday at age 86, has entered the pantheon of France’s most popular leaders, it’s in large part in spite of his political defeats and failures, not in celebration of his successes.
The former president, an old-style provincial French politician with a common touch who loved shaking hands on markets, was easy to love.
…despite his many failures and miscalculations — and his legal troubles — Chirac was regularly voted the most popular political figure in France, long after he had left public life. He may not have have achieved much, but at least “il aimait les français.”
He loved the French people. And, for many, that will be what defines him.

20 September
‘Lot of work’ before Notre Dame Cathedral rebuild can begin
(AP via Global) Notre Dame Cathedral has far to go to recover from a destructive fire but a hardy copper rooster that once topped the spire is serving as a reminder that all wasn’t lost. Roosters are a symbol of France. The small bird that adorned Notre Dame plunged to the ground in the April fire that collapsed the spire and consumed the roof. French Culture Minister Frank Riester says the rooster is a “witness to what happened in this terrible fire.”
Riester said Friday that work to stabilize the cathedral’s structure continues and reconstruction isn’t expected to start for at least a few months

5 May
In Emmanuel Macron’s hometown of Amiens, it’s hard to find enthusiasm for either the French president or the European Union, less than a week before European parliament elections. Blue-collar workers on its outskirts are tempted by protest votes, while a disillusioned, conservative middle-class in its pretty center is contemplating other right-leaning candidates or not even voting at all, spelling bad news for the president in his battle against the far-right.

1 May
288 arrested as Paris violence takes centre stage during France’s May 1st protests
Update 6pm: 288 arrests, 15,000 security checks in Paris. Looting, vandalism and clashes between protesters and police continue in the capital.
A police station in the city’s 13th arrondissement has been surrounded by protesters shouting “the police are our enemy”. Officers responded by using tear gas and quickly set up high barriers to secure the station.

18 April
France Debates How to Rebuild Notre-Dame, Weighing History and Modernity
(NYT) The ashes have barely settled from the devastating fire that tore through the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, but even as France paid tribute on Thursday to the firefighters who saved the structure and its relics, there was a growing debate about how the Gothic landmark should be rebuilt.
Workers are still focused largely on shoring up the damaged structure, but how closely the planned reconstruction should adhere to the original design and materials has become a point of contention in a nation long accustomed to arguing over the balance between modernity and cultural heritage.
President Emmanuel Macron gave the debate particular urgency when he said the cathedral would be rebuilt within five years, a time frame that some experts have called too optimistic. Some of Mr. Macron’s political opponents have even accused him of wanting to rush the restoration in order to have the cathedral ready in time for the 2024 Olympic Games, which will be held in Paris.
Franck Riester, the French culture minister, said on Thursday that the government would strive to meet the timeline set out by the president, but he also cautioned that rebuilding the cathedral could take more time.
The deluge of contributions — now centralized on a government platform — suggested that renovation efforts would not be hampered by a lack of funding. Instead, much of the debate has focused on whether the cathedral’s attic and spire should be rebuilt as they were or if newer materials, techniques and designs should be favored.
“Something contemporary will be safer and faster to rebuild,” said Christiane Schmuckle-Mollard, an architect who worked on the restoration of Strasbourg’s cathedral in the early 2000s.
Jean-Michel Wilmotte, a French architect who recently designed a Russian orthodox cathedral in Paris, told Franceinfo radio on Thursday that rebuilding a “pastiche” of the destroyed spire, which was added to the cathedral in the 19th century, would be “grotesque.”

16 April
What a massive clean-up lies ahead
Notre-Dame Photos: A Fire and Its Aftermath
The famed cathedral still stands, and a devastated France has one unwavering goal: It will be rebuilt.
(NYT) It is scorched, battered and missing its spire and much of its roof, but the 800-year-old Gothic masterwork that symbolized both a place and a culture is a monument to be repaired, not mourned.
photo credit: Ludovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Macron promises to rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral after fire, seeks international help
Macron said a national fundraising campaign to restore Notre-Dame would be launched Tuesday and he called on the world’s “greatest talents” to help.
“Let’s be proud, because we built this cathedral more than 800 years ago. We’ve built it and, throughout the centuries, let it grow and improved it, so I solemnly say tonight: we will rebuild it together,” he said.
France’s superrich join together to pledge over $675 million to help rebuild Notre-Dame, as donations flood in to save the devastated cathedral
By Tuesday afternoon, four separate donations of at least 100 million euros ($113 million) had been pledged to fund the rebuilding efforts.

Smoke billows near scaffolding as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier – RC1E4B43E280

Fire guts Paris’ Notre-Dame, but structure saved from destruction

(Reuters) – A massive fire consumed Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday, gutting and destroying the roof of the Paris landmark and stunning France and the world, but firefighters said they had saved the shell of the stone structure from collapse.
As it burned into the evening, firefighters battled to prevent one of the main bell towers from collapsing. One firefighter was seriously injured – the only reported casualty.
“We now believe that the two towers of Notre-Dame have been saved,” Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet told reporters at the scene. “We now consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved.”
Notre Dame fire: Macron promises to rebuild, but Paris monument suffers ‘colossal damage’
(WaPo) The spine-tingling, soul-lifting spire and roof of Notre Dame Cathedral were reduced to ash Monday, as a catastrophic fire spread through a building that has embodied the heart of Paris for more than 800 years.
The fire, which came during Christianity’s holiest week and was apparently accidental, left a smoldering stone shell where there had once been a peerless work of architecture, engineering and craftsmanship.
Cathedral spokesman Andre Finot told reporters that the building had sustained “colossal damage” and that the medieval wooden interior — a marvel that has inspired awe and wonder for the millions who have visited over the centuries — had been gutted.
The moment the spire began to fall. Picture: AbacaPress/SplashSource:Splash News Australia
Notre-Dame Is the Burning Heart of Paris
There is the sense that we have failed, as a civilization, to care for something priceless.
(NYT) In his address to the nation, Mr. Macron described what Parisians are feeling as a “tremblement intérieur” — an internal trembling. That’s an accurate description of our sense of emptiness and loss. There’s also a shared sadness and disappointment that, with the extensive damage, we’ve failed, as a civilization, to be the caretakers of something priceless. A hundred years from now, people will still be talking about the fire of 2019.
Mr. Macron vowed that France will rebuild Notre-Dame. First, we’ll have to put out the fire and see what remains.
The Atlantic: A massive fire erupted at Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral today. The nearly 900-year-old Gothic church, which is a tourist hub in the city and one of the most recognizable sites in Europe, was severely damaged—its spire toppling over and its roof collapsing. The photo editor Alan Taylor compiled these 16 photos of the licks of flame and billows of smoke that enveloped the church. For Parisians, the loss is nearly incomprehensible: For centuries, the church has survived a plague, the French Revolution, and Nazis—only to be felled by a senseless fire. “Built in the Gothic era, destroyed in the social-media era,” Rachel Donadio writes.
Fire Destroys Notre Dame Cathedral; ‘Nothing Will Remain From the Frame,’ Spokesman Says
Sudden inferno overtakes one of the world’s most-visited sites, bringing down the roof and spire as firefighters struggle to put out the blaze.

How and why could this happen?
Notre Dame Cathedral Is Crumbling. Who Will Help Save It?
(TIME) Under France’s strict secular laws, the government owns the cathedral, and the Catholic archdiocese of Paris uses it permanently for free. The priests for years believed the government should pay for repairs, since it owned the building. But under the terms of the government’s agreement, the archdiocese is responsible for Notre Dame’s upkeep, with the Ministry of Culture giving it about €2 million ($2.28 million) a year for that purpose. Staff say that money covers only basic repairs, far short of what is needed. Without a serious injection of cash, some believe, the building will not be safe for visitors in the future. Now the archdiocese is seeking help to save Notre Dame from yielding to the ravages of time. (27 July 2017)

25 March
Macron warns against China’s overtures to EU
Paris and Beijing sign $45bn in deals despite Belt and Road
(Nikkei) French President Emmanuel Macron urged the European Union to maintain a united front following his Friday summit here with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as more European countries sign on to Beijing’s controversial Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative.
“Europe must be united and have a coherent message. That’s what we are doing on strategic investments,” Macron said in a joint news conference with Xi that day. He suggested that EU members could weaken the union if they join Belt and Road without a shared, bloc-wide strategy.
Still, France and China signed 15 business deals totaling 40 billion euros ($45 billion) as part of Xi’s trip. Included in that is an order for 290 Airbus A320 planes and 10 A350s — aircraft whose list prices total about $35 billion, AFP reports.

13 February
Bloomberg: European Union leaders can no longer rely on the U.S. to help underpin security — that’s the realization Emmanuel Macron came to after 18 months of frustrating efforts to woo Donald Trump.
The watershed moment came during a December phone call in which the French president tried to convince his American counterpart not to pull U.S. troops from Syria. He reminded Trump of his pledge to stand alongside his allies to fight terrorism. Less than 24 hours later, Trump announced the withdrawal.
In public, Macron says their historical alliance runs too deep to be jeopardized by such disagreements. But something in him snapped during that conversation, according to an account by Helene Fouquet based on discussions with officials in Macron’s inner circle.
The two men aren’t due to meet again until the Group of 20 summit in Japan in June. Then Macron will host Group of 7 leaders in August. That will give the French some control of the choreography, and they’re leaning toward not even attempting a joint statement from the gathering.
Such a departure from protocol offers a bleak view of ties between the U.S. and allies. For Macron, anything is possible now, even a withdrawal from NATO that Trump reportedly has hinted at.

12 February
Key Macron aide quits Élysée as Benalla scandal deepens
Ismaël Emelien departs as president reshuffles team in wake of gilets jaunes protests

5 February
France-Africa relations challenged by China and the European Union
(Brookings) Africa is the European Union’s third-largest two-way trading partner—after the United States and China—with a trade surplus for the EU of 18 billion euros in 2017. Germany currently leads the EU in exports to Africa (8.3 billion euros), and France ranks second (5.6 billion euros). As the effects of migration and resource scarcity ripple across both continents, European and African leaders are now coming to terms with needed economic, political, and security reforms.
Though French companies like Total, Areva, and Bolloré have been household names in Africa for decades and contributed to energy development and infrastructure growth, they have received criticism from local nongovernmental organizations for reported corporate governance and social responsibility issues, corruption scandals, and monopolistic behavior. Though French companies are winning new infrastructure bids, such as the French firm Eiffage in Togo that signed a $35-million construction contract for a container terminal in 2014, China has become an easier business partner for many African countries. … Given the future implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the economic partnership agreements negotiated between the European Union and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific groups of countries may have to be revisited.
In 2013, the French Senate published a report, entitled Africa is our Future (L’Afrique est notre avenir), highlighting 10 priorities and 70 measures to improve French-African relations. And since his election in 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron has placed Africa at the cornerstone of France’s foreign relations policy. Macron has stated a desire to partner with, not dominate, African states. The French government recently outlined proposals for restituting African art and cultural objects to their original homes on the African continent; this effort is undoubtedly part of a long-term agenda to remedy historical grievances and become equitable partners. The efforts will be credible as long as Macron (and other French policymakers) will stay away from controversial statements such as describing the problems Africa faces as “civilizational” ones.

27 January
In Paris, ‘Red Scarves’ March to Counter Yellow Vest Protests
Thousands of protesters marched through Paris on Sunday to condemn the violence of the Yellow Vest movement. Some 10,000 people turned out for the counter-demonstration, a day after an 11th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest demonstrations across France was marked by sporadic clashes with police.
On Sunday, demonstrators marched with signs displaying slogans like “stop the violence” and “hands off my Republic. ” Some, taking a branding cue from the Yellow Vests, wore red scarves, casting themselves as the Foulards Rouges.

23 January
Can Macron Talk the Yellow Vests Into Submission? He Will Try
Hour after hour, the president drowned his listeners in proposals, recommendations, observations, admonitions and prescriptions. He bludgeoned them into submission with a total mastery of dozens of different subjects, all explicated without a single note in hand.
(NYT) Early indications — opinion polls slightly on the rise, violence on the decline, his party overtaking the far right in surveys for the European elections in May — suggest Mr. Macron, 41, may finally be turning a corner after weeks of stunned retreat.
The president’s appearance last week in Souillac in southwestern France, population 3,300, was part of his kickoff to a two-month series of local talks that his office has dubbed the “Great National Debate.” Other citizen debates, without him, have already started all around the country.
Assembled before Mr. Macron were more than 600 mayors, the grass-roots representatives of the constituents he stands accused of disdaining, the ones Mr. Macron once labeled “those who are nothing.’’
That distance from average citizens, and a lack of understanding and empathy about their inability to make ends meet, has been seen as provoking the still-smoldering Yellow Vest uprising.

22 January
Exactly 226 years after the decapitation of King Louis XVI, who failed to quell popular discontent over a France’s feudal society, President Emmanuel Macron started his speech at a pre-Davos dinner at Versailles by invoking the king and his wife Marie-Antoinette. Macron, speaking to an audience that included J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Snapchat chief Evan Spiegel and Microsoft boss Satya Nadella, said he would not follow the path of guillotined French royals and would continue to reform the French economy despite occasional violent revolt


The Yellow Vests movement began in response to a proposed gas tax rise but has grown into a much wider expression of popular anger. Credit Valery Hache/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
23 December
The Question for France: Where Do the Yellow Vests Go From Here?
(NYT) The Yellow Vest tornado has created a political vacuum in France. The government of President Emmanuel Macron is weakened. The opposition parties are discredited. And the populist uprising itself proclaims its disdain for politics.
Who or what will fill that void is now the biggest question facing France. Even though the protests have dwindled — Saturday’s were about half the size of the previous week — the Yellow Vest movement, and the anger that animates it, remain very much alive.
Political groups are now jockeying to see who will be the first to seize the movement’s energy, and whether it can be given a more organized and coherent shape.
Capturing the support of even part of the movement would be a potential political bonanza. Even after the violence of their protests in December, the Yellow Vests still enjoy broad popular backing, double or triple that for Mr. Macron.

11 December
Paris riots set to continue as French leader fails to appease protesters
(CBS News) President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to quell violent rioting across France by offering economic concessions to his countrymen — expected to cost the country $11 billion — appears to have been insufficient. Leaders of the “Yellow Vest” protest movement indicated Tuesday that Macron’s offers were not enough, as hundreds of students staged a “Black Tuesday” of protests over Macron’s education policies and voiced solidarity with the Yellow Vests. … The Yellow Shirt movement gained new support on Tuesday from another group of French citizens angry over changes brought in by Macron’s government: students. There has been a fierce reaction from high school and university-aged students to new standardized testing policies, a lack of college enrolment places available to graduates, and new requirements for graduates to secure those places.
The Economist: Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, made his first public comments yesterday since violence engulfed parts of central Paris on December 1st, as part of the countrywide gilets jaunes movement. In an address to the nation Mr Macron promised a costly package of fiscal measures to boost pay packets and pensions. Whether this defuses the first real crisis of his presidency depends as much on the broader public reaction as on the protesters themselves
Macron offers sweeteners to calm Yellow Jackets protests
(Politico EU) ‘Sometimes I may have given you the impression that I had other priorities,’ says French president.
In a televised address on Monday evening that lasted just under 15 minutes, Macron apologized for not having “reacted quickly enough” to what he called a “malaise” in French society
He then unveiled his government would not subject overtime hours to tax from 2019, cancel his proposed tax hike on pensions under €2,000 a month, and grant a pay hike to workers earning minimum wage. The French presidency later told French media this pay hike would be achieved through an increase of a specific public allowance, which Macron had vowed to boost during his presidential campaign.
Macron concessions to cost between 8-10 billion euros – minister
Macron announced earlier on Monday wage rises for the poorest workers and tax cuts for pensioners in further concessions meant to defuse weeks of often violent protests that have challenged his authority.

7 December
France in lock-down mode ahead of new ‘Yellow Jacket’ protests
The government is warning of ‘radical’ protesters who want to topple the president.
(Politico EU) This time, authorities are ready to face them down in what looks set to be a defining showdown between police and a grassroots movement that has no clear leader or political affiliation. In an exceptional peacetime deployment of security forces, President Emmanuel Macron’s government is mobilizing nearly 90,000 police and gendarmes across the country, as well as heavy armored vehicles in the capital.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has already announced the rollback of the planned fuel-tax hike — a measure that protesters say is too little, too late.
Indeed, as the Yellow Jackets movement gained momentum, its backers have expanded their list of demands. A 42-point document now demands everything from France’s withdrawal from the European Union and NATO to the abolition of homelessness to bringing down the retirement age to 60.

3-4 December
France’s Fuel-Tax Protests Expose the Limits of Macron’s Mandate
France’s prime minister announced major concessions on Tuesday, but the “yellow vest” protesters don’t plan to quit anytime soon.
(The Atlantic) Macron’s majority in the National Assembly is solid. The French system grants the president enormous executive power. There are no midterm elections, so the next time he’ll be tested at the polls is in national elections in 2022. Still, with every yellow-vest protest, the chances grow that at some point Macron will have to adjust his agenda and his cabinet. On Tuesday, Stanislas Guerini, the spokesman for the République en Marche party, said that the government would stay the course. “Our ambition is to transform the country, and that hasn’t changed,” he said.
That may well be. But France has always been resistant to change, and the French street is not to be underestimated. This protest movement may yet force the government to transform, too.
Macron talks tough after Yellow Jackets riot in Paris
Those responsible for violence ‘will be identified and held accountable for their actions before the courts,’ president says.
(Politico Eu) Riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of demonstrators from the amorphous movement against gasoline price hikes, named for the fluorescent yellow jackets worn by protesters. The protests, which erupted across France three weeks ago, caught Macron off guard and have triggered violent clashes with police and widespread disruption.

Bloomberg Politics: The world seems to be closing in on Emmanuel Macron.
– Gregory Viscusi

The French president returned from the Group of 20 summit in Argentina to find the “Yellow Vest” anti-tax protest movement is as popular as ever, despite its increasingly violent fringe.
In Brussels, finance ministers are due today to approve measures to strengthen the euro zone that are far weaker than the deep integration he’d preached. And later this week, Germany’s ruling CDU party will choose a new leader who almost certainly will be less keen on tightening up the European Union than Angela Merkel.
Saturday’s violence shocked France, and polls show that about four-fifths of the public think Macron should back down on the gasoline taxes – aimed at curbing carbon emissions – that spurred the protests. Even members of his party are urging him at least to delay them.
At home, it’s difficult to see how he can push through the next set of planned reforms involving sure-to-be unpopular pension and unemployment insurance cuts. In Europe, the sweeping ambitions he laid out last year have butted up against Germany turning inward and Italy electing a euro-skeptic government.
Macron is trying lead a globalist push against the rise of the nationalists – just as the world is heading in a different direction.

9-11 November
In remembering WWI, world warned of resurging ‘old demons’
… French President Emmanuel Macron used the occasion, as its host, to sound a powerful and sobering warning about the fragility of peace and the dangers of nationalism and of nations that put themselves first, above the collective good.
Le discours d’Emmanuel Macron à l’Arc de Triomphe
Verbatim du discours tenu par le président français dimanche pour le centenaire de l’Armistice de 1918 devant plus de 70 chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement.
Leaders of France and Germany in poignant show of unity 100 years after WW1
By John Lloyd, co-founder of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford
(Reuters) One hundred years after the guns of World War One fell silent, the leaders of France and Germany held hands and rested their heads against one another in a poignant ceremony to mark the signing of the Armistice peace agreement. President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel inspected troops from a joint Franco-German Brigade before unveiling a plaque paying tribute to the reconciliation and renewed friendship between the foes of two world wars.

17 January
Emmanuel Macron agrees to loan Bayeux Tapestry to Britain
President to allow Battle of Hastings embroidery to leave France for first time in 950 years
The president is expected to announce at an Anglo-French summit on Thursday that the artefact depicting the the Norman buildup to, and success in, the Battle of Hastings in 1066 will be loaned to the UK, probably in 2022…
The tapestry is thought to have been made shortly after the Battle of Hastings in the 11th century. Some historians argue it was made in Kent, a debate that is set to reignite following the announcement.
The first written record of it is in 1476 when it was recorded in the Bayeux Cathedral treasury as “a very long and narrow hanging on which are embroidered figures and inscriptions comprising a representation of the conquest of England”.
The announcement is likely to lighten the mood when May hosts Macron at Sandhurst military academy on Thursday. The leaders are expected to discuss the migration crisis at Calais and agree closer cooperation on fighting al-Qaida-linked militants “at source” in north Africa. The prime minister is expected to announce that Britain will send military helicopters to join a French campaign against Islamist extremists in the region.

8 January
Macron brings gift of horse called Vesuvius on visit to China
French president is praised by Chinese experts for present of eight-year-old gelding, a ‘symbol of French excellence’
(The Guardian) In a glowing interview with Chinese state media before his arrival, Macron said: “China is a country that fascinates me, like so many French people … [it is] the oldest living civilisation – a ‘state older than history’, as General de Gaulle once said.”
Chinese experts praised Macron’s decision to give the Middle Kingdom his horse, a move apparently inspired by the Chinese tradition of “panda diplomacy”, when Beijing bestows the black-and-white Sichuan natives upon its friends.
“He really respects Chinese history,” enthused Ding Yifan, a France expert from the China Development Research Centre, a state-backed thinktank.
Ding said he saw the gift as an allusion to the Qianlima or “thousand-mile horse”, a mythical winged creature famed for its ability to travel great distances. By giving Xi such a present, Macron was signalling his desire for a long-lasting relationship with Beijing.
The four-legged gift was not Macron’s only goodwill gesture to Xi, who was recently anointed as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. By beginning his tour of China in Xi’an, the ancient Silk Road hub, Macron was also offering symbolic backing to Xi’s signature foreign policy campaign, the $900bn Belt and Road initiative.
Meanwhile, at home
French town bans pork-free school meals in move branded ‘anti-Muslim’
Decision by far-right local authority in southern France, affecting about 150 mainly Muslim pupils, has been called ‘an attack on the rights of children’


31 December
Macron’s new year’s speech: ‘France can’t succeed without a strong Europe’
(The Guardian) French president promises to listen to dissenting voices but appeals to Europeans not to give in to ‘nationalists and sceptics’
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, appealed to European citizens “not to give in to nationalists and sceptics”, as he used his new year’s speech to promise to make the European Union “more united, more sovereign and more democratic”.
Macron said in a televised address: “I deeply believe Europe can become that economic, social, environmentally-friendly, scientific power that will be able to face China and the United States.” He added: “Europe is good for France. France can’t succeed without a strong Europe.”
The centrist, pro-business president, 40, is seeking to boost his standing on the world stage while at the same time pushing through a series of new laws in France in the coming year, including a controversial drive to harden immigration policy and increase expulsions of economic migrants. The plans have already drawn criticism from charities and even from some inside his own political movement.
His long televised speech was delivered as a kind of pep-talk to France, borrowing a line from John F Kennedy as he urged the public: “Ask yourself every day what you can do for your country … I need that engagement.”

25 November
Emmanuel Macron the ‘enlightened despot’ brings early spring to Paris
( After decades of disappointment, gloom and pessimism – when the French felt, rightly, that the world was leaving them behind, politically sclerotic and economically moribund – “there is something happening, which is to do with confidence”.
And that confidence seems to stem from one man: President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron has hardly paused after one of the most stunning political coups in a year replete with them. He has dismissed France’s political establishment and replaced it with his own movement, occupying not only the Elysee Palace but the parliament with a triple-digit majority.
Macron is determined but he is also lucky. Europe as a whole is bouncing back from the financial crisis in industrial production, unemployment is decreasing, the competitiveness of its companies is better. There is stable ground on which to build.
And he is building on it, at astonishing speed.
The President has already pushed through new labour laws seeking to energise entrepreneurship, to rewrite France’s social pact and allow companies the right to hire and fire more freely, wiping away rules that made them overly cautious in expanding, reducing the influence of unions on workplace conditions.
He has abolished a wealth tax that encouraged the rich and successful to leave the country with their assets and warded off speculators and investors.
Macron is financially constrained – the state is highly in debt – but he hopes that his work so far will bring in more money, more projects, more foreign investment. And as the deficit falls he hopes to find wriggle-room to ratchet down company tax and continue the virtuous cycle of economic growth, lifting all boats.
Next he plans huge welfare and training reform, along with a project of re-investing in poorer suburbs, re-opening public services and improving schools and hospitals in the unemployment-ravaged “banlieue” suburbs where crime – and Islamist extremism – breeds.

25 August
(Globe & Mail) French President Emmanuel Macron was hailed as a saviour and a great reformer when he became the youngest president in France’s history. But just months into his tenure his support has cratered, hovering around 35 per cent, which would be lower than the three previous presidents at this time in each of their terms. And it’s about to get worse. Mr. Macron campaigned on loosening France’s labour laws to, among other things, make it easier to hire (and fire) workers and the country’s powerful labour unions are gearing up to make his life very difficult. The Globe’s European Correspondent Paul Waldie dug into where it all went wrong for Mr. Macron.

18 June
(Quartz) Emmanuel Macron marched to another victory. The French president’s La République en Marche party won a commanding majority in the National Assembly, routing the traditional socialist and conservative parties that have governed France since the end of World War II. This gives the young president a strong mandate to push through his pro-EU, pro-business reforms in parliament.

15 June
(The Economist) Our cover this week salutes the triumph of Emmanuel Macron. A month ago he won the Elysée; on Monday his followers will win at least 400 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly. The French have risen up against a political class that failed them. They, and the rest of Europe, have put their hope in Mr Macron. Can he succeed?

12 June
3 takeaways on French parliamentary election’s first round
La République En Marche is on track to win a staggering majority in the 2nd round on June 18.
(Politico Eu) La République En Marche, the party Macron created last year, received about 32 percent of the vote in the first round of elections to the National Assembly. That puts it on track to obtain a staggering majority of seats after the election runoff June 18.
According to pollsters’ estimates Sunday night, the party could get between 400 and 440 seats in the 577-strong lower house of parliament. Its main opposition would be the mainstream conservative Les Républicains, which would obtain around 100 seats
Such a massive majority should enable Macron to push through his reform agenda, starting with a major labor market overhaul this summer. He won’t have to depend on allies like the small centrist party of Justice Minister François Bayrou or Républicains lawmakers who already support him or are planning to defect.
The first round gave a flavor of the massive overhaul of France’s political lineup that this election will bring about. In result after result on Sunday night, new and unknown faces replaced characters who have occupied the political space for so long that their positions seemed unassailable.

1 June
Macron skewers Trump in the first-ever English address by a French president from the Élysée
(Quartz) With his fierce handshake and harsh words, France’s new president is on an anti-Trump bender.
On the evening of Donald Trump’s announcement that the US would pull out of the Paris climate deal, Emmanuel Macron launched a three-pronged communications blitz against Trump about the perilous consequences of his decision.
He spoke to the US president for five minutes in a “direct” exchange via telephone after Trump’s announcement, according to a French presidential source. Macron reportedly told Trump that France would keep working with the US, but not on climate change. He also issued a joint statement with Germany and Italy affirming that the Paris accords would not be renegotiated.
But his strongest reprimand came in a televised address the same night from the Élysée Palace. Macron, who entered office less than a month ago, gave the address in French and English, making him the first French president (link in French) to stray from the cherished national tongue by speaking to his country and the world in English from the Élysée.
Macron reassured Americans that “the world believes in you. I know that you are a great nation.” He wrapped it all up quite neatly, asking the world to abide by words Trump would understand: “Make our planet great again.”
Mr. Macron’s Striking International Debut
(NYT) In his first sorties on the world stage, France’s new president, 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, had to dash fears that he would be handicapped by youth and inexperience, and demonstrate the more vigorous French leadership he promised during his campaign. He carried this off with aplomb in a series of recent meetings with international leaders, displaying the trappings of French regality and the pragmatism of a contemporary technocrat.

30 May
Macron Quickly Assumes a Presidential Attitude
France’s boyish president already has faced down Donald J. Trump, lectured Vladimir V. Putin and confronted the formidable French labor unions — all in less than three weeks.
He has given fits to France’s established parties on the right and the left, poaching personalities for his government from the first and advancing a Socialist-unfriendly agenda destabilizing to the second. Improbably, he will most likely win a parliamentary majority in June’s elections, though skeptics doubted he could even assemble enough candidates for his new party.
… That aura of authority is partly a response to the menacing international context Mr. Macron repeatedly referred to during the campaign, with France and its partner Germany threatened on two sides by unpredictable behemoths of uncertain attachment to European values, Russia and Mr. Trump’s America.
But it is also a function of Mr. Macron’s deeply held belief that France in some sense has been missing its king since the execution of Louis XVI on Jan. 21, 1793, and that his job is to fill the gap.

29 May
A massive foreign policy blunder came back to bite Putin on his first meeting with Macron
(Quartz) As soon as Emmanuel Macron swept home to an enormous victory in the French presidential election in early May, analysts predicted that Russia’s propaganda and alleged hacking interference in his campaign had backfired, turning a relatively moderate candidate into a president with a grudge.
Russian president Vladimir Putin’s first meeting with Macron, in Versailles palace today, showed they weren’t wrong.

18 May
Paris : les femmes chassées des rues dans le quartier Chapelle-Pajol
Des femmes de ce quartier de l’est parisien se plaignent de ne pas pouvoir se déplacer sans essuyer des remarques et des insultes de la part des hommes.

15 May
France’s Macron picks PM from the right, blowing apart old boundaries
(Reuters) Edouard Philippe, 46, a lawmaker and mayor of the port city of Le Havre, is from the moderate wing of the main centre-right party, The Republicans, and will provide a counterweight to former Socialist members of parliament who have joined Macron’s cause.
Macron wants to smash the left-right divide which has dominated France for decades, and his start-up centrist Republic on the Move (REM) party, which is just a year old, needs to forge a wide base of support.
The French presidency: Building the radical centre
(The Economist) Today Emmanuel Macron named Edouard Philippe, the centre-right Republican mayor of Le Havre and a parliamentary deputy, as his new prime minister. Mr Philippe brings crucial political balance for a president whose roots are on the left, and who promised to govern from the centre. Mr Macron needs to broaden his base if he is to do well in parliamentary elections next month. Mr Philippe could help him, writes our France correspondent

14 May

Outgoing French President Francois Hollande, left, greets President-elect Emmanuel Macron before the handover ceremony, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Sunday, May 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Amid tight security, Emmanuel Macron becomes youngest French president, vows to fight terrorism
(LA Times) In his first speech as president, Macron said he understood the “seriousness of the honor” French voters had given him.
“Europe and the world need a strong France that is sure of its destiny. They need a France that shouts in defense of freedom and solidarity,” he told diginitaries, officials, politicians and press gathered in the 18th century palace’s ornate Salle des Fêtes. The room, opened in 1889 for the Universal Exhibition, drips with gilt cornicing and decoration and crystal chandeliers. Its ceiling is painted with panels representing “The Republic, keeper of the peace” and allegories representing art and science.
“It falls to me to ensure that our country carries in its heart all the materials necessary for being one of the world’s most important nations …. I will not back down on promises made,” he said.
“I will ensure that our country regains its democratic energy … the people will be listened to.”
Emmanuel Macron Is Inaugurated as France’s President
(NYT) Against the regal backdrop of a grand reception room in France’s presidential palace, Emmanuel Macron, 39, was officially installed on Sunday as the youngest president in modern French history.
In his short speech to mark the occasion, he encouraged the French to embrace the future, to hold him to a high standard and to join him in the hard work ahead.
“I reassure you that not for a single second did I think that everything changed as if by magic on May 7,” Mr. Macron said of the day he was elected. “This will be slow work, demanding, but indispensable. It will be up to me to convince the French that our country, which seems threatened by the sometimes contrary winds of the world, carries in its heart all the resources to be a nation of the first rank.”
The new president is wasting no time. On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Macron, as the new commander in chief, visited wounded soldiers at a military hospital outside Paris. On Monday, he is expected to travel to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, France’s most important ally in Europe, and will also announce his pick for prime minister. By midweek, the rest of his government is expected to be named.

7 May

Macron wins French presidency by decisive margin over Le Pen

But Le Pen’s score nonetheless marked a historic high for the French far right. Despite a lacklustre campaign that ended with a calamitous performance in the final TV debate, she was projected to have taken more than 10 million votes, roughly double that of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, when he reached the presidential run-off in 2002. The anti-immigration, anti-EU Front National’s supporters asserted that the party has a central place as an opposition force in France.

5 May
Macron condemns ‘massive’ hacking attack as documents leaked
(BBC) The campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron says it has been the target of a “massive hacking attack” after a trove of documents was released online.
The campaign said that genuine files were mixed up with fake ones in order to confuse people.
Wikileaks, which published those emails, posted a link to the Macron documents on Twitter but implied it was not responsible.
Last month security experts from the company Trend Micro said that Russian hackers were targeting Mr Macron’s campaign
Campaign advisor: Response to Obama’s endorsement of Macron…
CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera talks to Lex Paulson, Macron campaign advisor, about the French election.
Despite the hysteria, Le Pen is not going to win—and populism is not an unstoppable epidemic
(Quartz) Le Pen can use any help she can get: Garnering 21.7% of the total votes in the first round of voting, against Macron’s 24%, she is projected to lose by nearly 20 percentage points in the second round on May 7. The theory is that her extremist beliefs will inspire a large enough percentage of the first-round losers, and their voters, to back Macron instead.
These are just poll results, of course, and after Brexit and Donald Trump, the West seems increasingly wary of polls. As a result, France’s first-round results are being met with heavy skepticism. They were met with similar skepticism leading up to the first round—which they accurately predicted. Arguments that “Marine Le Pen could become the next Trump,” analysis of the candidate’s similarities with Donald Trump’s political style and warnings about writing her off too soon have reached a fever pitch with the election mere days away.
‘France Isn’t Ready for Macron’
To his supporters, Emmanuel Macron represents France’s future. Now he just has to convince everyone else.
(Foreign Policy) Both Achraoui and Molyneux discovered Macron through the system of committees that he organized last spring, after he founded En Marche! These committees, themselves convened by volunteers, at the level of small towns like Cenon as well as big cities like Bordeaux, debated policy questions, sent proposals up to regional organizations, which after further deliberation forwarded ideas to party headquarters in Paris. The whole thing struck me as an ingenious gimmick to build a grassroots party from nothing, but Lex Paulson, an American veteran of the 2008 Obama campaign who lives in Paris and has helped organize Macron’s campaign, assured me that the party’s reliance on this apparatus to develop and transmit policy was very real. Paulson was the one who steered me to Bordeaux in the first place, to meet Tanguy Bernard, a 39-year-old development economist who had returned to France after ten years in the United States and Africa and now runs the local En Marche! regional committee. … The committees also served as a recruitment device. Yesterday’s debaters are today’s door-to-door volunteers.

4 May
The Left Must Vote for Macron
By Yanis Varoufakis, a former finance minister of Greece, Professor of Economics at the University of Athens
(Project Syndicate) In 2015, the same establishment that now supports Macron and rails against the “alternative facts,” loony economics, and authoritarianism of Le Pen, Donald Trump, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), and others, launched a ferociously effective campaign of falsehood and character assassination to undermine the democratically elected Greek government in which I served.
The French left cannot, and should not, forget that sorry episode. But the decision of many leftists to maintain an equal distance between Macron and Le Pen is inexcusable. There are two reasons for this.
First, the imperative to oppose racism trumps opposition to neoliberal policies. A more confident left used to understand that our humanism compelled us to stop the xenophobes from getting their hands on the levers of state power, particularly the police and security forces. Just like in the 1940s, we have a duty to ensure that the state’s monopoly over the legitimate use of violence is not controlled by those who harbor violent sentiments toward the foreigner, the cultural or sexual minority member, the “other.”
… there is a second reason for backing Macron: During the stifling of the Greek Spring in 2015, the social democrats in power in France (under Hollande) and in Germany (in the coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats) embraced the same brutish standards as the conservative right. …
My disagreements with Macron are legion; but our points of agreement are also important. We agree that the eurozone is unsustainable, but disagree about what should be done before the EU can put political union on the table. We agree that the single-minded pursuit of competitiveness is turning Europe into a zero-sum, beggar-thy-neighbor game, but disagree about how to bring about the large-scale investment needed to support productivity improvements.
We agree that precarious, gig-economy labor is gangrene for social welfare, but we (strongly) disagree about how to extend protection to casual workers without casualizing protected workers. We agree on the need to forge a proper European banking union, but disagree on the need to put the financial genie back in its bottle. Above all, I lack evidence to convince my comrades at DiEM25, the Democracy in Europe Movement, to trust Macron’s capacity and willingness to clash with an establishment that is pursuing the failed policies that have fed support for Le Pen.
Macron fends off Le Pen in ill-tempered French presidential debate
(CNN) Macron, with a determined steeliness and a relentless calm, took apart her program and defended what had appeared to be the harder case to make: that the answer to France’s problems was more Europe rather than less, more openness rather than any closure and a thoughtful rather than knee-jerk reaction to the terrorist threat. Sitting directly opposite Macron, Le Pen seemed at times out of her depth, especially on the economy and on Europe. She also appeared to be speaking to her core electorate rather than reaching out beyond it with a message and style that might have seemed more presidential.
If Le Pen beats Macron, the once-unthinkable will be all too real
(WaPost) A win by the leader of the French far right would see a leading European nation select a president emphatically opposed to globalization and integration, friendly to authoritarian Russia and tethered to a party, the National Front, that is steeped in a history of neo-fascism, extremism and bigotry. It could prefigure the dissolution of the European Union, trigger new economic chaos and hammer home the last nail in the coffin of an already ailing liberal order.

1 May
French Elections: Emmanuel Macron, a Disaster
By Guy Millière
(Gatestone Institute) On the evening of the second round of elections, people will party in the chic neighborhoods of Paris and in ministries. In districts where poor people live, cars will be set on fire. For more than a decade, whenever there is a festive evening in France, cars are set on fire in districts where poor people live. Unassimilated migrants have their own traditions. …
Economically, France is in terrible shape. The unemployment rate remains above 10%. Nine million people are living below the poverty line –14% of the population. Economic growth is stagnant. Government spending accounts for 57% of GDP — 13% more than in Germany, France’s main economic competitor in Europe.
Month after month, polls shows that the French population is anxious, angry, immensely disappointed with current French policies. François Hollande ends his term with a popularity rating close to zero. He was so rejected and discredited that he decided not to run again for the presidency.
The first round of the French presidential election took place in this context, and one could expect that the French population would reject everything that looks like François Hollande’s policies and choose a new direction for the country. …
When he speaks about the economy, [Macron] sounds like Hollande: he uses vague terms, such as the need for more “social mobility” and “success for all”. He insists that he will maintain all the sclerosis dear to so many, such as the compulsory 35-hour workweek or the legal age for retirement: 62. He said that he would leave the almost-bankrupt retirement system the way it is. He promised additional regulations aimed at “saving the planet” and, in a classically socialist way, tens of billions of euros of government “investments” supposed to finance “ecological transition” and “public services”.
[His] communication strategy could work because Emmanuel Macron received the support of left-wing billionaires whom he helped when he was Minister of Economy, and who have close relations with the powers that be: Pierre Bergé, Xavier Niel and Patrick Drahi. These people also own most France’s mainstream media and were able to carry out strong media campaigns in support of Macron. No candidate in the French presidential election history has been on the cover of so many magazines and newspapers. Emmanuel Macron also enjoys main French investment banks support: he is a graduate of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, which trains all senior civil servants and almost all French politicians since it was established in 1945 and, before joining Francois Hollande, he had a career in a financial institution.

24 April
France’s Political Parties Are Banding Together To Stop Le Pen
Amid fears of Le Pen’s anti-European Union and anti-immigrant vision taking hold over the country, French and European politicians began throwing their support behind Macron almost immediately after Sunday’s results were announced. Figures across the political spectrum came together to back Macron, appearing to form a “cordon sanitaire” against the prospect of a Le Pen presidency.
(The Economist) France’s election: A new republic
For the first time since the establishment of the Fifth Republic in 1958, neither of the two major political parties has a candidate in the final round of France’s presidential election. Instead, two outsiders, the internationalist Emmanuel Macron and the far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, have gone through. As they prepare for a tough two-week campaign, the country could be in for a deep political realignment, writes our France correspondent

23 April

French election results and exit polls live: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen win first round, according to projections

21 April
Round one of the French presidential elections. Eleven candidates are on the ballot on Sunday. Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen are virtually tied in the polls, with conservative François Fillon and far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon not far behind. Thursday’s terror attack on the Champs-Élysées has ramped up tensions in the capital.

(Quartz) For the first time in the country’s modern political history, candidates from both its mainstream parties are bracing to be knocked out of the presidential election, of which the first of two voting rounds is on Sunday.
The two front-runners are from outside the mainstream: far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has lured disenchanted voters from both left and right with her protectionist mantra, and Emmanuel Macron, a pro-market centrist who melts the hearts of urban progressives.
But a close challenger for third place brings the country’s extreme views full circle. In recent weeks, far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a tech-savvy admirer of Mao Zedong and Hugo Chávez, has shot up in the polls. His tirades against free trade and clubby elites are eerily similar to those of his far-right rival. Bankers, Mélenchon said at a campaign rally (paywall), are “parasites” on society who “produce nothing.” In an interview, Le Pen called for a return to “real economies, not Wall Street economies, but rather factories and farmers.”
Both candidates are pro-worker and anti-EU and favor chummier ties with Russia. The only major difference between them boils down to xenophobia. Le Pen, whose fear-mongering implicates French Muslims in the rise of ISIL, wants a blanket ban on immigration, while Mélenchon, born and raised in Morocco, preaches compassion for refugees (link in French), but better control over those who have yet to arrive.
The merging of their ideals speaks to the unraveling of left and right categories everywhere, as voters contend with the forces of globalization in everyday life. In France, the burning question is how to root its cherished culture in a destabilized world. The answer it comes to will transcend borders, setting a course for Europe, global markets, and modern politics for years to come.—Roya Wolverson

French Presidential Candidate Macron Takes Page From American Political Playbook
“What we’ve seen in all the political studies, going door-to-door, having an exchange face-to-face, it raises the chance of persuading someone to vote by eight-to-ten times,” says Lex Paulson, an American who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign. Paulson now teaches political science in Paris and is an unpaid adviser to Macron.
Paulson says he’s hearing the same frustrations from French voters that he heard when he worked for Obama.
“I feel the stakes are exactly the same here, and even more urgent now that America has gone the direction it has gone,” Paulson says. “I think this is the most important campaign in the world right now.”

17 April
Macron urges French to get rid of old generation as race tightens
Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron urged French voters on Monday to turn the page on the last 20 years and bring a new generation to power, as he stepped up attacks against resurgent far-left and conservative rivals six days before voting day.

2 April
A Le Pen win in the French election would place a ‘sword of Damocles’ above the eurozone
Emmanuel Macron(Business Insider u.k.) The French election is the major upcoming political risk in Europe. The markets are concerned about a possible Marine Le Pen victory as one of her key campaign promises is to hold a referendum on France exiting the euro currency bloc. The departure of one of the Eurozone’s leading countries would most likely lead to the breakdown of the Eurozone. The instability created by Brexit as well as anti EU rhetoric from Trump and others exacerbates the probability of a Frexit. … the first round debate last week was dominated by Emmanuel Macron, so the market now expects Le Pen and Macron to win the first round the 23rd of April, and Macron to win the second round which is happening the 7th of May. On the back of this, the market has been reducing their risk hedges. In most polls Macron leads Le Pen by 20% in the second round, which seems like a big gap to close one month before the elections. However, the ramifications of a Le Pen victory are so significant that it is worth taking it seriously.
[Emmanuel Macron’s Unlikely Rise To Becoming France’s Presidential Front-Runner –If Macron is elected, he’ll be the country’s first leader not to come from an establishment party.]

28 March
Dominique Moisi: France’s Extraordinary Election
[Macron] advances his mission through a combination of youthful energy, self-confidence, political cunning, technocratic competence, and a sense of moderation.
(Project Syndicate) Sixty years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, France is poised to hold an election that could make or break the European Union. A victory for the pro-EU independent centrist Emmanuel Macron could be a positive turning point, with France rejecting populism and deepening its connections with Germany. If, however, French voters hand the presidency to the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen – who was, tellingly, just warmly received by Vladimir Putin in Moscow – the long European project will be finished.
… the old French proverb, “never two without three,” may seem to indicate that, after those two votes, a Le Pen victory is all but inevitable. Then again, maybe France will be the third electoral loss for extreme-right candidates, after those in Austria and the Netherlands, providing definitive proof that the populist tide can be resisted.

6 March
“Our country is sick.”
(Reuters) That’s what former French prime minister Alain Juppé said on Monday, after deciding “once and for all” not to run in France’s presidential election, disappointing many in his conservative party. Their existing candidate, Francois Fillon, is mired in a scandal over hundreds of thousands of euros of public money he paid his wife to be his parliamentary assistant. Once the frontrunner, opinion polls show Fillon losing the election.

3 March
(WaPost Today’s World View) In Europe, leading far-right politicians, including French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, have publicly stood up for Russia in the face of E.U. censure. In some cases, far-right European parties maintain direct ties to the Kremlin.Meanwhile, Le Pen’s critics in the French political establishment have for weeks been pointing to alleged acts of Russian meddling in the French elections, including reports of hacking targeting Le Pen’s main opponents. “This kind of interference in French democratic life is unacceptable,” said Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault last month. “The French will not accept anyone dictating their [electoral] choices.”

27 February
(Quartz) Emmanuel Macron narrowed the gap in the French presidential race. Opinion polls said the independent candidate would would win in the second round of voting, defeating current front-runner Marine Le Pen of the far right Front National. A surprise alliance with veteran centrist François Bayrou, announced last week, has boosted Macron’s campaign

15 February
Cleo Paskal: France dives back into the South Pacific
Paris is refocusing attention on its island territories, the new strategic front line between Asia and the Americas
(Chatham House) After a relatively quiet period, Paris is re-energizing its maritime empire, particularly in the Pacific. In the past year alone, there have been huge military sales, paradigm-shifting diplomatic initiatives, and unusual visits by French political leaders to far-flung islands. The first question is why? The second question is: what does that mean in the context of China’s growing role as a Pacific maritime power?
France has impressive global reach. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, every qualifying island can claim up to a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). France has islands all over the world that qualify, including the Pacific territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Futuna.
The full tally of islands means France has the second largest EEZ in the world, around 11 million square kilometres, second only to the slightly larger EEZ of the United States. There are dots of France all over the globe, many in critical locations convenient for effective monitoring and strategic positioning.

11 February
(Quartz weekend round-up) French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has vowed to pull France out of the euro and hold a referendum on EU membership if she wins the election in May. Should France vote to leave, the global economy could face deeply destabilizing political and economic ramifications—not least because Le Pen has said she would redenominate €1.7 trillion ($1.8 trillion) of public debt into a new national currency, resulting in a massive sovereign default.

10 February
Le Pen: French Jews Will Have to Give Up Israeli Citizenship
(Haaretz) Leading contender in French election tells interviewer she won’t allow dual citizenships with non-European countries. Asked specifically about Jews and Israel, she said: ‘Israel isn’t an EU member.’
Le Pen said that the ban will also apply to citizens of the U.S. and North African countries, but that dual citizens of the EU and of Russia, which she said is part of she termed the “Europe of nations,” will be exempted.

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