France 2020-

Written by  //  June 11, 2024  //  Europe & EU, France  //  No comments

9-11 June
Bid to unite the right against Macron hits the rocks
The leader of France’s center right Les Républicains triggered a firestorm with his suggestion of an alliance with the far right.
(Politico Eu) An audacious attempt to unite France’s center and far-right parties in this month’s snap election descended into chaotic backbiting and recriminations, in a rare piece of good news for President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron rules out resigning, ‘whatever the result’ of French election
France’s president has bet big on a showdown with the far right.

France’s far-right National Rally projected to win snap election without absolute majority
(Reuters) The far-right National Rally was forecast on Monday to win a snap election in France but fall short of an absolute majority in the first opinion poll published after President Emmanuel Macron’s shock decision to dissolve parliament.
Even if RN does score a majority in the French parliament, Macron would remain president for three more years and still be in charge of defence and foreign policy.
But he would lose control over the domestic agenda including economic policy, security, immigration and finances, which would in turn impact other policies, such as aid to Ukraine, as he would need parliament’s backing to finance any support as part of France’s budget.
Macron bets the house on election to break far-right momentum in France
After a humiliating defeat at the hands of Le Pen’s National Rally, France’s president is now making a high-risk roll of the dice.
(Politico Eu) Jupiter will not be eclipsed. And certainly not by his nemesis: the face of the French far right, Marine Le Pen.
French President Emmanuel Macron is going for broke, calling for a snap election that is likely to deliver big wins for the far right. But it may also knock Le Pen off her stride as she eyes the bigger prize: the presidency in 2027.
That is the maverick gamble that the French president is making after the National Rally’s spectacular win on Sunday evening. The far-right, anti-migration party is projected to win the European election in France with 32 percent of the vote — more than twice that of the president’s centrist liberal party.
Macron’s gamble is a simple one, and is intended to bring Le Pen down to Earth with a bump. While the European election has delivered a decisive victory for the National Rally, legislative elections are unlikely to deliver such a clear win. The National Rally will land more seats in parliament but probably not win enough to be in a position to govern.
Macron taking ‘huge risk’ by calling new elections in France after EU vote losses, analyst says
Paris-based political analyst Dominique Moïsi says French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a snap national elections after his party was shaken by the results of the European elections is a risky bet (video)
Macron dissolves French National Assembly, calls for elections after thrashing in EU vote
‘I’ve decided to give you back the choice of our parliamentary future,’ president says

23 February
Can Gabriel Attal Win Over France?
The new prime minister wants to succeed President Macron. But first he must see off the far right and define himself before a restive public.
By Roger Cohen
Gabriel Attal, 34, is a new kind of French prime minister, more inclined to Diet Coke than a good Burgundy, at home with social media and revelations about his personal life, a natural communicator who reels off one-liners like “France rhymes with power” to assert his “authority,” a favorite word.
Since taking office in early January, the boyish-looking Mr. Attal has waded into the countryside, far from his familiar haunts in the chic quarters of Paris, muddied his dress shoes, propped his notes on a choreographed bale of hay, and calmed protesting farmers through adroit negotiation leavened by multiple concessions.

19 January
The Two Faces of the Euro
Yanis Varoufakis
(Project Syndicate) Of all European politicians who never led their countries, Jacques Delors and Wolfgang Schäuble had the greatest impact on Europe. Between them, the two men, who passed away within a day of each other in December, shaped today’s European Union, warts and all.
Back when the euro was still on the drawing board, neither Delors nor Schäuble could have imagined, or would condone, Europe’s inane response to the euro’s inevitable crisis. The combination of massive austerity and monetary largesse that preserved the eurozone in its original format, which both Delors and Schäuble correctly deemed unviable, is the reason why Europe is now politically fragmented and in secular decline. History, once more, proved a cruel master of noteworthy Europeans who refused to see that Europe’s interests are in direct opposition to the interests of its ruling classes.

8-10 January
Macron goes all in with high-stakes reshuffle to combat far right
As France’s youngest ever PM, Gabriel Attal will have to save Macron’s legacy — though he may have eyes to eclipse it.
(Politico Eu) French President Emmanuel Macron has propelled rising star Gabriel Attal center stage in a high-risk gamble aimed at stopping the far right’s surge ahead of the European election.
In a surprise move on Tuesday, Macron appointed his former education minister and one of France’s most popular politicians as the country’s youngest-ever prime minister in a bid to re-energize his flagging presidency — at the risk of hastening the end of his own reign.
French PM Élisabeth Borne quits as Macron seeks boost before EU elections
Second female prime minister of Fifth Republic … Élisabeth Borne, has resigned after days of increasingly feverish speculation about an imminent government reshuffle.
The president, Emmanuel Macron,…is seeking to give a new impetus to his second mandate before European parliament elections and the Paris Olympics this summer.

2023

24 October
Macron calls for ‘decisive relaunch’ of peace process during Israel visit
The French president called for the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group to be expanded to also fight Hamas.
(Politico Eu) The French president appeared to aim for a difficult balance during his visit — offering support for Israel’s offensive against Hamas while noting that the rules of war will need to be respected in Gaza. “It’s in the interest of Israel and its security…This fight should be ruthless but not without rules, because we are democracies that are fighting terrorists,” he said, adding that the laws of war and “humanitarian access” to civilians must be upheld.
“The security of Israel cannot be long-lasting without a decisive relaunch of the political process with Palestinians,” Macron said at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian militant group Hamas does “not carry the Palestinian cause” and should be fought, but Palestinian aspirations must be heard “with reason,” Macron said.

27 August
France to ban wearing abaya dress in schools: Minister
Move comes after months of debate over wearing of abayas in French schools, where women have long been banned from wearing hijab
(Al Jazeera) French public schools do not permit the wearing of large crosses, Jewish kippas or Islamic headscarves.
In 2004, the country banned headscarves in schools, and in 2010, it passed a ban on full face veils in public, angering many in its five million-strong Muslim community.
“I have decided that the abaya could no longer be worn in schools,” Education Minister Gabriel Attal said in an interview with TV channel TF1. “When you walk into a classroom, you shouldn’t be able to identify the pupils’ religion just by looking at them.”
The move comes after months of debate over the wearing of abayas in French schools, where women have long been banned from wearing the hijab

22 August
Time’s up for France in Africa
While pulling out of the continent would, to some degree, diminish France’s global stature, the reality is that the country has other priorities that better reflect its vital interests.
Michael Shurkin is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
I am a long-time watcher of France in Africa. I have published several, often-admiring papers on the subject, and frequently defend the country on social media. I have cheered French efforts to help the countries of the Sahel — most notably Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger — to defend themselves against jihadist insurgencies affiliated with Al Qa’eda or the Islamic State.
And yet, the only reasonable conclusion to draw now is that France should close its bases and go.
The problem, as has been made clear by recent events in Niger, is that whatever France does, good or bad, provokes an allergic reaction from populations long conditioned to be suspicious of French motives and assume the worst.
Whether this anti-French sentiment is fair or not is entirely beside the point. Ties with France have now become a kiss of death for African governments — a phenomenon demonstrated by the fate of Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum.
How we got here is a long story that goes back to colonization, all the way through the decades following decolonization in 1960 — and there is plenty of blame to go around. Africa’s elites and their failures are a factor, as public opinion associates them with France. We can also point to the poverty of African political ideologies and populism, as well as the rise of new generations of young people frustrated by a status quo that, in their eyes, is of France’s making. …
France’s own national security documents, including the recently passed five-year military programming law, make clear that the country’s vital interests are in Europe and, secondarily, in the Indo-Pacific — where it maintains the world’s second largest Exclusive Economic Zone thanks to its numerous overseas territories.

25 August
Ex-French leader Sarkozy faces 2025 trial over alleged Libya corruption
The former president will be tried over allegations he took money from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2007.
Sarkozy, who has faced a litany of legal problems since his one term in office, has denied the Libyan allegations – the most serious he faces.
The 68-year-old has already been convicted twice, once for corruption and influence-peddling involving attempts to influence a judge and another for breaking campaign spending limits during his 2012 re-election attempt.

30 June
France braces for more violence with armored vehicles, extra cops deployed
Far-right politicians called for a state of emergency to be imposed as the government seeks to tackle the unrest.
The French government is scrambling to find a way to curb the violence that has rocked the country for three nights in a row after a teenager was shot dead by police during a traffic stop.

1 May
Has France really gone to hell? Its catastrophist discourse is at odds with the facts
Alexander Hurst
Months of anger have obscured reality and sapped resistance to the politics of nostalgia
(The Guardian) On the far left and far right, large swaths of the French electorate have bought into a nostalgia politics – ironically, for a time when the country was less well off and less equal, but more confident in itself. They are looking backwards, engaged in a debate that is almost past its expiration date. Both the climate crisis and AI are following the same type of exponential growth curve; who under the age of 35 honestly thinks the basic structure of work and retirement that we know today will look anything remotely similar in 2060?
How sad if the real narrative about France – a remarkably successful social democracy – were lost to the lowest common denominator of the challenges it faces. But far more worrying is that an angry debate, often played out in the media on skewed terms, is monopolising attention and sapping the country of the social trust needed for flexibility, creative public policy, and to resist populists selling a siren song of c’était mieux avant (things were better in the past).

14 April
French court approves Macron’s unpopular plan to raise pension age
Constitutional council’s ruling means government can pass law to raise minimum eligible pension age as early as next week

5-12 April
href=”https://www.gzeromedia.com/macrons-taiwan-remarks-are-a-big-win-for-china” aria-label=”Macron’s Taiwan remarks are a big win for China” data-type=”text”> Macron’s Taiwan remarks are a big win for China
Ian Bremmer
Everything was going swimmingly … until Macron opened his mouth.
“We don’t want to get involved in a bloc vs. bloc logic,” he stated to reporters from Les Echos and Politico aboard a flight between Beijing and Guangzhou. Rather than become a “vassal” of the US, he said, Europe should aim to become a “third superpower” independent of both Beijing and Washington, warning Europeans against getting “caught up in crises that are not ours” such as Taiwan.
Much like his repeated attempts to engage Vladimir Putin riled many in the US and Ukraine, these comments prompted sharp criticism on both sides of the Atlantic.
For starters, openly complaining about excessive dependence on the US and claiming cross-strait stability isn’t a core European interest when Europe relies so heavily on America to address crises like Ukraine, which concerns Europe much more than the US, is hypocritical. As India’s foreign minister said last year: “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.”
Are you not entertained? Macron comments spark global backlash — again
French president’s talk of strategic autonomy has brought uncomfortable attention to Paris’ record of aid for Ukraine.
(Politico Eu) In an interview on his way back from a state visit to China, French President Emmanuel Macron set foreign policy circles alight by saying that Europe should avoid being America’s follower — including on the matter of Taiwan’s security.
Coming after chummy photo-ops with Chinese President Xi Jinping and as China was unleashing a simulated attack on Taiwan, which the U.S. has pledged to defend, the comments set off a firestorm of reactions, with everyone from Senator Marco Rubio to former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul weighing in.
In the hours after the interview with POLITICO and Les Echos was published, a cast of Macron interpreters surfaced to explain that his comments had not only been mistranslated (they were not), but misunderstood by an Anglo-Saxon media ill-equipped to understand his pensée complexe.
more likely…Macron knows exactly which words will set the international alarm bells ringing, and employs them to appeal to a domestic audience that enjoys the spectacle of France flipping off the United States.
He could use the distraction. For the past few weeks, Macron’s government has been under siege at home, beset by protests against his plan to raise the legal age of retirement to 64 from 62 currently. The president’s government narrowly survived a vote of no confidence on March 20, and the president’s own approval rating has tanked.
But his comments about China, the United States and Taiwan, no matter how newsworthy, are unlikely to have any effect on that situation. In France, as in other democracies, foreign policy takes a back seat in the minds of voters to economic and social issues. On Tuesday, his comments were not the top story in most French media.
Je ne regrette rien: Macron defends his comments on not being US ‘vassal’ over Taiwan
France has no lessons to learn from anyone, the president said.
Europe must resist pressure to become ‘America’s followers,’ says Macron
The ‘great risk’ Europe faces is getting ‘caught up in crises that are not ours,’ French president says in interview.
Europe must reduce its dependency on the United States and avoid getting dragged into a confrontation between China and the U.S. over Taiwan, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview on his plane back from a three-day state visit to China.
Speaking with POLITICO and two French journalists after spending around six hours with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his trip, Macron emphasized his pet theory of “strategic autonomy” for Europe, presumably led by France, to become a “third superpower.”
With lavish treatment of Macron, China’s Xi woos France to “counter” U.S.
(Reuters) – China’s Xi Jinping has given French President Emmanuel Macron an unusually lavish welcome on a state visit, which some analysts see as a sign of Beijing’s growing offensive to woo key allies within the European Union to counter the United States.
The two leaders visited southern China together on Friday, where Macron was due to drink Chinese tea with Xi in a former residence of his father in the city of Guangzhou, capital of the economic and manufacturing powerhouse of Guangdong province.
Such forays by Xi with visiting leaders are rare. Diplomats say it underlines the importance Beijing attaches to this relationship with a key member of the EU as it looks for support against what Xi has called “all-round containment, encirclement and suppression” by the U.S.
Macron arrives in China hoping to talk Xi into changing stance on Ukraine
French leader sees Beijing as possible ‘gamechanger’ and will also discuss European trade on three-day visit

5 April
France faces fresh strikes after failed talks with unions
Trade union chiefs walked out of a meeting with French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in under an hour as the stalemate on the pension reform persists.
Thursday will mark the 11th day of industrial action since unions started calling for rolling strikes at the beginning of the year.

10 March
Sunak and Macron must navigate boat issues to reset Anglo-French relations
Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic editor
Channel crossings and Aukus pact will be central to talks that could also improve Britain’s standing with the EU
The attempt by Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron to reset the Anglo-French relationship on Friday is not just important bilaterally, but also in terms of Britain’s relationship with the EU.
The French president, a gatekeeper to improved relations, sees the British prime minister’s efforts to resolve the Northern Ireland trade issues as a signal Britain is in the hands of a fellow technocratic nationalist, and that its brush with populism may be over.
French diplomats were in despair over Boris Johnson’s willingness to use France as a prop to bolster his domestic standing, saying it corroded the trust that is at the heart of effective diplomacy. The low point probably came in November 2021 with Johnson’s release on Twitter of a letter to Macron after 27 people died trying to cross the Channel. The then prime minister in effect blamed the crisis on France and proposed it should commit to taking back all asylum seekers who made it to Britain, a suggestion the French government had already rejected multiple times. The letter led to the withdrawal of an invitation to the then home secretary, Priti Patel, to a summit on the refugee crisis.

19 January
Macron’s pension reform triggers strikes, protests across France
Working longer won’t save France’s public deficit and “those who defend these reforms keep their bums warm in offices,” protesters say.

10 January
French Prime Minister Borne unveils plan to raise retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030
(NPR) French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Tuesday unveiled a contentious pension overhaul aimed at raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030, which has prompted vigorous criticism and calls for protests from leftist opponents and worker unions. … The government argues that French people live longer than they used to and therefore need to work longer to make the pension system financially sustainable. All French workers receive a state pension.
Center-left and hard-left worker unions unanimously expressed their disapproval of the proposed changes after talks with Borne last week.

2022

26 June
French lawmakers plan $8.4 billion aid for households to fight inflation
(Reuters) – French lawmakers are drafting a bill to shore-up household buying power by raising some forms of government assistance by 4%, at a cost of 8 billion euros ($8.44 billion) from July to April next year, business daily Les Echos reported on Sunday.
According to the report, the planned increases would apply to welfare benefits for families, unemployed workers and disabled people as well as pension payouts, effective in July.

20 June
France reshaped: Election emboldens Le Pen, undercuts Macron
(AP) — France faced an ecstatic Marine Le Pen on Monday after her party’s far-right candidates sent shockwaves through the political establishment and helped deny President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance a majority in parliament.
The surprising breakthrough for the far right — alongside a surge in support for hard-left candidates — undercuts Macron’s leadership, threatens his plans to raise the country’s retirement age and cut taxes, and reshapes France’s political landscape.
Le Pen’s National Rally party didn’t win the two-round parliamentary election that ended Sunday. But it secured more than 10 times the seats it won five years ago.
It was only in April that Le Pen lost the presidential election to Macron. But now it was her turn to gloat, since she knows she can use the seats in the National Assembly to thwart Macron’s domestic agenda and even trigger a no-confidence vote.
The Guardian view on Macron’s bad night: a rocky road ahead
A remarkable parliamentary election has transformed the political landscape
(Editorial) Ahead of Sunday’s legislative elections, Emmanuel Macron asked voters to deliver his parliamentary grouping a solid mandate at a time of multiple crises. The alternative, said the recently re-elected president, would be to add “disorder in France to the disorder in the world”.
This plea was resoundingly rejected. In a stunning set of results, which added up to a terrible night for Mr Macron, his centrist alliance lost more than 100 seats in the National Assembly. Though it remains the largest force, the president’s Ensemble (Together) party fell far short of achieving an absolute majority, and a number of high-profile heavy-hitters were defeated at the polls.
Mr Macron oversaw a lacklustre, complacent campaign that unsuccessfully relied on momentum generated by his presidential victory in April. The seismic consequence is a parliament reflecting a country where political affiliation is divided between three camps: the social democratic and socialist left; the liberal centre and centre right, and the radical right. The deeply unwelcome breakthrough by Ms Le Pen must in part be put down to Mr Macron’s unwise decision to demonise the united left as an equally “extreme” force. This contributed to a collapse of anti far-right solidarity, as many centrist and left-wing voters abstained in contests where their own candidate failed to make the run-off. The door was thus opened wide for some of Ms Le Pen’s candidates.

16 May
Elisabeth Borne appointed France’s new prime minister
(France24) President Emmanuel Macron on Monday (May 16) named Elisabeth Borne as prime minister to lead his reform plans. The 61-year-old engineer proved her loyalty to Macron during his first term, serving as transport, environment and finally labour minister from 2020.
Elisabeth Borne: Who is France’s new prime minister and what’s on her to-do list?
(Euronews with AP) Borne is the second woman to hold the position of prime minister in the country after Edith Cresson, who served from 1991 to 1992 under socialist president Francois Mitterrand.
The new prime minister’s first mission will be to make sure that Macron’s centrist party and its allies do well in France’s parliamentary election in June.
Macron also promised a bill addressing the rising cost of living in France, where food and energy prices are surging. It will be prepared by his new government and is expected to be presented just after the parliamentary election.
If Macron’s party wins a majority in the Assembly, Borne will then need to ensure that pension changes promised by the president are put into law, including raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 65.
The proposed changes have been criticised by workers, unions and left-wing voters.
Macron also promised that the new prime minister would be directly in charge of “green planning,” seeking to accelerate France’s implementation of climate-related policies. Macron vowed to go “twice as fast” in his second term to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The first round of the 2022 French presidential election was held on 10 April 2022. As no candidate won a majority of the vote in the first round, a runoff was held between the top two candidates -Macron & LePen- on 24 April
Why the French are fed up (and what it means for Macron) | The Economist (YouTube)

Photos: Joel Saget, Eric Feferberg/AFP via Getty Images

Jeremy Kinsman: Macron Wins as France Shuns the Far Right
(Policy) It is to [Macron’s] credit he has prevailed so convincingly against Le Pen, given the mood, especially since his greatest vulnerability has been his own style which many resent as that of a privileged, remote elitist from Paris.
In June, he faces legislative elections. His own still unrooted party (La Republique en Marche) may well lose its majority, in which case he will be in the position of “cohabitation” with a quasi-adversarial prime minister, to whom, however, the Fifth Republic assigns the harsh duties of running the economy and delivery of domestic services, leaving the president to spend the next five years positioning on EU and world affairs.
No wonder the music greeting Macron at his victory celebration in front of the Eiffel Tower was the EU hymn (Beethoven’s) “Ode to Joy.”
Given the dearth of great leaders in our democracies, circumstances now place Macron, whose ambitions can be Jupiterian, as the EU’s principal personality, in tandem no doubt with Germany’s Olaf Scholz.
We are all better off.
France’s Macron is reelected but far-right rival raises game
(AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won reelection to a second term Sunday, triggering waves of relief among allies that the nuclear-armed European Union nation won’t abruptly shift course from EU and NATO efforts to punish and contain Russia’s expansionist military attacks on Ukraine.
The second five-year term for the 44-year-old centrist spared France and Europe from the seismic upheaval of having firebrand populist Marine Le Pen at the helm, Macron’s presidential runoff challenger who quickly conceded defeat but still appeared on course for her best-ever electoral showing.
Acknowledging that “numerous” voters cast ballots for him simply to keep out the fiercely nationalist far-right Le Pen, Macron pledged to reunite the country that is “filled with so many doubts, so many divisions” and work to assuage the anger of French voters that fed Le Pen’s campaign.
With more than three-quarters of votes counted, Macron was leading 55% to 45% for Le Pen. Polling agencies projected that once all votes are counted, Macron’s margin of victory would be well above 10 points, although smaller than when they first faced off in 2017.
Macron is the first French president in 20 years to win reelection, since incumbent Jacques Chirac trounced Le Pen’s father in 2002.

22 April
Roger Cohen: Le Pen Closer Than Ever to the French Presidency (and to Putin)
As elections approach Sunday, the far-right candidate is linked to the Russian president by a web of financial ties and a history of support that has hardly dimmed despite the war in Ukraine.
(NYT) Over the past decade, Ms. Le Pen’s party, the National Rally, formerly the National Front, has borrowed millions from a Russian bank, and Ms. Le Pen has supported Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, as well as his incendiary meddling that year in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where just this week Russia redoubled its offensive.
If Ms. Le Pen wins, which is not likely but possible, her victory will almost certainly fracture the allied unity engineered by President Biden in an attempt to defeat Mr. Putin. It would hand Mr. Putin by far his most important ally in Europe, one he could leverage in his aims to divide Europe from the United States and fracture Europe’s decades-old project of unity.

19 April
Macron allies warn victory not certain as poll lead over Le Pen grows
Centrist’s backers say voters still need convincing his policies are best for them ahead of presidential runoff

10-11 April
5 takeaways from the first round of France’s presidential election
First round results are trickier than they look for Macron.
(Politico Eu) France’s repeat of the 2017 run-off confirms Macron’s and Le Pen’s own political analysis: That the divide between the left and the right is no longer relevant in France and has been replaced by an opposition between a mainstream bloc that is pro-European and open to the outside world on one side, and nationalists on the other.
France’s Macron and Le Pen head to April 24 election runoff
Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen win first round
Presidential election runoff set for April 24th
Battle lines drawn between globalist and nationalist
(Reuters) – With projections putting Macron in first place ahead of Le Pen after Sunday’s first round voting, other major candidates admitted defeat. Except for another far-right candidate, Eric Zemmour, they all urged voters to back the incumbent in two weeks’ time in order to block the far-right.

4-8 April
French Election Dashboard: Everything you need to know about the presidential race
(Atlantic Council) With reelection up for grabs for President Emmanuel Macron against a slate of rivals, the Europe Center breaks down the race.
How will Russia’s war in Ukraine reshape the European political scene? Look to France.
(Atlantic Council) State-against-state warfare is back on the European continent. Governments—including those once considered neutral or risk-averse—have made decisions that had been unthinkable just weeks before: unprecedented sanctions likely to severely hurt their own economies, drastic increases in defense spending, and the delivery of lethal weapons to a country at war.
All this amounts to a new geopolitical reality that the public was not expecting. Now, voters across the continent are facing opportunities to express their views at the polls in a series of key votes.
In Hungary and Serbia, right-wing leaders Viktor Orbán and Aleksandar Vučić successfully played up their ability to protect their populations in the context of the war, convincingly winning elections last weekend. But the upcoming presidential vote in France on April 10—with a second round held April 24—may be the most significant of the lot, given the size and importance of the country.

Harrison Stetler: The Man at the Center of the French Election Isn’t Even on the Ballot
(NYT) Like the rest of Europe, France is gripped by the war in Ukraine. Days from the first round of the presidential election here, the incumbent, Emmanuel Macron, hopes to prevail with what was, for much of the last two months, a muted campaign in which he posed as a steady hand in a time of global instability.
But for all the talk of a united West, the truth is that a noxious blend of oligarchy, nostalgia and bellicose nationalism is ever more ubiquitous on this side of the new Iron Curtain. In France, it is led by a buoyant and confident new right, represented in this election by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally; Valérie Pécresse of the ostensibly moderate Republicans; and Éric Zemmour, the pugilistic proto-fascist commentator turned candidate.
Behind them all, to one degree or another, is someone not even on the ballot: the media mogul Vincent Bolloré. The scion of an old industrial family, Mr. Bolloré wields a fearsome agenda-setting power; his outlets, known for adopting the flair, tics and style of Fox News, play an outsize role in directing the national debate. The three candidates from the right — and much of the political class, in fact — recycle, in varying shades, messages that run on a loop on his networks.
Even Before France Votes, the French Right Is a Big Winner
(NYT) The dominance of right-wing ideas in France’s presidential election campaign follows years of cultural wars waged successfully by conservatives on television, in social media and in think tanks.
Despite a late surge by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leading left-wing candidate, virtually the entire French campaign has been fought on the right and far right, whose candidates dominate the polls and whose themes and talking points — issues of national identity, immigration and Islam — have dominated the political debate. The far right has even become the champion of pocketbook issues, traditionally the left’s turf.
Mr. Macron himself has pivoted to the right so consistently to confront the challenge that there is even discussion now of whether he should be regarded as a center-right president, though he emerged from a government run by the now-moribund Socialists in 2017.
French election poll: Macron to beat Le Pen but Le Pen gains ground
(Reuters)The poll showed Macron would lead in the first round of votes on April 10, with 26.5% versus 21.5% for Le Pen in second place. Those figures compared to 28% for Macron and 17.5% for Le Pen in the last poll conducted March 21-24, said Ipsos Sopra Steria Cevipof.
The poll showed Macron would lead in the first round of votes on April 10, with 26.5% versus 21.5% for Le Pen in second place. Those figures compared to 28% for Macron and 17.5% for Le Pen in the last poll conducted March 21-24, said Ipsos Sopra Steria Cevipof.
Macron would then beat Le Pen in the second round run-off vote on April 24 by 54% to 46%
Macron urges voters to turn out for election first round as polls tighten
(The Guardian) President leads the far right’s Marine Le Pen by more than six points in France but result is still uncertain, analysts say

2021

9 December
Just How Frightening Is France’s New Right?
I witnessed Éric Zemmour electrify a seething and violent mob.
By Thomas Chatterton Williams
(The Atlantic) In October, Éric Zemmour, the best-selling French author and media personality who has won a devoted following by applying a throwback intellectual sheen to a familiar populist xenophobia, overtook France’s far-right standard-bearer, Marine Le Pen, in the polls for this April’s presidential election. He officially declared his candidacy at the end of November and held his first campaign rally in Paris last Sunday. The event, originally scheduled for the 9,000-seat Zénith arena, quickly needed to be relocated to the much larger Parc des Expositions, a massive conference center in the Parisian suburb of Villepinte, a short cab ride from Charles de Gaulle Airport and half an hour by train from Gare du Nord.

18 October
Éric Zemmour: the far-right polemicist’s ideas have a long history in France
(The Conversation) Éric Zemmour has become a household name in France. Buoyed by repeated appearances on French television news shows, including the conservative channel CNews (often referred to as the French version of Fox News), Zemmour is widely assumed to be considering a run for president in 2022.
A recent poll saw him predicted to reach the second round of voting alongside current president, Emmanuel Macron, out-performing Zemmour’s potential rival on the far-right, Marine Le Pen.

28 June
4 takeaways from French local elections
All bets are off ahead of the presidential race in 2022.
(Politico Eu) Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, the frontrunners for next year’s French presidential vote, saw their parties defeated in dramatic fashion Sunday evening, with both failing to gain control of a single region in the second round of local elections.
The failure of the disruptors to disrupt on Sunday, when the French voted in run-off ballots for 13 regional councils across metropolitan France and for 94 départements after a first round last weekend, allowed their conservative Les Républicains (LR) rivals to emerge in fighting form ahead of the 2022 race.
Here are four takeaways from the regional elections.
1. Marine Le Pen battered
2. Macron’s reelection bid under threat
3. The conservatives get their groove back
4. A crowded scene
As a snapshot of France, the regional elections show a political scene that is both crowded and divided.
The emergence of Macron’s LREM, the strength of the National Rally and the disunity on the left means there has never been more choice for the electorate. In the greater Paris region, voters had four leftwing candidates to choose from, all pitching a mix of green and welfare proposals.
In seven regions, four lists of candidates made it to the runoffs; in two regions — Brittany and Nouvelle-Aquitaine — there were five different parties to choose from. Tactical voting in these elections proved a nightmare.

26 May
France’s Macron seeks forgiveness over Rwandan genocide
Clement Uwiringiyimana
(Reuters) French President Emmanuel Macron said he recognised his country’s role in the Rwandan genocide and hoped for forgiveness at a memorial in Kigali on Thursday, seeking to reset relations after years of Rwandan accusations that France was complicit in the 1994 atrocities.
The visit follows the release in March of a report by a French inquiry panel that said a colonial attitude had blinded French officials, who were close to the Hutu-led government of the time. The report blamed France for not foreseeing the slaughter and said the government bore a “serious and overwhelming” responsibility.

7 May
Macron calls on US, UK to stop ‘blocking’ vaccines
French president renews calls for rich nations to share vaccine doses with poorer nations.
(Politico.eu) France was the first member of the group of seven rich nations known as the G-7 to donate doses, but Macron has been under pressure recently for not clearly supporting a proposal to lift intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, an idea the U.S. backed on Wednesday.
Responding to a question by reporters upon his arrival to the EU Social Summit in Porto, Macron defended his position. “What’s the issue right now? It’s not really about intellectual property; you can give it to a lab that won’t know how to produce it — the first issue is giving doses,” Macron said. “The second pillar for the vaccines to circulate it’s not to block ingredients and the vaccines; today the Anglo-Saxons are blocking a lot of ingredients and vaccines.
In April, France gave 100,000 doses to Mauritania through the international vaccine provision initiative COVAX.
France only started producing vaccine shots in March, after it benefited from a transfer of technologies to produce mRNA vaccines. No French pharmaceutical company or laboratory has so far succeeded in developing an in-house COVID-19 vaccine.

6 May
Brigitte Granville: France’s Culture War Intensifies
With his speech commemorating the 200th anniversary of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death, President Emmanuel Macron apparently is seeking to confront all aspects of the emperor’s divisive legacy. How he manages that characteristic balancing act could reveal much about his ability to keep France’s simmering culture war from boiling over.
(Project Syndicate)
Napoleon’s legacy has long been divisive. His admirers laud his role in creating the modern French state; his detractors condemn him as a colonizer who enslaved millions. But the issue has become particularly incendiary today, in the aftermath of the publication last month of an open letter by 20 retired generals.
… To improve his chances in this race, Macron will have to make himself stand out from the rest of the field, by reaffirming the distinctively “universalist” French ideal of citizenship – one that, unlike multiculturalism, transcends racial origins and religious belief.
On a more practical level, Macron would do well to redirect more of the country’s vast public spending away from the bureaucracy and toward the most basic functions of the state – beginning with the criminal-justice system. France’s police force is far from perfect, but it cannot be expected to improve without adequate resources, which are woefully lacking today.
Macron should also make concrete conciliatory gestures to those on both sides of the culture war. For example, a commitment to “zero-tolerance” policing in the banlieue could appease one side, while progress toward de-criminalizing drugs could appease the other, by reducing the potential perils of such enhanced policing.

5 May
Startups and the State: Growing French Tech
In less than a decade France has gone from tech backwater to the startup engine of the EU. It recently celebrated its 12th company to achieve a $1 billion valuation and is well on the way to President Macron’s goal of “25 unicorns by 2025.” Kat Borlongan, director of La French Tech, joins Azeem Azhar to explore how her government task force has been working to effectively drive growth in the French startup scene.
They also discuss:
Why achieving tech sovereignty has become a key motivator for governments.
How France’s visa scheme is part of their offensive strategy to attract top tech talent.
Why the French government is directly investing in startups via public investment bank Bpifrance.

Macron Closes Elite French School in Bid to Diversify Public Service
The institution had become a symbol of privilege in a society where social mobility has broken down.
Roger Cohen
There are elite schools and then there is ENA, the small French graduate college that has turned out presidents and prime ministers with such cookie-cutter consistency that it is no exaggeration to say France has been run by its “énarques.”
President Emmanuel Macron attended the Strasbourg-based finishing school for top civil servants. So did the two prime ministers he has appointed. So did his predecessor, François Hollande. So did Jacques Chirac. At a time of growing social fracture, no other institution has symbolized a clubby, mostly male French elitism as vividly as the Ecole Nationale d’Administration.
Now, it’s gone. Mr. Macron announced on Thursday the closure of ENA, and its replacement by a new Institute of Public Service, or ISP, as part of what he called a “deep revolution in recruitment for public service.”

15 April
Notre-Dame Cathedral fire: Two years on, how is restoration work going at the Paris landmark?
(Euronews) Two years since the devastating fire that nearly destroyed Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Gothic icon has still not been fully secured. …
[Monsignor Patrick] Chauvet added the actual restoration project could start officially by the end of the year, and he hopes mass can be held in 2024.
French President Emmanuel Macron has set that year as his goal for finishing the interior restoration for the cathedral, in line with when Paris will host the Olympics.
Securing the cathedral has been a necessary but costly first step of the process, estimated at €160 million. It involved removing the stained glass windows, checking the gargoyles, removing rubble and installing protective nets in the choir to catch falling stones.
It has been complicated by scaffolding that had been erected for renovation works prior to the blaze at the tourist attraction. The fire melted the scaffolding, leaving around 200-tonnes of tangled web of burnt metal to deal with.
Brand new scaffolding has now been installed so that the condition of the vaults can be studied closely.

10 April
France’s Far Right Is Setting the Agenda Because the Mainstream Allows It To
Ahead of the 2022 election, French media are presenting an inevitable duel between incumbent Emmanuel Macron and the “populist” Marine Le Pen. Yet for decades we’ve seen how this liberal framing fuels far-right talking points — echoing Le Pen’s false claim to stand for those “left behind” against the status quo.
(Jacobin) A year ahead of France’s 2022 presidential election, countless articles have been written about the threat posed by the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, leader of the Rassemblement National. With no particular attention paid to the French system or the current context, we are often told that she is the main contender to the presidency and the embattled Emmanuel Macron’s only real opponent. As always, opinion polls are mustered to push the message that this is what the people want. That it is not yet clear who the candidates will actually be — and whether a unified left-wing alternative could arise — does not seem to bother anyone with access to public discourse. The dice have already been rolled, and they seem loaded anyway.

2 April
As Covid cases in France surge, Macron’s superman image is fading fast
(The Guardian) The president may no longer be in denial, but the situation in some parts of France appears to be very much out of control. Daily Covid cases have reached 59,000 compared with the UK’s 4,000, and hospitals are straining under the pressure; some doctors worry that they may soon need to start prioritising those who will have the greatest chance of successful treatment.
The issue of intensive care bed capacity has been a thorn in Macron’s side for the past year. In March 2020, the health minister promised to increase the number of beds to 14,000. One year later, doctors and nurses are accusing the government of having largely broken its pledge. Most of these beds never materialised, and France’s hospitals appear unable to cope with the challenges of the pandemic.

26 March
France not complicit in Rwanda genocide, says Macron commission
Report says France did not do enough to halt the 1994 killings but found no evidence of complicity

9 March
French oaks from once-royal forest felled to rebuild Notre Dame spire
Trees to help replace spire destroyed in 2019 blaze found in Forest of Bercé that once belonged to French kings
Last July amid a public outcry, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, ended speculation that the 19th century peak designed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc could be rebuilt in a modern style. He announced it would be rebuilt exactly as it was before. And that began a nationwide tree hunt, culminating in a painstaking selection in January and February of this year.
About 1,000 oaks in more than 200 French forests, both private and public, were chosen to make the frame of the cathedral transept and spire – destined to be admired on the Paris skyline for potentially hundreds of years.
On Tuesday, chainsaw-wielding tree surgeons in Bercé scaled the special oaks to fell them in a race against the clock. All 1,000 must be “harvested” by the end of March, otherwise harmful tree sap and moisture could enter the wood fibres.
Ken Follett gives book proceeds to French cathedral restoration fund
Author donates proceeds from book about Notre-Dame fire to project to save cathedral in Brittany
Follet is giving €148,000 (£127,000) towards a multimillion euro project to save Saint-Samson de Dol-de-Bretagne cathedral.
The sum is what he has made from his book Notre-Dame: a Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals, written after the Paris monument was ravaged by fire in April 2019, which has sold 113,000 copies worldwide.

2020

9 July
Notre Dame spire must be rebuilt exactly as it was, says chief architect
After fierce debate about 19th-century spire, consensus builds over restoration of fire-torn cathedral
Reconstruction work must begin with the delicate removal of 50,000 tubes of twisted scaffolding at back of the edifice, a task that Jean-Louis Georgelin, the retired army general in charge of the project, said last month should be completed by September, allowing rebuilding work to begin early next year.
Macron has said he wants the cathedral restored to its former glory by 2024, in time for the Paris Olympics, a timetable Georgelin said was possible “if everyone rolls up their sleeves”, but the process has been plagued by delays due to bad weather, health concerns over lead pollution and, most recently, the coronavirus crisis.

17 February
France’s Challenge in Africa
The Libyan revolution of 2011 brought lasting terrorist mayhem across a broad reach of Africa’s former French colonies. Now France needs its allies to help pacify the region — if that can be done.
By Sylvie Kauffmann, editorial director of Le Monde.
(NYT) The French, whose troops have been fighting in the Sahel for seven years, ask few questions about their involvement. They should. In this crucible where Islamist insurgency, ancient local conflicts, fragile states, European hesitations and a shifting American strategy make an explosive mix, it is a war they may well be losing — or, in the best case, a war they may never win.
Welcome to the unforgiving, thankless fight against jihadis in the Sahel, an African region south of the Sahara as large as Europe, where 4,500 French troops were deployed in January 2013 to prevent the capital of Mali, Bamako, from falling to Al Qaeda. It is now the epicenter of the world’s fastest-growing Islamist-led insurgency. Two weeks ago, the French government decided to send 600 extra troops to the Sahel. Hardly a surge, but a clear sign that “avoiding the worst” is proving more and more difficult.
Bamako was saved, but since then Islamist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso. After killing more than 4,000 people last year and displacing more than a million, these groups are now threatening four coastal West African countries south of Burkina Faso, a state that, as the International Crisis Group warned recently, may provide “a perfect launching pad” for operations in Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast.

14 February
France to limit access to Mont Blanc after ‘aberrant behaviour’ of tourists
French president Emmanuel Macron, while on a visit to the French Alps on Thursday, announced that a protected area would be declared around the mountain, which is facing the double threat of climate change and irresponsible tourism.
Recent incidents have included a British tourist abandoning a rowing machine on the famed mountain, a German tourist making the ascent with his dog against the rules, and two Swiss climbers landing a small plane just east of the summit before hiking to the top.
Macron announced the changes on a visit to Mont Blanc where he also viewed the rapidly shrinking Mont Blanc glacier.
The French Alps resorts facing a future with no snow
The Alps are particularly exposed to the ravaging effects of global warming.
According to the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA), temperatures in the mountain range have risen by nearly 2C in the past 120 years – almost double the global average – and will continue on the same upward trend.

Leave a Comment

comm comm comm