Friday, September 8, 2017

Macron wants debt relief for Greece and warns about China's presence in Europe

Piraeus: A gateway for China's New Silk Road into Europe

French president Emmanuel Macron stressed again that Greece's debt burden needs to be reduced. By the way, earlier so-called rescue packages for Greece were in fact rescue packages for French and other European banks that had made profiting loans to Greece. Below is an article from the Swiss journal Le Temps.
Does Macron also want less influence for China in Europe, given his warnng that China (Cosco) already took posession of the main part of the Port of Piraeus (see last paragraph in the article below)? Here you can see a short video I made last year about China taking control of the Port of Piraeus: The Port of Piraeus

Pour Macron, la dette grecque doit être renégociée

7 septembre 2017

Le président français a prononcé jeudi un discours sur la démocratie européenne à Athènes. Mais en arrière-plan de sa visite, un sujet principal: la dette grecque et l’Allemagne
Priorité: ne pas «braquer» Angela Merkel et son puissant ministre des Finances, Wolfgang Schaüble. Dès ses premiers entretiens à Athènes, où il a prononcé jeudi un discours sur la démocratie et l’Europe sur la colline boisée de la Pnyx, face à l’Acropole, Emmanuel Macron a confirmé à ses interlocuteurs grecs qu’il n’avait pas changé de position.
Comme conseiller à l’Elysée à partir de juin 2012, puis comme ministre, le chef de l’Etat français a toujours plaidé pour une restructuration (le fameux «haircut») de la dette publique grecque, qui se maintient depuis 2011 à plus de 170% du produit intérieur brut, aux alentours de 350 milliards d’euros. Son point de vue, selon son entourage, reste inchangé: «C’est la position de la France. Elle est connue. Il faudra mettre le sujet sur la table et l’aborder avant l’été 2018, qui marquera la fin du troisième plan d’aide européen», confirme-t-on à l’Elysée.
Sur la dette grecque, Paris estime que le moment est mûr pour bouger. «On a de plus en plus confiance sur la reprise de l’économie grecque et sur la capacité du pays à passer à quelque chose de nouveau. Nous n’avons pas de raisons de penser que le plan grec va déraper dans cette dernière ligne droite. Il est de l’intérêt collectif que les autorités helléniques puissent passer à une nouvelle phase», souligne-t-on à l’Elysée. Le troisième plan d’aide grec, approuvé en mai 2016, porte sur un montant total de prêts de 10,3 milliards d’euros, dont le versement a été achevé en juillet par le Mécanisme européen de stabilité basé à Luxembourg.

Se protéger des racheteurs extra-européens

La question qui pose problème aujourd’hui, pour aborder la réduction de la dette, est selon la France celle des «investissements stratégiques», un terme qui désigne le processus de privatisation et la revente d’actifs publics à des entreprises contrôlées par des puissances extérieures à l’UE telles que la Chine. «Il nous faut maintenant d’urgence construire des consortiums européens pour éviter que l’on ne se retrouve devant une autre cession problématique, comme celle d’une partie du port du Pirée (rachetée en janvier 2016 par le géant Cosco) aux Chinois», plaide-t-on du côté français. (...)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Four Lessons For Europe From Italy’s Experience With Populism

Four Lessons For Europe From Italy’s Experience With Populism

Giuliano Bobba
Giuliano Bobba
Over the past two decades, Italy has been one of the strongest and most enduring markets for populist parties in Western Europe. While in other European countries the rise or the emergence of populism is a recent development or has occurred only occasionally, it is a persistent feature of Italian politics. In the sixteen years since 2001, Italy has had populist governments for roughly half of this period (eight and a half years) if one counts the three governments led by Silvio Berlusconi that were in power from 2001 until 2005, 2005 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011. Furthermore, in the last Italian general election in 2013, populist parties (People of Freedom/Forza Italia, Lega Nord, and the Five Star Movement) gained over 50% of the vote.
Interestingly, if one looks closely enough, they can identify some common patterns characterising the emergence of populist parties in Italy. In the early 1990s, the rise of Forza Italia (FI) and the Lega Nord (LN – Northern League) was closely tied to political and economic crises. In a similar fashion, since 2008 a new period of economic and political crisis has coincided with the ascent of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. Italy thus offers a useful case study for assessing the consequences that are implied by a continuous and strong populist presence in national politics. If we look across these years as a whole, the Italian experience highlights four particular threats to democracy that can emerge from this populist presence.
First, there have been implications for the checks and balances that exist within the Italian political system. Populist parties have repeatedly attacked the work of judges, notably in the case of Silvio Berlusconi. They have also had a sizeable impact on the role of the media in Italian politics. This is true both of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the Five Star Movement, who have both posed a threat to the freedom and autonomy of media organisations.
Second, there has been a general oversimplification of political discourse in Italy. The debate about the cost of politics is a good example. Initially introduced by the Northern League and Forza Italia in the 1990s, complaints over the cost of politics have also become one of the most successful topics for Beppe Grillo to mobilise support around. Yet despite the presence of this debate for two decades in Italian politics, the political attention it has received has failed to produce significant savings (as shown, for instance, by several expensive and incomplete attempts to abolish provincial councils). There is cross-party consensus among the main political parties on the need to reduce the number of MPs. This implies a certain reduction of political representation, while the reduction in terms of the cost of politics is rather uncertain.
Third, Italy has experienced the spread of populist themes and frames even among non-populist parties. In the last few years, the success of populist campaigning among citizens has pushed even mainstream parties to react using populist rhetoric, styles and sometimes also populist content of their own. An example would be a much-shared Facebook post produced by Matteo Renzi on migration, which stated that ‘we need to free ourselves from a sense of guilt. We do not have the moral duty to welcome into Italy people who are worse off than ourselves’.
Finally, Italian populism illustrates the so called ‘cultivation theory’. To paraphrase George Gerbner and his colleagues, instead of ‘growing up with television’ we might address the issue of ‘growing up with populism’. Italy is now characterised by general discontent among citizens and strong political disaffection. The country is not an exception in this respect among Southern European countries and, obviously, the blame for this situation cannot be attributed solely to populist parties. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that, at least in part, the success of populist parties is achieved through the de-legitimisation of politics, institutions, and the ruling class, and that it produces a vicious circle fuelling citizens’ distrust and dissatisfaction.
Although populist parties can pose threats of this nature to democracy, usually their leaders are also political entrepreneurs that build off several problems not adequately addressed by mainstream parties. Their successes, indeed, rely on the ineffectiveness of governments to take seriously the problems identified by populist parties, such as political corruption, inefficient use of public money, the integration of migrants, and the demands of those who are excluded from the benefits of the globalisation process. Finding viable solutions to these issues is the obligatory path for Italian politics to follow if it is to reduce the growing gap that separates it from Italian citizens.
First published by LSE Europp blog
About Giuliano Bobba

Sunday, September 3, 2017

How Fares Emmanuel Macron?

Below you can read two articles about French president Emmanuel Macron:

France: Macron unveils assault on workers’ rights

Trade unions protested in Paris on August 31 as President Emmanuel Macron unveiled his new attacks on workers’ rights, the Morning Star said the next day. Macron’s proposed labour “reforms” would make it easier for bosses to hire and fire workers.
Macron wants parliament to vote on the new legislation — the third attack on workers’ rights in the past few years — without a chance to amend it.
The country’s labour code is seen by the neoliberal president as the major cause of joblessness in France. However, other large European countries such as Italy and Spain, with fewer protections for workers, have higher rates of unemployment.
The protest against the reforms was called by union federations CGT and Solidaires, Right to Housing and Attac France in the Parisian suburb of Jouy-en-Josas.
“Mr Macron represents the big bosses, and those who want to cut public services, social protection and everything achieved by workers,” one protester said.
The unions have called for mass demonstrations against the new law on September 12, but two of France’s biggest unions, the Force Ouvriere and CFDT, have said they will not take part. Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of left-wing party France Unbowed, has called a further protest on September 23.
Published in

EXCLUSIF - La popularité de Macron dégringole encore en septembre

Dans notre baromètre mensuel YouGov, le couple exécutif voit son image se dégrader une nouvelle fois à la rentrée après un été compliqué.

04/09/2017 05:00 CEST | Actualisé il y a 1 heure

Charles Platiau / Reuters
Après un été difficile, la cote de popularité du président Macron chute encore de 6 points dans notre baromètre YouGov.
POPULARITÉ - Le mois d'août fut morose, la rentrée n'est guère plus réjouissante. La cote de popularité du couple exécutif poursuit sa chute vertigineuse. Selon notre baromètre mensuel réalisé par YouGov pour Le HuffPost et CNews, Emmanuel Macron voit son image se dégrader pour le deuxième mois consécutif dans l'opinion. Sa cote de confiance perd 6 points en septembre pour atteindre 30% d'opinions favorables après en avoir perdu 7 au mois d'août.
Un désamour qui justifie amplement le changement de stratégie de communication de l'Elysée. Mais celui-ci n'a pour l'heure pas eu le temps d'infuser dans l'opinion. Il faudra attendre le mois d'octobre pour déterminer si l'hémorragie a été enrayée.
En plein débat sur la réforme du code du travail, c'est du côté des électeurs socialistes (-8 points) et d'extrême gauche (-7 points) que la baisse est la plus notable. Mais le coeur de cible électoral du président n'échappe pas à la décrue: le chef de l'Etat perd encore 6 points chez les électeurs du centre. A l'inverse, Emmanuel Macron regagne 6 points chez les sympathisants Les Républicains (à 45% d'opinions favorables), preuve que les réformes libérales et les coupes budgétaires ordonnées par l'exécutif ne déplaisent pas à tout le monde. ... (to read further, click the title of the article)