POLITICS & POLICY
The French presidential race is under the spotlight. On Sunday, French voters will be called to the ballot box for the first round of the elections. According to recent polls, four candidates have a chance to reach the run-off: Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron, Francois Fillon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Meanwhile, Benoit Hamon, the candidate of the French Socialist Party (PS), is expected to arrive in fifth position, far behind the other contenders. On Wednesday, the leader of the Front National (FN) Marine Le Pen spoke to a crowd of supporters jointly with her family member and political ally, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, in Marseille. The FN leader underlined once more her anti-immigration stance, whereas Maréchal-Le Pen claimed that the FN represents the only real alternative to the left and the “fake-right” of the Republican party.
Meanwhile, over the past few days, many European intellectuals have shared their views on the French elections. Wolfgang Streeck, a leading German sociologist, has depicted the French electoral campaign as a political competition between “a puppy of the financial sector” (Macron) and a “hate preacher” (Le Pen). Interviewed by the German magazine, Die Zeit, German philosopher Jurgen Habermas argued instead that a success of Emmanuel Macron would represent a sign of political “re-composition” and the breakup of the sclerotic opposition between the left and the right. Moreover, Habermas said that the potential success of Macron would “mark a historical juncture in the history of French politics”.
As Theresa May announced that the UK will hold a snap election in early June 2017, British politics is making the headlines all over Europe. On Wednesday, the spokesman of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, confirmed that the official start of the Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK is set for the month of June 2017. The statement of the EC, made once more clear – as already underlined by Theresa May – that the forthcoming UK General election campaign will be centred again around the Brexit issue. According to some economic and political analysts May’s announcement testifies to the increased chance for an “exit from Brexit”, as the election campaign will make room for pro-European parties to share a common platform. On the other hand, recent polls showed that the Conservative party has consolidated a staggering 20% advantage over the Labour party. Nevertheless, the announcement of snap elections could dramatically shift the preferences of the electorate on the basis of the contents of the campaign.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), stated that the unforeseeable results of Brexit negotiations represent a major risk for the stability of global economy. Likewise, Nouriel Roubini, a world-renowned economist, warned about the risks of a slow but constant breakup of the EU. Writing on Project Syndicate, Roubini said that the rise of populist party across the Old Continent, as well as the risk of a split within the UK as result of the Brexit negotiations, pose enormous threats to the European integration project in the medium and long term. According to Roubini, populist parties might be able to radically influence the political and economic agenda even from the opposition.
The German Alternative für Deutschland (AFD), is under the spotlight as its leader Frauke Petry decided not to run for Chancellor in the upcoming General elections, set for September 2017. According to most of German newspapers, the move highlights a split between radical and moderate positions inside the party. In this context, Petry’s step back could indeed signal the loss of momentum for the more “institutional” wing. Meanwhile, across the Channel, Nigel Farage is making the headlines again, as the snap election scenario creates new electoral incentives for the former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Farage will decide over the next few weeks if he will stand as MP candidate in one of the seats for Westminster. On Thursday, speaking to BBC radio, Farage talked about his worries about Brexit: “It is not going the direction it should be”, he said.
“I am sceptical when it comes to understanding the European Union as a community of values, because I know that the concept of value itself entails criticalities […] Poland is based upon Christian values, which have not been referred to either in the Treaties of Rome, or in the discussions about the European Constitution […] Sometimes, in Germany, I hear that we should commit to the values of Enlightenment or of the French revolution. [But] in Poland the French revolution is linked not only to the values of freedom and equality, but also to the murdering of thousands of priests, as well as the withdrawal of religion from public life”.
Andrzej Przyłębski, Polish Ambassador to Germany
Source: Osnabrücker Zeitung, 20.04.2017
The percentage of Spanish children living in poverty.
Source: EurActiv, 19.04.2017
Photo Credits CC Jon S
Also published on Medium.