Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Social Europe?

Emmanuel Macron has got his way on the posted workers issue. The victory will have little impact in economic terms, but its symbolic importance outweighs its economic significance. It is an achievement to which the president will point as evidence that his mixed cooperative/combative approach to the EU and above all his close relationship with Angela Merkel is yielding concrete benefits. He can present himself as the defender of French workers against any "invasion" by the famous Polish plumber and his many comrades in the construction industry. With this victory in hand he can move on to his next target, the unfair competition waged by East European trucking firms that send their truckers westward to do local hauling.

All this is in keeping with Macron's larger strategy, which is to maintain a constant sense of forward motion by winning small victories on matters of great importance to specific constituencies. Given the unlikelihood of progress toward major institutional reform of the EU after the advent of a Jamaica coalition in Germany, this is smart politics. The EU will help give a "social" dimension to Macron's reforms, which will (he hopes) mitigate the impression that Mélenchon is trying to create that he is the "president of the rich." Mélenchon, despite having voted for Maastricht in 1992, is coming on increasingly as anti-EU, in part because he hopes to profit from the post-election disarray of the FN. The next elections in France are EU elections, and JLM stands to do well if he can mop up disaffected FN voters. Each EU victory for Macron is another obstacle to the strategy of France Insoumise.

6 comments:

Geoffy4T said...

Macron's dilemma reminds me of the "Bongo Boards" we had as kids. For those who miss the reference, it was a board, much like the top board of a skateboard, resting on a rolling pin. The challenge was simply to stay upright. Shift too much to one side and you had to lurch the other way to avoid falling.

Meanwhile, as I have said for a while to his detractors, Melanchon remains The Last Man Standing [in opposition] and that is more than enough for now. And for those who dismiss his sometimes clownish behavior, well, if current events [in America] teach us anything, it's that buffoonery is not a disqualifier for higher office.

Meantime, Macron [alone among EU leaders, it seems] must stay on his bongo board.

Anonymous said...

Well, Geoffy4T, Macron is a master of balance, so one can only watch and admire. And hope that he is truly a virtuoso of the Bongobord, your sallies aside, he moves forward.

bert said...

There are signs here of what may be coming our way in the new EU.
Both measures Art mentions are directed against competition coming from the territories of Europe's most recent enlargements. That's significant. The migrant crisis was about external borders. Only in Britain did the populists focus on internal EU matters.

This week we got new populist leadership in the Czech republic, to join Poland, Hungary, Slovakia. There was similar news from Austria, which has been moving right for a while and shows no sign of stopping.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a silly film in many ways, but those with a sentimental attachment to the EU (its flag, its anthem, its misty vision of togetherness) might get something from the nostalgic story it tells. It's about a fusty old order whose accumulated compromises govern a multinational mix of people. A new outlook on the world supplants it. And all of a sudden people are strutting around in shiny boots.

Everyone knows that France didn't like enlargement. Chirac threatened to veto it at Nice back in the day. Now there are grand French plans for a new core, built around the eurozone. The new eastern populists regard this warily. These latest French measures, and the French politics to which they appeal, will encourage that suspicion. Not unreasonably.

Tim said...

There will be many more ways post Brexit for Macron to make the EU more protectionist. As I have already mentioned Air France is believed to be hard at work at making the air travel market between France and the UK much more restrictive post Brexit and strictly enforcing EU airline ownership rules thereby forcing budget carriers to force out their British shareholders(which are a large portion of their shareholder bases compared to Lufthansa and AF).

bert said...

I probably shouldn't have lumped Slovakia in.
If you generalise, you simplify.

The current Slovak government has been sending clear pro-EU, pro-'core' signals over the last six months or so, in contrast to its previous euroscepticism.

Interestingly, the winner of the Czech elections is actually a Slovak. This may be the main reason for his reduced reliance on nationalist tropes, compared to what we've endured from Poland and Hungary.

Anonymous said...

More content, Art! Your readers demand it! Write something!