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.