Can Macron Succeed Where Obama Failed?

Article first published on Social Europe on 24 May 2017

For the first time in years, France is being looked at with interest and admiration. The country is having its ‘Obama moment’: the feeling that no ambition is too high for a great nation, especially when it comes to carrying the torch of liberal democracy and optimism.

In fact, the parallels between Obama’s 2008 and Macron’s 2017 victories are staggering. In both cases, a charming new face of exceptional talent and self-confidence emerges against all odds to offer a radical departure from the past. Politically, Macron, like Obama, comes from the centre-left but proposes to work with moderates from both sides and to break away from ideological posturing. Economically, the new French President puts forward the vision of social mobility, innovation economics, and egalitarian liberalism once championed by Obama. Culturally, it is hard not to notice the commonality between Obama’s multicultural patriotism and Macron’s proud promotion of an evolving French identity.

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Quelques bonnes raisons de voter Macron

A J-7, quatre candidats sont dans un mouchoir de poche. Marine Le Pen et Emmanuel Macron sont encore favoris, mais la dynamique est clairement en faveur de François Fillon et Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

L’hypothèse d’un second tour avec Marine le Pen est solide compte tenu du très haut niveau de certitude de ses électeurs (85% de ceux qui disent vouloir voter pour elles en sont certains, selon le dernier sondage Ipsos publié dans le Monde le 14 avril). Le socle d’Emmanuel Macron, qui est au même niveau dans les intentions de vote, est moins solide (68%). Continue reading “Quelques bonnes raisons de voter Macron”

More To Macron Than Ideological Ambiguity

Article first published on Social Europe

When asked where he stands on the left-right axis, Emmanuel Macron gives a long answer along these lines: “I come from the left, but I don’t believe the left-right divide is the right one today. Look at how both the left and the right are divided, and how primaries have reinforced radicals from each side. Look at the number of issues on which there is a left-right consensus. I believe in another axis, which matters more today: the opposition between progressives and conservatives.”

This ambiguous positioning has earned Macron a lot of mockery. As the old joke on the French left goes, when someone claims to be neither left nor right, then he/she is right-wing. Opponents from either side of the political spectrum accuse him of being a classic liberal centrist, sharing common features with ex-president Valéry Giscard D’Estaing. The recent alliance formed with historic centrist figure François Bayrou only validates their assumption. Continue reading “More To Macron Than Ideological Ambiguity”

Comment on CETA (radio)

monocleIn October, Belgium held back the EU from signing CETA, the tentative Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada. A deal was eventually reached among Belgian regional authorities on 27 October, and the CETA was signed on 30 October. I discussed this episode twice on Monocle 24 radio.

Royaume-Uni: vers une hégémonie conservatrice?

mayNote publiée pour la Fondation Jean-Jaurès le 13 octobre 2016 suite aux conférences annuelles des partis politiques britanniques.

“Trois mois après le référendum qui a vu la victoire du Brexit et quinze jours après la réélection de Jeremy Corbyn à la tête du Labour, quelle est la situation politique au Royaume-Uni ? Renaud Thillaye analyse la mise en place du gouvernement conservateur de Theresa May, ses premières mesures et les défis qui attendent les progressistes.”

La note est accessible ici:

The French ‘maximalist’ view on Social Europe

Article first published by Clingendael in June 2016. 

Since the early days of European integration, French policy-makers and commentators have held maximalist views on Social Europe. In 1989, François Mitterrand famously said: “Europe will be social, or will not be”. The dominant picture is one of fear of foreign competition and accusations of heartless neighbours. The French like to think they are the only ones to defend the human face of European integration. Crucially, there is little recognition of and reflection on the German and Norther European lack of trust in their Southern partners. France’s approach to Social Europe can be categorised in three groups of claims and demands.
Upward harmonisation of social conditions
The first set dates back to the negotiations of the Rome Treaty, during which the French government secured a social policy chapter. They did so under the pressure of French employers’ federations who feared labour cost competition from other member states. The idea that market integration brings about unfair competition and ultimately leads to a social race to the bottom, or ‘social dumping’, is very present in the French view on Europe and globalisation despite only patchy evidence. The development of EU social standards in employment and working conditions was seen by Jacques Delors as instrumental to winning French support for further market integration. The 2005 referendum on the EU’s Constitutional treaty was lost partly on the perception that the EU was a market that left ordinary people unprotected.

Continue reading “The French ‘maximalist’ view on Social Europe”