Both Chirac and Sarkozy had five minutes to leave power, while François Hollande could even have five months to do so. In fact, at the time, eight Frenchmen out of ten approved his decision not to run for another term. As you may recall, part of President Hollande’s establishment did not accept automatically to lend a hand to Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister who wanted to join the “two Lefts”, the one resulting from Hamon’s proposals for the primary election – a so-called gauche de la tradition – and the one which was being shaped around Macron, with whom Valls had nothing in common at political level.
Macron put together the moderate Left – the one of the old “American challenge” of Servan-Schreiber’s radicals – with the less archaic part of Socialism. At the beginning of presidential election, nobody knows how many people will vote and, in particular, nobody knows the voting criteria yet.
Nevertheless, for Emmanuel Macron – who was finally supported by centrists, former non-voters and moderate leftists – politics is fully a marketing technique. We must always realize who does things; actions must be seen immediately. Finally we must perceive that a small advantage is directly linked to the leader’s choice.
A product, not a program, is sold – and this is an eternal rule. The founder of En Marche has focused his advertisement campaign on six factors pertaining to his personality and only on three really referring to his political program.
He is totally different from the political leaders who preceded him. He wants to reduce the number of Parliamentarians by a third. He knows very well what needs to be done to redress the French economy because he is a technocrat who owes nothing to anyone. He can recognize good ideas regardless of the camp from which they come. He wants to make employment the engine of his country. He never attacks the other candidates and he always tells the truth. He has founded a brand-new movement of 240,000 members and finally France cannot afford to risk a future economic and social disaster.
This is the paradigm of Macron’s political communication.
A well-organized mix of messages such as “a technocrat to power”, “a leader setting great store by employment and the national economy”, the saviour of the country. In particular, he shows he is completely different from all his predecessors.
If we analyse the electoral promises he made during the last French Presidential election, the real question we should ask is the following: can France still afford electoral political bargaining?
Are there financial and productive margins to implement even a small part of the programs launched by all candidates in 2017?
Since 2002 France has been experiencing full economic decline. Since 1980 it has had no steel industry (and certainly France is very interested in the outcome of the judicial and political disaster affecting ILVA steel plants in Taranto) nor sectors such as mechanical precision devices, boilers and thermodynamic grids, shipbuilding, agricultural machinery, household appliances, textiles and ready-to-wear clothing.
Since 2002 France has lost 865,000 jobs in the manufacturing industry, a quarter of all employees in a sector accounting for over 12% of the total jobs available.
In 1980 the jobs in the industrial sector were 5.1 million; in late 2012 they dropped to 3 million and currently there are only 2.9 million jobs still available.
The value currently produced by companies in France is 8%, the lowest rate in the European Union.
Deindustrialization, but above all lack of productive specialization of the French value chains.
Export is another sore point because France produces and sells mainly “low-end” products, which now have to face the direct competition of Chinese or, anyway, Asian items.
34,500 robots have been installed in France since late 2011 – a quarter of those operating in Germany and two times less than those already operating in Italy and Spain.
Nevertheless, Macron’s project – which, indeed, cannot much change this economic state of affairs in France – has two other political and strategic factors: Italy’s strategic marginalization and its economic downturn and market shrinkage resulting from its political crisis.
In 2011 Sarkozy started this beggar-thy-neighbour policy against Italy – at least politically and militarily – finally designed to weaken Italian small and medium-sized enterprises and privatize most of the oil industry and of what was left of the manufacturing industry.
The operation made in Libya by the French neo-Gaullist leader was the seal on Italy’s strategic and, hence, geo-economic autonomy – and it is worth noting that Italy’s miserable “Second Republic” counts for not even one tenth of the First Republic.
Hence France will “steal” the Italian sector of high-end and luxury products, which is not as skilful as Italy in manufacturing.
Despite how this may appear, Sarkozy’s choice of eliminating Gaddafi was not an irrational choice.
Apart from the recovery in election polls for the new Franco-Hungarian Napoleon, as well as the fear of having to pay the loans due by him to the Libyan Rais and the ongoing hypothesis of a Libyan Gold Dinar that was to wipe the CFA franc out, the neo-Gaullist President knew the Colonel wanted to leave power quickly.
Six months at most – with a guaranteed role as “Father of the Nation”, as well as new democratic elections that would make his smart son, Saif al-Islam, rise to power.
Nevertheless Sarkozy’s “private” and personal oil in Benghazi (where the jihadists’ “democratic revolt” began, since Cyrenaica was the region with the largest share of Afghan Mujahedin in the total Islamic population) and the loans owed to the Rais that it was better not to repay, as well as a strange assassination, were all factors that made Sarkozy think he could make it easily.
Hence Macron knows that – as the members of the Organisation de l’Armée Sécrète (OAS) used to say – France’s geopolitical role can be built only in Africa.
If this is true, thanks to the structural destabilization of Libya, the strategic project will be to integrate the whole system between Tripoli and Benghazi into the new Françafrique, from which Italy – and maybe even Great Britain – will be excluded.
Where, in Africa or elsewhere, has Italy its key strategic point? Has no one really thought about it?
Certainly, in Egypt, we have been fooled and replaced exactly by France – after the badly managed Regeni’s affair; we are virtually irrelevant in Morocco, despite the internal political tensions (King Mohammed VI would need Italy’s help rather than a heavy French favour); we take very limited action in Algeria and we have no say in the matter in the Horn of Africa.
If, indeed, there is no European geopolitics without an African policy (except for Germany, which is obviously focused on the Slavs), Italy has none.
Apart from the latest French economic and business acquisitions in Italy, which are still being developed and finalised, currently France controls 185 Italian companies which are worth 50 billion Euro, while Italy owns or controls 97 French companies totalling 7.5 billion Euro.
7% of the Milan Stock Exchange capitalization is in the hands of French companies, while Italy controls a mere 0.9% of the Paris Stock Exchange.
Why? One of the reasons is certainly the extreme fragmentation of the Italian production system, as well as Italian politicians’ scarce perception of the phenomena that appear to be “market” ones, but are not at all so.
Nothing is more pleasing than looking at politicians – staunch supporters of public ownership, if not para-Soviet advocates of State-controlled centralism – who believe that any business transaction between companies has no political and strategic relevance.
“It is the market …”. Not at all. It is the political and strategic wisdom, which we do not see in action today.
Both in the case of SXT-Fincantieri and in the other economic negotiations between France and Italy, a serious Italian government would have reacted vigorously and with harsh countermeasures – by also perceiving the inevitable geopolitical aspects and responding credibly, in Africa as elsewhere.
Another key factor of Macron’s new foreign policy and his specific relationship with Italy – currently regarded by France as a punching ball – is migration.
Macron stated he would not accept any “economic migrant” coming from the border with Italy, while the State Police authorities are informing us that many migrants already living in France and without documents are forced to cross the Ventimiglia border and get on Italian trains.
When there is massive migration, both as a result of wars (a few, in today’s Africa) and of consumerist induced psychosis (in many cases), as well as of the youth bulge – as happened throughout Africa precisely thanks to a semblance of economic development – every country chooses the best migrants for itself.
The large German companies go to the Turkish refugee camps to hoard Syrian physicians, engineers and technicians.
Italy, mired in an old-style and old-fashioned ideology, is still working on the wrong assumption that we can welcome everybody.
This means that the cost of useless, sick, unfit-to-work and socially dangerous immigrants will be borne by the countries that have also lost this globalization game – and it will be a heavy drain on the deficit/GDP ratio.
Conversely, the cost of skilful, active, dynamic and well-trained immigrants will improve the overall productivity of countries that – unlike Italy – have won the globalization fight.
As is the case with Germany, Macron will choose the best immigrants.
Furthermore, considering that mass immigration is an indirect strategy technique, the fact of filling a competing country, albeit a EU Member State, with “half-devils and half-children” – as Kipling said – means blocking it with unproductive spending and draining its share for investment in businesses and new technologies, as well as barbarizing and Africanizing it.
Therefore Emmanuel Macron, who is already a skilful international banker, is the point of arrival for a reconstruction of France arising from a well-defined intellectual background.
It is the background of Jacques Attali, a banker of Mitterand origin, who is at the forefront of a project that has much to do with the recent American CEO capitalism: to make everything that traditionally has no real economic value productive and economically useful.
When the production of industrial or material value decreases – and for many years – it must be offset by the creation of symbolic and communicative value.
In fact, the American CEO capitalism appears to be the universe of free “content” on the Web, but – as the professionals of the sector say – “when you have nothing to buy, it means that you are the one whom has already been bought”.
Advertising, personal data, business preferences, profiling – even at political level – networking and relations – everything is sold by naïve users without them even realizing it and – keep in mind – without them having anything to gain.
This is a lot of money, as is demonstrated by the magnificent budgets of many seemingly “service” companies such as Facebook.
Hence Attali’s idea points to selling the genetic heritage, even life, so as to turn all that today is not included in the old capitalist paradigm into economy.
Therefore, reverting to Macron’s new Françafrique project, France will soon expand its traditional area of influence in Central Africa northwards and later to Fezzan, Chad and Niger up to Libya.
The project is to reunite the new French Africa with Egypt.
The above-described actions will be supported by a new political-military union with Germany, with which it will even be possible to plan together at least part of their respective Armed Forces.
That is the reason why General De Villiers left.
Hence France commanding from the North up to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, in a region which could provide France with many advanced raw materials and a huge mass of workforce to be used locally, as well as an immense power of negotiating and interfering in global affairs.
In Macron’s opinion, the agreement between Khalifa Haftar – the leader of the Libyan “Operation Dignity” and strong man of the local regime, not only of Cyrenaica – and al-Sarraj is the strategic link for doing two things: avoiding, as long as possible, Libya’s partition and fragmentation – which, indeed, France does not fear – and also getting Italy and any other Western player out of the way.
Trump wanted to take quick action in Libya and found the French President willing to support him.
Italy should have done it, but there was no way.
Minister Minniti, a serious and brilliant intelligence expert, reached agreements with the sixty primary tribes out of the over one hundred tribes present there – and indirectly with the various internal armed gangs. ENI and our intelligence Services did a good job, but when there is no strategic mastermind, they remain mere disconnected sensory organs.
It is worth repeating that the agreement between the two Libyan governments, one existing and the other merely surviving thanks to the good will of a “useless entity” – as Francesco Cossiga dismissed the United Nations – is targeted against Italy which, except for Minister Minniti’s abilities, has not shown any idea or reaction in this respect.
Probably – as already appears – also the agreement brokered by Emmanuel Macron will last l’espace d’un matin since Libya cannot be led and run as a condo board meeting and we shall soon choose a strong and credible leader – as SISMI did, in a hotel of Abano Terme, by selecting Sirte’s young Colonel, Muammar al-Gaddafi.
Furthermore an agreement needs to be reached between the Berbers and the Tuareg, who can blow up any deal and have the possibility of managing very strong alliances with the other tribes.
Hence the game is open and we could even get back in it, but no rational solutions are perceived in Italy.
From Davos to Munich
An overview of the views and attitudes of European officials during the Davos and Munich Conference and their comparison with each other suggests that the security, economic, and political concerns of European countries have not only not diminished but are increasing.
During the World Economic Summit in Davos, the Chancellor of Germany and the President of France both gave a significant warning about the return of nationalism and populism to Europe. This warning has been sent in a time when Far-Right movements in Europe have been able to gain unbelievable power and even seek to conquer a majority of parliaments and form governments.
In her speech, Angela Merkel emphasized that the twentieth century’s mistake shouldn’t be repeated. By this, the German Chancellor meant the tendency of European countries to nationalism. Although the German Chancellor warning was serious and necessary, the warning seems to be a little late. Perhaps it would have been better if the warning was forwarded after the European Parliamentary elections in 2014, and subsequently, more practical and deterrent measures were designed. However, Merkel and other European leaders ignored the representation of over a hundred right-wing extremist in the European Parliament in 2014 and merely saw it as a kind of social excitement.
This social excitement has now become a “political demand” in the West. The dissatisfaction of European citizens with their governments has caused them to explicitly demand the return to the twentieth century and the time before the formation of the United Europe. The recent victories of right wing extremists in Austria, Germany and…, isn’t merely the result of the nationalist movement success in introducing its principles and manifestos. But it is also a result of the failure of the “European moderation” policy to resolve social, security and economic problems in the Eurozone and the European Union. In such a situation, European citizens find that the solutions offered by the moderate left parties didn’t work in removing the existing crises in Europe. Obviously, in this situation “crossing the traditional parties” would become a general demand in the West. Under such circumstances, Merkel’s and other European leaders’ warnings about the return to the twentieth century and the time before the formation of the United Europe simply means the inability of the Eurozone authorities in preventing the Right-extremism in the West.
These concerns remain at the Munich Security Conference. As Reuters reported, The defense ministers of Germany and France pledged to redouble their military and foreign policy cooperation efforts on Friday, inviting other European countries to participate if they felt ready to do so.
In a speech to the Munich Security Conference, German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said Europe’s countries would not be able to respond nimbly enough to global challenges if they were stymied by the need to decide joint foreign policy approaches unanimously.
“Europe has to up its pace in the face of global challenges from terrorism, poverty and climate change,” she said. “Those who want to must be able to advance without being blocked by individual countries.”
Her French counterpart Florence Parly said any such deepened cooperation would be complementary to the NATO alliance, which itself was based on the principle that members contributed differently depending on their capacities.
“The reality has always been that some countries are by choice more integrated and more able to act than others,” she said.
The push comes as Germany’s political class reluctantly concedes it must play a larger security role to match its economic pre-eminence in Europe, amid concerns that the European Union is unable to respond effectively to security concerns beyond its eastern and southern borders.
But in their deal for another four years of a “grand coalition” government, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats have agreed to boost spending on the armed forces after years of post-Cold War decline.
The deal, which must still be ratified by the Social Democrat membership, comes as Germany reluctantly takes on the role of the continent’s pre-eminent political power-broker, a role generations of post-war politicians have shied away from.
Days after U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis reiterated President Donald Trump’s demand that European countries spend more on their militaries, Von der Leyen pledged to spend more on its military and the United Nations, but called in return for other countries not to turn away from mulitlateralism.
The pledges come as the EU seeks a new basis on which to cooperate with Britain, traditionally one of the continent’s leading security players, after its vote to leave the EU.
Earlier on Friday, the leaders of the three countries’ security services said close security cooperation in areas like terrorism, illegal migration, proliferation and cyber attacks, must continue after Britain’s departure.
“Cooperation between European intelligence agencies combined with the values of liberal democracy is indispensable, especially against a background of diverse foreign and security challenges,” they said.
First published in our partner Tehran Times
Election Monitoring in 2018: What Not to Expect
This year’s election calendar released by OSCE showcases a broad display of future presidential, parliamentary and general elections with hefty political subjecthoods which have the potential of transforming in their entirety particularly the European Union, the African Union and the Latin American sub-continent. A wide sample of these countries welcoming elections are currently facing a breadth of challenges in terms of the level of transparency in their election processes. To this end, election observation campaigns conducted by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Council of Europe, the Organisation for American States (OAS), the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division, the National Democratic Institute, Carter Center and even youth organisations such as AEGEE and Silba are of paramount importance in safeguarding the incorruptibility of election proceedings in fraudulent and what cannot be seen with the naked eye type of fraudulent political systems, making sure elections unfold abiding national legislation and international standards.
What exactly does an election observation mission supposed to accomplish?
An election monitoring mission consists of operational experts and analysts who are all part of a core team and are conducting their assignments for a period of time varying between 8 and 12 weeks. Aside from the core team experts and analysts, there can be short-term or long-term observers and seconded observers or funded observers. Joining them, there is usually a massive local support staff acting as interpreters and intermediaries. Generally, an election observer does not interfere with the process, but merely takes informative notes. With this in mind, it is imperative of the observer to make sure there isn’t any meddling with votes at polling stations by parties and individual candidates; that the people facilitating the election process are picked according to fair and rigorous benchmarks; that these same people can be held accountable for the final results and that, at the end of the day, the election system put in place by the national and local authorities is solid from both a physical and logical standpoint. Oftentimes, particularly in emerging democracies, the election monitoring process goes beyond the actual process of voting by extending to campaign monitoring.
In practical terms, the average election observer needs to abide by certain guidelines for a smooth and standardised monitoring process. Of course, these rules can vary slightly, depending on the sending institution. Typically, once the election observer has landed in the country awaiting elections, their first two days are normally filled with seminars on the electoral system of the country and on the electoral law. Meetings with candidates from the opposition are sometimes organised by the electoral commission. Talking to ordinary voters from builders to cleaners, from artists to businesspeople is another way through which an election observer can get a sense of what social classes pledged their allegiances to what candidates. After two days in training and the one day testing political preferences on the ground, election day begins. Since the early bird gets the worm, polling stations open at least two hours earlier than the work day starts, at around 7am. Throughout the day, observers ask voters whether they feel they need to complain about anything and whether they were asked to identify themselves when voting. Other details such as the polling stations opening on time are very much within the scope of investigation for election monitors. Observers visit both urban voting centres and rural ones. In the afternoon, counting begins with observers carefully watching the volunteers from at least 3 metres away. At the end of the day, observers go back to their hotels and begin filling in their initial questionnaires with their immediate reactions on the whole voting process. In a few weeks time, a detailed report would be issued in cooperation with all the other election observers deployed in various regions of the country and under the supervision of the mission coordinators.
Why are these upcoming elections particularly challenging to monitor?
Talks of potential Russian interference into the U.S. elections have led to full-on FBI investigations. Moreover, the idea of Russian interference in the Brexit vote is slowly creeping into the British political discourse. Therefore, it does not take a quantum physicist to see a pattern here. Hacking the voting mechanism is yet another not-so-classic conundrum election observers are facing. We’re in the midst of election hacking at the cognitive level in the form of influence operations, doxing and propaganda. But, even more disturbingly, we’re helpless witnesses to interference at the technical level as well. Removing opposition’s website from the Internet through DDOS attacks to downright political web-hacking in Ukraine’s Central Election Commission to show as winner a far-right candidate are only some of the ways which present an unprecedented political savviness and sophistication directed at the tampering of the election machinery. Even in a country such as the U.S. (or Sweden – their elections being held September of this year) where there is a great deal of control over the physical vote, there is not much election monitoring can do to enhance the transparency of it all when interference occurs by way of the cyber domain affecting palpable election-related infrastructure.
Sketching ideational terrains seems like a fruitful exercise in imagining worst-case scenarios which call for the design of a comprehensive pre-emptive approach for election fraud. But how do you prevent election fraud? Sometimes, the election observer needs to come to terms with the fact that they are merely a reporter, a pawn which notwithstanding the action of finding oneself in the middle of it all, can generally use only its hindsight perspective. Sometimes, that perspective is good enough when employed to draft comprehensive electoral reports, making a difference between the blurry lines of legitimate and illegitimate political and electoral systems.
Can Europe successfully rein in Big Tobacco?
In what looks set to become the ‘dieselgate’ of the tobacco industry, a French anti-smoking organization has filed a lawsuit against four major tobacco brands for knowingly selling cigarettes with tar and nicotine levels that were between 2 and 10 times higher than what was indicated on the packs. Because the firms had manipulated the testing process, smokers who thought they were smoking a pack a day were in fact lighting up the equivalent of up to 10, significantly raising their risk for lung cancer and other diseases.
According to the National Committee Against Smoking (CNCT), cigarettes sold by the four companies have small holes in the filter that ventilate smoke inhaled under test conditions. But when smoked by a person, the holes compress due to pressure from the lips and fingers, causing the smoker to inhale higher levels of tar and nicotine. According to the lawsuit, the irregularity “tricks smokers because they are unaware of the degree of risk they are taking.”
It was only the most recent example of what appears to be a deeply entrenched propensity for malfeasance in the tobacco industry. And unfortunately, regulatory authorities across Europe still appear unprepared to just say no to big tobacco.
Earlier this month, for instance, Public Health England published a report which shines a positive light on “tobacco heating products” and indicates that electronic cigarettes pose minimal health risks. Unsurprisingly, the UK report has been welcomed by big tobacco, with British American Tobacco praising the clear-sightedness of Public Health England.
Meanwhile, on an EU-wide level, lawmakers are cooperating too closely for comfort with tobacco industry executives in their efforts to craft new cigarette tracking rules for the bloc.
The new rules are part of a campaign to clamp down on tobacco smuggling, a problem that is particularly insidious in Europe and is often attributed to the tobacco industry’s own efforts to stiff the taxman. According to the WHO, the illicit cigarette market makes up between 6-10% of the total market, and Europe ranks first worldwide in terms of the number of seized cigarettes. According to studies, tobacco smuggling is also estimated to cost national and EU budgets more than €10 billion each year in lost public revenue and is a significant source of cash for organized crime. Not surprisingly, cheap availability of illegally traded cigarettes is also a major cause of persistently high smoking rates in the bloc.
To help curtail cigarette smuggling and set best practices in the fight against the tobacco epidemic, the WHO established the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005. The first protocol to the FCTC, the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, was adopted in 2012 and later ratified by the EU. Among other criteria, the Protocol requires all cigarette packs to be marked with unique identifiers to ensure they can be tracked and traced, thereby making smuggling more difficult.
Unsurprisingly, the tobacco industry has come up with its own candidates to meet track and trace requirements, notably Codentify, a system developed by PMI. From 2005 through 2016, PMI used Codentify as part of an anti-smuggling agreement with the EU. But the agreement was subject to withering criticism from the WHO and other stakeholders for going against the Protocol, which requires the EU and other parties to exclude the tobacco industry from participating in anti-smuggling efforts.
The EU-PMI agreement expired in 2016 and any hopes of reviving it collapsed after the European Parliament, at loggerheads with the Commission, overwhelmingly voted against a new deal and decided to ratify the WHO’s Protocol instead. Codentify has since been sold to the French firm Impala and was rebranded as Inexto – which critics say is nothing but a front company for PMI since its leadership is made out of former PMI executives. Nonetheless, due to lack of stringency in the EU’s draft track and trace proposal, there is still a chance that Inexto may play a role in any new track and trace system, sidelining efforts to set up a system that is completely independent of the tobacco industry.
This could end up by seriously derailing the EU’s efforts to curb tobacco smuggling, given the industry’s history of active involvement in covertly propping up the black market for cigarettes. In 2004, PMI paid $1.25 billion to the EU to settle claims that it was complicit in tobacco smuggling. As part of the settlement, PMI agreed to issue an annual report about tobacco smuggling in the EU, a report that independent researchers found “served the interests of PMI over those of the EU and its member states.”
Given the industry’s sordid history of efforts to prop up the illicit tobacco trade, it’s little surprise that critics are still dissatisfied with the current version of the EU’s track and trace proposal.
Now, the CNCT’s lawsuit against four major tobacco firms gives all the more reason to take a harder line against the industry. After all, if big tobacco can’t even be honest with authorities about the real levels of chemicals in their own products, what makes lawmakers think that they can play a viable role in any effort to quell the illegal cigarette trade – one that directly benefits the industry?
Later this month, the European Parliament will have a new chance to show they’re ready to get tough on tobacco, when they vote on the pending proposal for an EU-wide track and trace system. French MEP Younous Omarjee has already filed a motion against the system due to its incompatibility with the letter of the WHO. Perhaps a ‘dieselgate’ for the tobacco industry might be just the catalyst they need to finally say no to PMI and its co-conspirators.
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