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The France Alarming

Veni Mouzakiari

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The recent regional elections in France proved that have been evolved in the context of emerging and immediately ending the Front National alarm. While the Front National (FN) won six of thirteen regions in the first round of the elections, in the second one it managed to lose them all. Les Republicains achieved to win the election in the second run, prevailing finally in seven regions.

The French people went to the polls almost a month after the dramatic blow of the ISIS in the center of Parisian life. Before life overtake the horror, the French had to express their political position at that time. For many analysts, there, in the above sentence, exists the meaning of the increased rates of the FN. The ten percentage increase in political participation in the second round, especially there that FN marked the highest points, and the fact that many socialist citizens supported candidates from the right spectrum, indicate the awakening as an attempt to counter the extreme right.

However, an important conclusion must not be missed, namely that FN, now, is supported by more citizens than the previous five years. This suggests that in the social context of France, the ideas of anti-immigration and anti – Islamism are seeking and perhaps found a political exponent. This means that these ideas have established to a large extend in France.

Nicolas Sarkozy is at the head of the center-right in France because two years ago the position that the embankment strategy was necessary for (then) UMP at the expense of far-right rhetoric of Marine Le Pen, was prevailed in UMP. The criticism against this position was important, even from members and politicians of the same party. This criticism was associated with the very low popularity ratings of Sarkozy, which accompanied his return in 2014.

The inclination of society to extreme political positions, especially to them of the right part of the political axis, is driven in difficult economic circumstances, which are likely to irritate the nationalist feelings of society. At that moment, xenophobia is gaining ground.

In the minds of French society, Nicolas Sarkozy is part of the economic status quo, which reinforced the austerity policies across Europe. Additionally the political presence of Nicolas Sarkozy is accompanied by rumors about financial scandals, which rumors incite feelings of political depreciation.

Is Nicolas Sarkozi able to confront Marine Le Pen by himself, encouraging a really hard right agenda?

In this context it is easy to interpret the attitude of many candidates, that were supported from Les Republicains, in regional elections, who, particularly in the second round, prevented the involvement and presence of Nicolas Sarkozy and other main representatives of the central policy from their campaigns.

Regional elections can only offer limited political conclusions. However, these elections were a crash test for Les Republicains and the Socialists. The Socialists have understood their weakness. They left two central regions, so their supporters to vote centre right candidates and the region not to be won by the far right. A fine convergence attitude that may lead to political benefits for Holland in the future.

From the other side, the thought of Sarkozy that the French people pursued a hard right policy, but at the same time they afraid of the exercise of this policy by Marine Le Pen, involves risk. It is uncertain whether the victory of Sarkozy in these regional elections is succeeded because of getting votes from Le Pen. Perhaps, this victory is because of socialists did not supported their party, but they indeed supported Sarkozi, just to prevent Le Pen, from winning. Unstable voting?

In other words, the victory may have been a rescue operation of an unfortunate strategy of Sarkozy, which rescue would not have achieved, unless Socialists voted for Sarko.

The unpopular Hollande in France and the popularity of Hollande for a significant part of European associations, forms a complex situation to be addressed for the strategy of Sarkozy. Sarkozy’s strategy appears to be geared primarily within the country in order to address social and economic issues and to exploit the weakness of Socialists in this part.

However, Sarkozi, in the interior policy, meets Marine Le Pen, and subsequently Les Republicains tend to be more crucial and radical, because Front National is not vulnerable or with tendancies to the centre. It is commonplace moderate forces programmatically attracted by extremes the time the former is trying to address the latter.

This oftentimes results in the programmatic deterioration of that moderate party (Sarkozy) and strengthen the moderate rival (Holland), who was not involved with the limitation of the limb. The limb is always strengthened, as it is legitimatized.

The question about whether Sarkozy is the right man at the right place at the right time of France will be answered next year, in which he also will decide whether to run for candidate for the nomination for the Presidential elections of 2017. Until then there is plenty of time for anyone to think about what is the political message that is conveyed through these recent elections.

Phd Candidate at the department of International and European Studies, University of Macedonia. Political consultant

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The story of Elysees Palace and nuclear deal with Iran

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The paradoxical Macron game against a nuclear deal with Iran has reduced the credibility of Paris and its role in the international system.

Today, few speak of France as an independent player in the world, since after the end of the presidency, Jacques Chirac, all three current French presidents have become one of the White House actors in Europe. Emanuel Macron, the young and new president of France, also goes on to lead his ancestors. He was the main European politician who agreed to “change the nuclear deal with Iran” at the request of Trump. Macron, Trump and Netanyahu (prime minister of the occupying regime of Jerusalem) promised to meet all their demands for a nuclear deal. Undoubtedly, this French attitude was contrary to their obligations in the international system.

It was for the first time that the French President Emanuel Macron insisted that the nuclear deal could be amended in some parts, including Iran’s missile power and the introduction of new time limits (after 2025). During the meeting between Macron and Trump in New York (2017) and on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, France’s opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran became more and more evident. In the joint project conducted by the White House and the Elysee Palace, the French are tasked with focusing on Iran’s missile power, providing the ground for simultaneous restriction of Iran’s nuclear and missile capabilities. In other words, Paris’ main goal here was to link Iran’s missile program to the JCPOA and turn the existing equation into a two-variable equation. In their latest position against Iran, the French have accused our country of violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. The French authorities have also explicitly stated that the use of ballistic missiles by the Islamic Republic of Iran is unacceptable and that it should be negotiated with Tehran.

Today, after the departure of the United States of America from a nuclear deal with Iran, Macron continues to play its paradoxical game with Iran. He argued last week that a more complete agreement with Iran (including missile and regional concerns) would be inevitable. However, the French President during a meeting with the Russian president has emphasized the adherence to the current nuclear deal!

At a recent meeting between the Russian and French presidents, Putin stated:

“We can not make preserving the Iranian nuclear deal dependent on these three parameters because if we do, it means that we too are withdrawing from the accord because the deal that exists foresees no additional conditions.”

As Reuters reported, a Macron adviser hailed Putin’s comments as a “key” point of convergence between Paris and Moscow as the Trump administration urges its European allies to sever economic ties with Iran.

After talks that ran long over schedule, Macron and Trump entered the news conference looking relaxed and smiling. Macron acknowledged Paris and Moscow disagreed on a range of issues but called for “strong multilateralism”.

Another point is that in this equation, the main difference between the French and the American officials is the “tactic” employed by the White House and the Elysee Palace. Since the presidential campaigns of 2016, the JCPOA was called “the worst deal ever” by Trump and called for “changing” it or “withdraw” from it. However, the French have chosen the policy of “playing with ambiguous words”. The vocabulary used by the French authorities is wider than Americans in this regard: from “commitment to the JCPOA” to “completing the JCPOA”! Therefore, the French game is more complicated than that of the Americans. Many analysts of international affairs believe that France hasn’t played a transparent game considering the nuclear accord. Sometimes it is said that this lack of transparency is due to the French’s confusion over Iran’s nuclear deal, but by looking at the positions of the American and French officials towards the JCPOA, we can clearly see that they are trying to complete the same puzzle in opposition to Iran.

Ultimately, the actions of French President Emmanuel Macron and other officials of the country, in contrast to the nuclear deal, will never be a reminder of the Iranian nation. Obviously, in the event of a complete cancellation of the nuclear deal, there will be no difference between the presidents of the United States and France.

First published in our partner Mehr News Agency

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US-EU possible soft tactic to contain Iran

Payman Yazdani

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The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has created a new rounds of speculations about the three European major players’ (the UK, France and Germany) capabilities and abilities to keep the deal alive without the US.

Following the US President’s unilateral move to withdraw from the Iran’s Nuclear Deal, lots of diplomatic and political efforts have been made both by the European and Iranian officials to keep the internationally achieved deal alive.

Islamic Republic of Iran has announced that it will remain in the JCPOA just if the EU can guarantee Iran’s benefits and interests under the JCPOA in the absence of the US, otherwise Teharn will leave the deal, too.

Despite all measures taken and political promises made by the European sides to keep the JCPOA alive, over the past ten days many big EU firms and international companies have announced their decisions to stop their activities and operations in Iran including Total, Eni, Siemens, Airbus and Maersk.

Just couple of days after the US withdraw from the JCPOA, French gas and oil giant Total has announced that due to return of the US sanctions against Iran it has to pull out of Iranian Southern Pars oil field.

Italian oil giant Eni has also decided to abrogate its agreement with Iran to study oil and gas in Iran.

Maersk as the biggest shipping company in the world has announced that due to its vast activities in the US and to avoid possible US punishments, it will stop its activities in Iran.

Considering the limited capabilities and potentialities of the EU to challenge the US hegemony and also the fact that EU governments cannot force private sectors to work with Iran, it is not realistic to expect the EU to save the JCPOA.

As I mentioned in my previous writing, the possibility of job division between the US and EU to contain Iran should not be ignored.

All facts on the ground imply that all EU measures and promises to keep the JCPOA alive will only result in remaining of some small European companies in Iran. Big companies that can invest and transfer technology to Iran will leave Iran to avoid the US possible punishments. This possible soft and indirect US-EU tactic can help the joint goal of the US and EU to contain Iran.

By this tactic, firstly the EU can buy time and contain Iran so that not to leave the JCPOA. Secondly, the EU will pave the way for selling of its products and services in Iran’s market without investment and transferring technology. Thirdly, Iran’s incomes and revenues will be limited which Americans and the Europeans consider it as a good soft and indirect way to increase pressure on Iran to limit Iran’s regional influence and missile capability.

First published in our partner Mehr News Agency

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Internally weak EU cannot be strong international player

Payman Yazdani

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Commenting on the EU capabilities to protect its interests against the US unilateralism, Italian political science professor, Dr. Pastori Gianluca believes that an internally weak EU cannot be a strong international player.

The US president’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) despite the US key European allies’ opposition has raised so many questions about the global weight of the EU.

Despite many promises from EU key states to keep the JCPOA alive without the US, many believe even if the EU decides to do so the block won’t be able to challenge the US President’s decision due to its internal disunity and limitations. The issue was discussed with political science associated professor of Milan Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Dr. Pastori Gianluca.

How can the EU protect the right of its companies working and investing in Iran? Is it feasible?

European companies have always had good economic relations with Iran and these relations have grown even stronger in the last few years. I do not think that this attitude will really change in the coming months. In the past, the US already adopted secondary sanctions against countries investing in Iran (e.g. with the ‘Iran and Libya Sanctions Act’ in 1996), but their impact on the behaviour of foreign investors was quite limited. At that time, even some US companies managed to bypass the sanctions operating through foreign branches. Moreover, US-EU relations are currently quite tense, also due to the US will to introduce tariffs on European export. For this reasons, I think that, while the European governments will take a low profile in face of new US sanctions, on the political level they will keep on supporting their national presence in Iran.

Despite being an economic superpower, the EU is not able to protect its interest against the US unilateralism in recent year. Why?

The main problem is that the EU still faces difficulties in transforming its economic power into political power. Traditionally, the EU has been quite effective in promoting and protecting the economic interests of its members but has been far less effective in the political filed. There are many reasons to explain this state of things. As an economic community, the EU exists since 1957, when the European Economic Community was established, while the political union is far more recent. Moreover, the different member states have different visions of the international system and different interests to pursue. Finally, many of them are very jealous of their own sovereignty in international matters and are not ready to submit this kind of matters to a meaningful coordination or – even more — to subordinate them to a common foreign and defence policy.

The EU officials have talked about independent EU over the recent years. Considering the existing facts and EU potentialities, how feasible is it? What are the obstacles to this end?

The EU is currently facing one of the most difficult phases in its history. Anti-European parties are gaining strength in several member states, while the results of the referendum held in 2016 on the exit of the UK from the Union (‘Brexit’) have shown that integration is a reversible process. In the long term, this is the main problem that the EU has to face to affirm its international role. An internally weak EU cannot be a strong international player. At the same time, the development of a strong international profile can help to re-launch the European project, showing to the member states that the EU can be helpful even in the political field. Worth noting, since 2017, several countries are striving to implement a more effective common security and defence policy, largely due to Donald Trump’s proclaimed will to reduce the US engagement in Europe.

First published in our partner Mehr News Agency

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