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Explaining the European Union’s partnership with India

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What are the main objectives of the Joint Communication?

The Joint Communication will strengthen the EU-India Strategic Partnership by focusing on sustainable modernisation and on common responses to global and regional issues. It is meant to serve for the next decade as a coherent platform to advance key EU interests, improving the way the EU approaches India. The Joint Communication seeks to maximise the opportunities in terms of trade, investment, people-to-people exchanges, foreign policy and security, and global governance, particularly through synergies and coherence in actions by the EU and its Member States.

  • Seize the full potential of the EU-India strategic partnership.
  • Build a strong partnership for sustainable modernisation, to benefit both sides.
  • Join forces with India to consolidate the rules-based global order, based on multilateralism with the UN and the WTO at its core.
  • Develop a shared approach at the multilateral level to address global challenges and increase coordination.
  • Seek common responses to security threats and regional issues.

Why is this Joint Communication coming now?

The long-standing EU-India relationship is based on a 1994 Cooperation Agreement. The last Commission Communication on India dates from 2004, when the Strategic Partnership was established. The partnership has evolved and has seen enhanced commitment from both sides over the last two years. An ambitious Agenda for Action 2020 was adopted jointly at the 2016 EU-India Summit, while at the October 2017 EU-India Summit, the two sides recognised agreed a common vision of global governance, shared values and principles. There is, therefore, a positive momentum for the EU to restate its engagement towards India.

What is the EU’s ambition in developing foreign policy cooperation with India?

Among the EU’s many partners, India already plays an important role, particularly in consolidating EU’s engagement in and with Asia. India’s international reach and relevance will continue to grow, and therefore its importance to the EU, in line with the development of its economy and its diplomatic and defence capabilities. Although EU-India political consultations have broadened and deepened considerably in the last few years, more could be done together to ensure regional stability and global crisis management.

On many global, international and regional issues, there is clear convergence between the EU’s and India’s views and objectives. For example, both the EU and India remain committed to the continued full and effective implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and we collaborate closely to help bring peace and development to Afghanistan, as we have also done in addressing the recent crisis in the Maldives. The EU wants to expand this positive engagement and to strengthen cooperation on other issues in Africa and the Middle East, based on shared interests, principles and values. The EU will seek to develop more structured and regular consultations in multilateral fora and exchanges on emerging regional structures in Asia.

How will the EU enhance security cooperation with India?

EU-India cooperation in the field of security is directed at enhancing the security and wellbeing of our citizens. Terrorist attacks on EU and Indian soil should not shake our commitment to tolerance and diversity. On the contrary, in order to address this growing threat, the EU and India are currently looking at establishing effective counter radicalisation programmes, removing terrorist and extremist content available online, deepen cooperation on terrorist designations and to increase the effectiveness of sanctions, and putting an end to terrorism financing.

With the expansion of IT to all spheres of life, cybersecurity is quickly becoming one of the most important threats to national and global security, and in the short-to-medium term this threat is only expected to grow. The EU and India have a lot to learn from each other regarding protecting critical infrastructure and defining international rules that can apply to the cyberspace. In addition, our law enforcement agencies have to start collaborating more closely to confront the activities of cybercriminals that operate in the EU and India at the same time.

Both India and the EU are firm believers that non-proliferation and disarmament are necessary to maintain world security and are promoting international regimes to control missile technology and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Another area of mutual interest is maritime security. The scope for cooperation, especially in the Indian Ocean, is very large. The EU and India have cooperated in anti-piracy efforts in the Indian Ocean and the EU would like to see India joining on efforts to escort World Food Programme shipments off the coast of Somalia. The EU and India should join forces to promote the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as the basis of ocean governance and work more closely in the field of maritime surveillance.

Given the important steps the EU has taken recently to improve its action capability as a security actor, the EU aims to enhance overall cooperation with Asian partners, and with India in particular. To this end, the EU will seek to establish military-to-military contacts with Indian counterparts in order to explore concrete opportunities for cooperation.

How developed is the trade and investment relationship between the EU-India?

India is an important trade partner for the EU and an emerging global economic power. India is the fastest growing large economy, with growth rates of about 7%. In 2017, the EU was India’s first trading partner, while India was the EU’s ninth largest trading partner, amounting to a total of €86 billion trade in goods and €29 billion trade in services.

The EU is one of the largest investors in India, with an overall stock of more than €72 billion in investments. India too is emerging as a proactive investor in the EU, with €4.9 billion in 2016.

Close to 6,000 EU companies are present in India collectively providing direct employment to 1.2 million workers and indirect employment to 5 million.

However, the potential of the EU-India trade and investment relationship is far from being reached. From this perspective, the EU aims to achieve comprehensive and balanced agreements on trade and investment with India, as well as to support trade liberalisation and to ensure fair market access and predictable investment conditions.

Why does the EU want to increase investment in India’s sustainable modernisation?

The EU offers important opportunities in terms of technology-sharing and know-how, providing high-level synergies in sectors where EU companies are world leaders: this includes infrastructure, transport, telecoms and basic industry. This wealth of experience and knowledge means that the EU has much to offer India in its quest to grow and modernise, and it helps, in turn, create new business opportunities.

Furthermore, cooperation on climate change, the environment, green energy, and urbanisation helps the EU and India to meet internal objectives as well as international commitments. The EU also wants to work more with India to build inclusiveness and equality, for example via digitalisation.

The EU promotes a growing role of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in financing India’s sustainable modernisation initiatives. The EIB has so far invested €2.5 billion in India in infrastructure, renewable energy and climate projects.

Why is the Joint Communication calling for a partnership on connectivity with India?

The EU has launched in October 2018 its Strategy on Connecting Europea and Asia. The Strategy calls for more engagement with partners – in Europe’s neighbourhood, in Asia and beyond – on enhancing connectivity and finding complementary and common solutions. The EU approach to connectivity is clearly set: connectivity must be fiscally, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable; comprehensive across sectors and financial frameworks; and rules-based.

The EU and India have agreed at the 2017 Summit on a common view towards connectivity, acknowledging “that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality and must follow principles of financial responsibility, accountable debt financing practices, balanced ecological and environmental protection, preservation standards and social sustainability.”

Given the commonality of views, India is a priority country for the establishment of a connectivity partnership.

Why is India an important partner on research and innovation?

Both the EU and India have similar views on the role of research and innovation: supporting economic development, creating jobs and strengthening the capacity to address global societal challenges, notably ICT, health, climate change and energy, food security or smart cities.

India has important centres of excellence and a considerable talent pool, with a high potential to jointly contribute with the EU to address global challenges. The EU cooperates with India through the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research & Innovation. Indian researchers receive grants from the European Research Council or Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship. A co-funding mechanism was established to fund successful Indian participants in Horizon 2020 projects.

Joint initiatives aim to foster the development of concrete solutions to common societal challenges. An example of joint cooperation is a successful flagship initiative in the area of water of €30 million.

India also has impressive start-up ecosystems. The EU promotes networking between innovators, start-ups, incubators, including via joint on line and off line platforms.

How is the EU working with India on clean energy and climate change?

Both the EU and India ratified the Paris Agreement and are committed to its implementation. Against the backdrop of a changing international landscape, India and EU have the ability to lead and uphold their Paris pledges.

The EU and India have established in 2016 a Clean Energy and Climate Partnership to work on a clean energy future for India and to implement the Paris Climate Change agreement. The Partnership delivers concrete activities on the ground among others in renewable energy, energy efficiency and smart grids. For example: technical assistance is provided to the Indian Government to develop the first off-shore wind plant in India and to implement the Solar Parks Programme. The EU also finances technical assistance to implement the Energy Conservation Building Codes.

The EU promotes green investments through blended financing. Projects funded under the Asia Investment Facility support sustainable urban housing and mobility. The Electrification Financing Initiative boosts private sector investments in sustainable energy through de-risking and reimbursable schemes.

How will the EU work with India at the multilateral level?

The EU and India are both strong supporters of the rules-based global order, based on multilateralism, with the UN and the WTO at its core. In the current international environment, the EU will build on this important common ground it shares with India to develop coordination at multilateral level, particularly at the UN, G20 and WTO. The main aim is to build multilateral solutions and address challenges to international security, global economic stability and growth.

What does the EU want to achieve regarding data protection cooperation?

Increased convergence between our systems could bring very significant benefits to our economies. This would, in particular, facilitate trade flows which increasingly rely on personal data transfers, while ensuring a high level of protection of the data exchanged between India and the EU.

The EU supports the progress of data protection reform in India, which will also cover foreign operators. With a new law in place, India would be joining the growing trend of global convergence in this area. As a leading world economy and the world’s largest democracy, India’s endorsement of a high level of data protection would constitute a critical example at a moment where there is an increasing demand for international standards on privacy.

Importantly, if adopted, the law would certainly contribute to facilitating data flows between the EU and India, and could open the way for a possible adequacy dialogue.

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Is European humanity skin deep?

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At the border crossing between Ukraine and Moldova at Palanca, refugees stand in line. © UNICEF/Vincent Tremeau

When talking about security the most common line of thought tends to be war and the actors involved in the attack, however, all the people who had regular lives within those territories that are jeopardized are as important. With the increasing tensions and armed conflicts happening within the Twenty First Century, the movement of people searching for shelter has increased. More asylum seekers leave their home countries every single day and contemporary politics is still struggling to find a way to catch up. Europe, history wise, is the zone of the world that deals with more refugees wanting to enter the continent due to different factors: geography, proximity, democratic systems, level of development and more. Nevertheless, with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, true sentiments towards refugees are now being put on display.

Even though all refugees are fleeing their countries because their lives are in mortal danger, authorities and government officials do not seem to care. Processes to apply for the refugee status are getting harder and harder. In Europe, to apply for a refugee passport, people are asked for identifications, online questionaries and many other unrealistic aspects that if not answered correctly, the whole process is cancelled. It is ridiculous to believe that when people are scaping in order to stay alive, they will take under consideration all these requirements to receive help, sometimes even from neighboring countries. Which inevitably leads to the following question: why are refugees accepted based on the legality of their applications and not of their status?

By 2016, nearly 5.2 million refugees reached European shores, which caused the so called refugee crisis. They came mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq: countries torn apart by armed conflicts. Similarly, with Russia’s invasion over the Ukraine in 2022, only few days deep within the fighting,  874,000 people had to flee their homes. Nonetheless, the issue seems to be that, for Europe, not all refugees are the same. When the refugee crisis in 2015 was declared, the European Union called for stopping and detaining all arriving refugees for around 18 months. There was a strong reluctancy from Europeans towards offering them shelter. On the contrary, countries such as Poland and Slovakia have said that Ukrainian refugees fleeing will be accepted without passports, or any valid travel documents due to the urgency of the situation. Therefore, stating with their actions, that Ukrainian refugees are more valuable or seem to be more worthy of help than refugees from Asia, Africa, or the Middle East.

Correspondingly, it is true that not all countries inside Europe deal and act the same way towards refugees, be that as it may, with the current refugee crisis it has been proved that they all share strong sentiments of xenophobia and racism. For instance, Hungary is a country that refused to admit refugees coming from outside Europe since 2015. In 2018, Prime Minister Viktor Orban described non-European refugees as “Muslim invaders” and “poison” to society, in comparison with Ukrainian refugees who are being welcomed without hesitation. In the same way, Jarosław Kaczyński, who served as Prime Minister of Poland and is the leader of the Law and Justice party, in 2017 said that accepting asylum seekers from Syria would be dangerous and would “completely change our culture and radically lower the level of safety in our country”. Furthermore, Germany in 2015 with Chancellor Angela Merkel in charged said that they would accept one million of Syrians. Although, as time passed, Europe’s solution was to make a deal with Turkey, who is not part of the European Union, to close the migrant route. Moreover, the promise of letting refugees integrate into German society was not fulfilled since. Seven year later, an impressive amount of refugees are still in camps and centers, with their lives frozen in time. Sadly, most European governments gambled towards the idea of sending them back once the armed conflict was over, without caring for the aftermath of war’s destruction.

The common narrative until now pushed by leaders, politicians, and mass media has been that Ukrainians are prosperous, civilized, middle class working people, but refugees coming from the Middle East are terrorists, and refuges from Africa are simply too different. Despite, refugees are all people who share similar emotions and struggle to grasp the fact that their lives may never be the same; having lost their homes, friends, family and so much more. Plus, being selectively welcomed based on their religion, skin color or nationality by the continent which’s complete rhetoric is universal rights, just adds another complex layer to the issue. Conjointly, the displacement of people due to war displays how regular individuals are always the ones who suffer the most in consequence to the interests of the few that represent larger powers. Hence, greed, envy, and cruelty are stronger than recognized, even in a developed continent such as Europe.

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What Everyone Should Know About Preventing Ethnic Violence: The Case of Bosnia

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Image source: srebrenica.org.uk

When the Balkans spiraled into violence and genocide in the 90’s, many wondered what caused this resurgence in militant ethnic nationalism and how a similar situation may be countered.

***

The 1990’s were a vibrant decade, that is unless you were living in the Balkans. 1995 was especially bad, as the 11th of July of that year marked the Srebrenica Massacre, which saw Serbian soldiers murder over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims over the span of two weeks. This shocked the world, as it was the first case of a European country resorting to extreme violence and genocide on ethnic lines since World War II. After World War II, the idea that a European country would resort to genocide was unthinkable. As Balkan nations continue to see the consequences of the massacre after over 25 years, it is increasingly evident that more needs to be done to curb ethnic violence.

We must first investigate key causes of ethnic violence. According to V.P. Gagnon, the main driver of ethnic violence is elites that wish to stay in power. Ethnic nationalism is easy to exploit, as creating a scapegoat is extremely effective for keeping elites in power. This is exactly what happened in Yugoslavia, which had previously seen high levels of tolerance and intermarriage in more mixed areas that saw the worst violence during the war. Stuart J. Kaufman argues that elites may take advantage of natural psychological fears of in-group extinction, creating group myths, or stereotypes, of outgroups to fuel hatred against them. While they may take different approaches to this issue, Gagnon and Kaufman agree that the main drivers of ethnic violence are the elites.

David Lake and Donald Rothchild suggest that the main driver of ethnic conflict is collective fears for the future of in-groups. Fear is one of the most important emotions we have because it helps secure our existence in a hostile world. However, fear can easily be exploited by the elites to achieve their personal goals. In a multiethnic society such as Yugoslavia, the rise of an elite that adheres to the prospects of a single ethnic group could prove dangerous and sometimes even disastrous. The destruction of Yugoslavian hegemony under Josip Broz Tito and the resulting explosion of ethnic conflict at the hands of Serbian elites in Bosnia underline this because of the immense fear this created.

Regions with high Serb populations in Bosnia sought independence from the rest of the country when they found themselves separated from Serbia by the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Republika Srpska was formed by these alienated Serbs. The leadership and elites in Serbia riled up the Serb population of Republika Srpska by stereotyping and demonizing Bosnian Muslims as “descendants of the Turkish oppressors”. This scared the Serbs in Bosnia so much so that they obeyed the elites of Serbia in supporting and fighting for the independence of Republika Srpska by any means necessary. As was seen in Srebrenica, they were not opposed to genocide.

We know how the elites fuel ethnic tensions to secure power as well of the devastating effects of these tensions reaching their boiling point. But what could be done to address ethnic conflict? David Welsh suggests that a remedy for ethnic conflict could be the complete enfranchisement of ethnic minorities and deterrence towards ethnic cleansing. This means that we must ensure that ethnic minorities are able to have a say in a democratic system that caters to all ethnicities equally. Fostering aversion to genocide is also vital toward addressing ethnic conflict because it is the inevitable result of unchecked ethnic conflict.

There is also the issue of members of ethnic groups voting for candidates and parties on ethnic lines. For example, in the United States, White American voters have shown to prefer White candidates over African American candidates, and vice versa. Keep in mind that the United States has a deep history of ethnic conflict, including the centuries-long subjugation of African Americans by White Americans.

Ethnic violence is horrifying and destructive, but it can be prevented. The first measure would be the establishment of a representative democracy, where members of all ethnicities are accurately represented. Another measure would be to make ethnic conflict and ethnic stereotyping taboo so that the average person would not resort to genocidal behavior once things go wrong. Lastly, making people feel secure is the most important step towards preventing ethnic conflict. If the people feel secure enough, they will not even need to think about ethnic violence. In short, while it is important to consider the differences of the various ethnic groups in a multiethnic society, it is vital that each group is kept represented and secure, free of any fears of subjugation.

While the case of Bosnia was extremely unfortunate, it provides an integral view into what could happen if perceived subjugation and fear of eradication reaches a breaking point. As was seen in Bosnia, ethnic violence can be extremely violent, resulting in untold suffering and death. That is why we must take necessary steps towards de-escalation and remediation of ethnic conflicts. These measures can, quite literally, save millions of lives.

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French Presidential Election 2022 and its significance for Europe

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Eugene Delacroix’s infamous painting “la liberté Guidant le Peuple” reminds the whole world of the July Revolution of 1830 that toppled King Charles X of France. The lady in the centre of the painting with the French tricolour still symbolizes the concept of liberty and reminds the whole world of revolutions and sacrifices made for freedom. France indeed has a long journey from revolting against “if they have no bread, let them eat cake” in 1789 to establishing a modern democratic society with the principles of “liberty, equality and fraternity”.  

France and the United States are rightly considered the birthplace of modern democracy. The French revolution taught the whole world lessons about revolution, freedom modern nationalism, liberalism and sovereignty. In 2022, France celebrates the 233rd year of Bastille Day which led to a new dawn in the French political system. From establishing 1ere Republique (1st Republic) in 1792, France has evolved and is currently under the 5eme Republique (5th Republic) under the constitution crafted by Charles de Gaulle in 1958.

Today, France is holding its presidential elections. As the French believe, ‘You first vote with your heart, then your head’, the first round of voting was concluded on Sunday 10th April and the Presidential debate on 20th April 2022. While the whole world waits for the 24th of April’s second round of elections and their results, this article attempts to understand the French electoral system and analyze Why French Presidential elections are important for Europe?

French electoral system

France is a semi-presidential democracy; the president is at the centre of power and Prime Minister heads the government. The president of the French republic is elected by direct universal suffrage where all French citizens aged 18 and above can vote, whether residing in France or not. In France, there is a two-round system in which voters vote twice on two Sundays, two weeks apart. This two-round system is widely practised in central and eastern Europe as well as Central Asia, South America and Africa.

In order to apply, a candidate needs 500 signatures of elected officials and they should be at least from 30 government departments. A candidate can be an independent or he or she can represent a political party. There is no limit to how many candidates can run for presidential elections. For instance, in 2002 there were 16 candidates, in 2017- 11 and in 2022 there are 12. While all the candidates have the right to equal media presence, the amount of spending on campaigns is also monitored; for the 1st round, the spending must not exceed 16.9 million euros and for the second round, it has been limited to 22.5 million euros.

This year, the 1st round of voting was concluded on 10th April while the second one is scheduled to be held on 24th April 2022. In the first round, all 12 candidates were eligible but for the second round, only two candidates who got the maximum votes are qualified for the second round.

A brief overview of French presidential candidates

Emmanuel Macron, five years ago at the age of 39, became the youngest French president of the French republic. In 2017, he broke the dominance of the two major French parties- Republicans and Socialists- by running a campaign “neither left nor right”. During the tenure of Emmanuel Macron, a hardcore centrist, France has witnessed a 7% GDP growth, unemployment dropped by 7.2% and the crime rate has fallen to 27%.

A far-rightist, Marine Le Pen is the other presidential candidate who succeeded her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, as leader of the National Front (later National Rally) party in 2011. She was also contesting against Emmanuel Macron during the 2017 elections and before that in 2012, against Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande. While she embraced the party’s anti-immigration stance, she rebranded the party’s Euroskepticism as French nationalism.

This year, in the April 2022 elections, the current President of France, Emanuel Macron and far-right leader, Marine Le Pen are the two candidates with Macron running ahead with a lead of 4.7 per cent votes (Emmanuel Macron-27.8% & Marine Le Pen- 23.1%).

Why French Presidential elections are important for Europe?

While European defence is primarily assured by the US-led NATO military alliance, of which most EU states are members, French president Macron said,  “Europe needs to finally build its own collective security framework on our continent…”, advocating for a ‘European Security’ framework amid tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

On the other hand, Le Pen’s party has been looked upon suspiciously that it might have received financing from a Russian bank connected to the Russian President Putin. In an interview with French public radion, Le pen said, “It will be necessary diplomatically, when the war [in Ukraine] is over, when a peace treaty has been signed, to try to avoid this tie-up which risks being the largest danger of the 21st century for us,” she even further added, “Imagine … if we let the first producer of raw materials in the world — which is Russia — [create an alliance] with the first factory of the world — which is China — to let them perhaps constitute the first military power of the world. I believe that it’s a potentially great danger.” These statements only further reinforce the claims that Le Pen is more pro-Russia.

While Macron is anti-Brexit, Le Pen, on the other hand, has been known for her ‘Frexit’ plan, meaning, that she wanted France to leave the EU and abandon the euro. However, during the 2022 elections, it appears that Le Pen has softened her stance on Frexit. Another important issue pertaining to immigration has been significant not only for France but the whole of Europe. This issue of immigration is directly linked with the “economic and cultural concerns” which raises an important worry about immigrants’ socio-political and economic integration into the French society and abiding by the principle of laïcité (secularism with French characters).

As for Macron, he wants to create a “rapid reaction force” to help protect EU states’ borders in case of a migrant surge and is also pushing for a rethink of the bloc’s asylum application process. Macron also said that he urges the EU to be more efficient in deporting those refused entries. On the other hand, Marine Le Pen during her campaign stated, “I will control immigration and establish security for all.” It is pertinent to note that Macron has introduced strict laws pertaining to immigration and controlling Islamic radicalization. For instance, he introduced the bill to ban foreign funding to mosques.

What is more interesting to mention is the concerns about ‘energy’ in the presidential election. Evidently, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has gained more attention on the economic and geopolitical consequences of existing national and European energy supply chain choices. In France especially, there is a major rift between the pro and anti-nuclear power fractions. Interestingly, France has the second most nuclear power stations in the world after the United States.  Besides, in the last week of the elections, Macron has been attempting to win the hearts of the French voters with his proposal for a “complete renewal” of his climate policy. He has also promised to build up to 14 nuclear reactors by 2050 and regenerate existing plants. Meanwhile, Le Pen has promised to build 20 nuclear plants and aim to have nuclear power provide 81 per cent of France’s energy by 2050. While the current president Macron and far-right candidate Le Pen have both committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming, it is evident that their approaches differ particularly on energy. Since France is Europe’s second-biggest economy, France’s climate policy could echo right across the EU.

Besides, in light of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, Macron has played a significant role as he is the bridgehead for Russia and the US. He has also negotiated talks between Washington DC and Moscow and has also condemned the crisis by making the statement, “Russia is not under attack, it is the aggressor. As some unsustainable propaganda would have us believe, this war is not as big as the battle against, that is a lie.” Indeed, he has played the role of Europe’s de-facto leader vis-à-vis the Ukraine crisis. Nonetheless, with a marginal win in the first round against Marine Le Pen, winning the 2nd term is not as easy as it was five years ago.

More importantly, it is pertinent to note that France has the 2nd strongest military and 2nd biggest economy in Europe, further the 5th biggest economy in the world. France is not only the most visited country in the world but also ranks 1st in the global soft power index. It is also the founding member of the United Nations Security Council, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union which makes it an important player in European politics. Consequently, the policies of the French leadership not only direct the political, social and economic lives of the French but also reverberate in Europe.

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