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November 13, 2017

A pro-European list: Wauquiez' nightmare

Alain Juppé and Emmanuel Macron: are they joining forces for a pro-European common list for the European elections in 2019? Juppé tweeted that we are not there yet, whatever Le Figaro says. But the issue is now out in the open. Francois Bayrou congratulates himself, for this is one of his life's dreams (apart from becoming president which, after three failed attempts, is unlikely to happen). And the Republicans have a serious problem at hand with Laurent Wauquiez likely to take the party’s leadership in the December 10 contest. Wauquiez, a former Europe minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, turned out to be a eurosceptic. In his book on Europe with the promising title "Il faut tous changer" he did not go as far as questioning the eurozone as such, but called for an end to Schengen, the abolition of the European Commission, and a core Europe of the six founding members. A stupid book, according to Juppé. Françoise Fressoz warns that 2019 could well turn into the nightmare of 1999, when the European question divided the Republicans. Cécile Cornudet writes that the moderate wing of the Republicans are likely to fall into Macron’s trap for a third time, after the nomination of Édouard Philippe as PM, and an economic policy agenda that the Republicans had always dreamed of implementing.

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November 13, 2017

Catalan separatism isn't going away

If you thought the abortive declaration of independence two weeks ago would lead to the Catalan separatist movement fizzling out, think again. The jailing of eight members of the dismissed Catalan cabinet and two grass-roots leaders, pending trial, keeps the separatist grass-roots energised. On Saturday another massive demonstration of several hundred thousand was held in Barcelona to demand their freedom. And they are planning a similar demonstration in Brussels on December 7, to mark the start of the official election campaign. The goal is to fill Brussels with buses from Catalonia. 

Dismissed Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont will probably make a campaign rally of it, for the non-partisan "President's list" that he's trying to put together. Leaders of his party PDeCat met him in Brussels to discuss strategies. After the other separatist parties ERC and CUP refused to form a coalition, the deadline to file party candidates is this coming Friday. PDeCat and the grass-roots organisations will have until then to gather about 55,000 signatures (1% of eligible voters) to register a non-partisan voters' list. It is to be expected that all 10 persons currently in pre-emptive jail will be high on the candidate lists of ERC and either PDeCat or Puigdemont's list.

Polls, of which there are seven, are currently putting ERC, led by Puigdemont's jailed deputy Oriol Junqueras, in the lead with a median of 43 seats out of 135, with PDeCat at 17, and CUP at 7. This puts the explicitly separatist parties on the brink of another majority in the Catalan parliament. The leading unionist party would continue to be Ciutadans, with about 26 seats. The 21 December elections are thus likely to return a very similar parliament to the one Mariano Rajoy dissolved two weeks ago. 

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November 13, 2017

Why oh why does Germany behave the way it does?

We are wondering where Jean Pisani-Ferry has been for the last few years, and especially most recently, when we read his latest article. Here is his conclusion:

"With the current coalition talks, German leaders have an opportunity to assess new global developments that will have far-reaching implications for Europe and Germany alike. They must decide whether it is riskier to do nothing, or to take the initiative. No one is expecting a Damascene conversion. But one hopes for a government that will be more forthcoming in offering solutions."

We agree, largely, with his view of what needs to be done, but we find his surprise about German scepticism towards euro reform somewhat surprising. The German debate has been extraordinarily toxic for many years, and now we're looking at a government in which three of the four parties have strong eurosceptic wings. Even a grand coalition would not have been able to overcome Germany's conspiratorial views about a eurozone budget, or about the ECB. The new government is clearly going to be much more sceptical than the old one, and the coalition talks are bearing this out.

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November 13, 2017

Why the four freedoms matter

Kicking off an FT series of essays on the future of the EU, Wolfgang Munchau focuses on the EU's four freedoms, dismissing suggestions that some of them can be sacrificed in future variable-geometry constructions. Munchau agrees that variable geometry is very much the way forward for the EU, but the four freedoms will remain at the core of any such constructions. The reason is that the four freedoms constitute the quintessential trade-off in EU politics - between producers and consumers, employers and employees, and northern and southern countries. Cutting off free movement of labour from the group of four would not only discriminate against migrants but against member states with net emigration. It is the persistent failure to understand the importance of the unity of the four freedoms that is behind the Brexit vote. Munchau concludes that any form of EU/UK association agreement that includes free movement of services will have to include free movement of people. If you reject free movement, you will always end up with one of the harder versions of Brexit.

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