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November 14, 2017

The apolitical movement inside LREM

This coming Saturday, Christophe Castaner is to take the helm as the new leader of La République en Marche. He has a formidable task to turn a movement that was geared to bring renewal - and Emmanuel Macron into power - into a political party. The party congress the fault lines become apparent. We don’t expect any challenge in the leadership contest, as Castaner is the only candidate. But at this congress the members will also elect the executive board, the main governing body of the movement. Four lists will compete, and the top one will grab all the seats. And here the dividing lines are becoming apparent. There is the "Casta" list with political heavyweights like Richard Ferrand. And there are lists composed of civil society members from the movement. L’Opinion warns there is a revolutionary mood in their ranks. Civil society members will only vote for their own candidates, and look to promote their own sort of movement, "en marche citoyens". After five months in power, the link between Paris and the constituencies has weakened. There are many non-political local projects in the name of LREM out there in the field. There is also a movement fatigue: Among the 380.000 members of LREM about 120.000 are still active, though in all sorts of different committees and forms. Only 10% are still fully committed and en marche to transform the country. 

Will LREM succeed as a political movement? On everything they did the opposite to other parties. Get elected first, then turn into a party. There is no precedent here. The question is, now that Emmanuel Macron is president, can those anti-establishment forces be used towards building the backbone of a political party which already has a majority?

Until now the movement was without an ideological framework, which left a lot of space for power games, personal clashes, and haggling over jobs. In the constituencies, relations are particularly tense between LREM parliamentarians and the movement. Castaner is to sort out this cacophony and prepare the movement for the next task, the European elections in 2019. A formidable challenge indeed. 

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November 14, 2017

On the unity of the PD and the visions of the Italian left

Massimo Franco has a comment about the state of the Partito Democratico, and its leader Matteo Renzi, who yesterday tried to lure the breakaway MdP into a possible coalition. The reaction by leading MdP politicians was a clear No. Personal relations with Renzi are simply too bad. Franco predicts that there will be no coalition before the elections, nor is there much chance of a reconciliation in the years to come. After Renzi managed to quell all internal opposition he is now in total control of the PD, so much so that "the PD is Renzi" as Franco put it. But this is also what makes agreement with the breakaway left impossible. His strategy is to build a coalition with the centrists and with Emma Bonino's party, to get about one third of the vote (we think this is optimistic), but this is a strategy that will land the PD and its allies in opposition. 

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November 14, 2017

A clarification on glyphosate

The European Commission has asked us to point out an error in our coverage of the glyphosate story on Friday last week, which was based on an article of FAZ. In the case of glyphosate, the decision was not taken by the Council, but by the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed. The comitology procedure applies in this case. 

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November 14, 2017

On freedom of movement

Wolfgang Munchau's column in the Financial Times on Monday on the sanctity of the four freedoms has led to a number of interesting reactions including from Stefano Fassina, an Italian MP and former Italian deputy finance minister who left the Partito Democratico in protest against the policies of Matteo Renzi. Fassina put forward an argument we must confess we had not heard before: that it would be in the eurozone's interest to limit the four freedoms. We have heard this argument in respect of other EU countries like the UK, but not the eurozone. 

"[The four freedoms are] the reason why the EU and the eurozone, as the are now, are unsustainable. It's just mater of time. In 1957, the 4 principles were applied among countries not so different in terms of economic, social and institutional background. In a series of enlargements, the 4 freedoms, articulated in several directives, have been applied among countries in completely different social, economic and institutional conditions...The EU and, in particular, the eurozone were planned and made as the most extreme examples on earth of real neo-liberalism. The consequence has been an always deepening devaluation of labour, an always intensifying race to the bottom for wages and social conditions and always weakening domestic demand...The only way for the EU and the eurozone to survive is limiting largely and effectively the 4 freedoms within the EU and among the EU and the rest of the world."

We responded to him that it would be better to fix the eurozone's many shortcomings in a more constructive way, through a common safe asset and a common eurozone budget, but Fassina retorted that this was politically not realistic, and that it was easier to restrict the four freedoms.

On the same subject we found a beautifully argued piece by Deborah Orr in the Guardian. She is a Remainer, but deeply frustrated about the position taken by Remainers since the referendum, which is to patronise the Leavers. 

"Politicians do understand, on the whole, that the factor above all others that motivates white working-class Brexit voters is free movement, as again the Welsh survey attests. This is why Labour in particular is hamstrung. Backing remain would please its Guardian-reading supporters. But that would alienate many of its core voters. Whatever Jeremy Corbyn’s own views about the EU, the sensible strategy for the short-term is not to seem at all remain-oriented."

The only that could ever change the mind of the Brexiteers is genuine change.

"If progressives want to change the minds of Brexiteers, waiting for them to see the error of their ways isn’t going to work. What people need is a quid pro quo that offers them tangible improvements in their lives right now. That, and only that, will keep Britain in the EU."

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