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March 29, 2018

Macron's fight against the Islamic Hydra

It was a day of remembrance in Paris yesterday, of the latest victims of terrorism and violent anti-semitism. Arnaud Beltrame was a 44-year-old police officer who gave his life to save others in the terrorist attack last Friday. Mireille Knoll was an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor brutally killed in her Paris apartment the same day.

Emmanuel Macron remembered Beltrame as the spirit of French resistance, like Jeanne d'Arc, Jean Moulin, and General de Gaulle. Macron insisted that France would win the fight against terrorism because social cohesion of the country will prevail. And he named the enemy: the Islamic Hydra, the fanatics. Macron linked Beltrame and Knoll as two victims of an underground Islamism that progresses through social networks. 

These are words and symbols. They hardly tell us what the policy actions will be. But they are a first step, writes Cécile Cornudet. Macron said these challenges will be overcome without showing weakness nor passion, but with lucidity and method. Prepare for the long haul. But as Rémi Godeau pointed out, social cohesion may just be one of those ideals that are aspired to but never achieved. The more imminent question will be how it will translate into a budget, either by reallocating resources or increasing funds.

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March 29, 2018

A small-country mindset in a trade war

It is the tragedy of the EU, and the eurozone in particular, that we have only rarely managed to transcend our small-country perspective. This is how we ended up with pro-cyclical fiscal tightening during the financial crisis. And this is how the EU approaches trade disputes. We noted with some bemusement a discussion on the latter subject in FAZ this morning. The question was whether Germany should side with the US against China, or with China against the US, in the approaching trade wars. We spare you the detailed answers to this ludicrous question (spoiler alert: they are both important!). Our point is that the discussion itself is a colossal category error. 

When it comes to trade disputes, we should not be discussing bilateral trading relationship at subatomic political level, even in a country the size of Germany. Germany has no independent policy tools available other than its influence of the EU. It is far from guaranteed that Germany is in a position to play both sides off against one another. We think it is more likely that the EU gets caught in the crossfire of a wider US-China trade dispute. And, while we agree with the article's conclusion that a rules-based multilateral trading system is by far the best way to organise global trade, it is also a meaningless statement given Donald Trump's open sabotage of the WTO. The big issue, which was not even mentioned in the article, is the eurozone's - and Germany's - fundamental vulnerability to trade sanctions given the large trade surpluses.  

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