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October 02, 2018

Whatever it takes - diesel version

The German diesel story has a certain tragedy-to-farce quality as the government is now pursuing a whatever-it-takes strategy to keep diesels on the roads and in the cities. As FAZ reports, the government managed to get the car industry to offer vouchers of up to €10,000 for car owners to exchange their old diesel cars for new ones. This came after the government dropped plans to force the industry to upgrade older cars free of charge.

The premiums would be concentrated on regions subject to diesel bans. The idea is to get most cars exchanged so that the cities could lift the ban altogether. The government wants to avoid at all costs any discrimination that would identify some cars as not compliant. 

Is this going to work? We agree with the view expressed in the FT by Corlos Ghosn, who is in charge of the alliance between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. He said customers don’t care about what engine they have. They make their calculations based on cost. And the problem with diesel is the resale value. He concludes that diesel is over because policymakers have condemned it.

We think the German compromise will smooth some of the frictions, but this comes as a cost to the German car industry. It is already behind in the development of new technologies, and its resources are now being strained further by a large number of legal proceedings.

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October 02, 2018

Is Macron's European discourse too simplistic?

Mediapart writes that Emmanuel Macron's rhetoric for the European elections is too simplistic. We agree. The narratives currently prepared in the Élysée palace are to polarise nationalists versus progressives, and liberals against illiberal forces. According to this script, Viktor Orbán and Matteo Salvini are the perfect counterparts for Macron. This would project Macron directly onto the centre stage of the European debate. Pierre Lambert warns that this leaves out all those who fit into neither of these two camps. What is needed is a European project. The problem here is that not all pro-Europeans share the same ideas, and not all are progressive either, comments Pierre Moscovici.

Such polarisation also means trouble for some member states. Belgium, for example, would under normal circumstances be a natural ally for France. But the fact that the federal government of Charles Michel depends on the support of the separatist Flemish party N-VA puts them right in the middle of Macron's polarising narrative. In the Netherlands, Mark Rutte condemns Orbán as Macron does, but Rutte won't back Macron's European integration agenda. And in Germany, all parties except the Greens and sections of the SPD showed a hostile reaction towards Macron's overambitious integration agenda as presented in Strasbourg last year. Macron's strategy also puts the CDU-CSU on the spot in the European parliament. The CDU-CSU are the main players in the EPP, itself the largest group by far in the Parliament, which prefers to keep Orbán's Fidesz party on board for now. Macron's strategy is to split the EPP over Orbán, hoping to attract moderate EPP members to his new movement.

The polarisation narrative also obscures similarities between Macron and Orbán, writes Mediapart. When it comes to concrete immigration policies, both leaders are not that far apart. France is also in favour of refugee centres in third countries like Egypt, and distinguishes between refugees and economic migrants. It refused to open its ports to the refugees on board the Aquarius. Both leaders declare themselves advocates of liberalising their economies. Furthermore, the hegemonic pitting of liberal against illiberal forces shuts down the possibility of formulating other approaches tailored to a specific country. Macron and his team are about to reduce the European debate to an old antagonism, even if it is not clear that it will benefit him.

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