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June 15, 2020

US and Germany step up fight over NordStream 2

One of the big stories in Germany over the weekend was the outrage by the grand coalition about proposed US sanctions against Germany over NordStream 2. This follows the decision of a bipartisan group of US senators to introduce a bill, the protecting Europe's energy security clarification act, to sanction companies involved in the project. 

We see zero sign of movement by the Germans. Yesterday, the German government expressed its dismay that the US would go that far. What we noted in the coverage of FAZ is a widespread misunderstanding in Germany. German politicians seem to attribute the US position to the election campaign and the increasing desperation of Donald Trump. But these latest sanctions have been proposed by a bipartisan group of senators. A president Joe Biden is not going to see this differently, and Trump's lasting legacy is that he has introduced a framework under which such sanctions are possible. 

In Germany, there is cross-party support for NordStream 2. 96% of the pipeline was physically completed before the Trump administration stepped up its threats. The Russians said that they will study the proposed US legislation, but see no reason to stop the project. While the Swiss-based company that constructed the pipeline pulled out under heavy US pressure, the Russians have promised to complete the remaining work. We think this conflict will come to a head at some point this year. 

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June 15, 2020

Macron's agenda for the next two years

In every new crisis Emmanuel Macron invents or reinvents himself. The gilets jaunes protests ended with shared power and new intermediaries. The Covid-19 crisis and the exit from lockdown are following the same logic: a strong president ordering the lockdown at the beginning of the crisis gives way to a leader who embraces shared responsibility. A carrot-and-stick approach for a country with a fascination for its kings and its revolutions. 

What is a constant is that Macron's discourse continues to lean towards the right. Last night, in his fourth address to the nation since the beginning of the pandemic, Macron vowed to continue his reform agenda with a focus on employment, pensions and reform of the state as life gradually returns to normal. Cafés and restaurants will open sooner, and schools will return to normal as of next week. Everyone is expected to find their way back to normal life.

As for his agenda for the next two years, Macron outlined in his speech three main pillars : economic stimulus; unity behind the republic; and state reform, according to L'Opinion.

Macron promised a resilient, green, sovereign and united economy with a plan that will be laid out in more detail in July. He evokes a sustainable economic model where the French work and produce more in order to depend less on others. What exactly this means we do not know yet, but Macron is likely to continue with his supply-side reforms, with a focus on employment and pensions and a pinch of green policies on top of it.

The second pillar is unity behind the republic. This is Macron's response amid the latest protests against racism and the police. The republic will erase no trace or names of its history, and it will not tear down its statues, he assured. Without republican order, there is no security or freedom, and this order is ensured by police officers and gendarmes, he insisted. This should cheer up the right, and lose Macron the support of those who had hoped his movement might also overcome the fifth republic.

The third point is state reform with devolution of power towards the regions, to modernise the country and improve the competitiveness of its economy. For Macron sovereignty and competitiveness are intimately linked. 

What will remain of all these promises and ideas is another matter. What happened to the results of the grand débat? Mostly forgotten, it seems. Now Macron's promises risk remaining empty again, writes Cecile Cornudet. The danger of yet another disconnect between words and deeds is real. 

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