Saturday, September 2, 2017

France’s Controversial New President

French voters accuse President Emanuel Macron of a plethora of crimes ranging from spending tax payer euros on make-up and ordering extra large frames for the official portraits that hang in government offices all over the country. But biting scorn has greeted his claim to be ‘Jupiterian’.
I no longer live in France — where I spent about thirty years in several tranches — and I condemn Macron’s subservience to neo-liberal anti-labor dogma. But I believe the French should applaud Macron’s ‘Jupiterian’ efforts to tackle problems that threaten the future, not only of France, but of Europe.
He can be gently chided for believing that he will succeed where others gave up before trying (one can almost hear a Trumpian ‘I alone can fix this’) when he convenes Mediterranean leaders to hammer out a policy on immigrants (instead of criticizing the Schengen Agreement’s open borders), but I applaud his efforts with Angela Merkel to give the European Union a finance minister and budget. (The failure of the Euro is ascribed, among other things, to the fact that each country has its own economic rules.)
Scarcely noticed by the French press, Macron initiated his tenure by inviting the leaders of the two nuclear powers that have a say over Europe on state visits. He showed his acumen by welcoming the Russian President to Versailles, which on the occasion of the 300th year anniversary of Peter the Great’s visit, and by displaying to the American President the tomb of Napoleon at Les Invalides, where he was given full military honors. 
Macron came out firmly in favor of the Iran nuclear treaty, which it signed, but which Trump opposes, and has also made climate change a priority. (Americans are hoping that the hurricane disaster in Houston, Texas, convinces Trump that climate change is real, causing him to rejoin international efforts to mitigate its effects, as Macron plans a first follow-up meeting on the first anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement in December.)
Macron is likely to get Trump’s support (however formal) in  his efforts to convince other European leaders that the influx of Africans and Middle Easterner poses a real threat to Europe, and The French President wants to put a High Commissioner for Refugees in charge of asylum requests,  iin order to distinguish between economic migrants and refugees, believing that another 800,000 people are ready to embark from Libya.

The French President also believes in talking to both Assad and his opponents, but refuses to take sides between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and specifically between Sunnis and Shias — or between Israel and Palestinians.  However, he will not visit the Middle East until next spring.

Seeing France “in the (Jupiterian) center” of Vladimir Putin’s “multipolar” but unstable world, he would continue the country’s existing alliances without ruling out “circumstantial cooperation”.  Finally, aware of the danger that the EU could implode due to citizen dissatisfaction, he wants to organize ‘democratic conventions’ during which they would be asked for input.

France’s ‘little Jupiter’ may have bit off more than he can chew (partly due to the fact that his counterparts in Europe are mostly dinosaurs), but at this point in his brand-new presidency, one has to give him a chance: the last time France had a Jupiterian leader was under Charles de Gaulle, whom many have emulated but none have successfully followed.

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