Tag Archives: France

Les élections qui secouent l’Europe

Grèce et France face a l’Allemagne

Les élections qui viennent de passer sont largement interprétées, dans la presse internationale, comme un signal du mécontentement des électeurs face à l’austérité ou, mieux encore, face à ce qu’ils perçoivent comme étant l’austérité. Les élections auront-elles la possibilité de modifier la vitesse des consolidations budgétaires? La France sera-t-elle capable d’inverser les politiques économique imposés par l’Allemagne? Ou les élections ne conduisent-elles pas à un quelconque changement?

Le cas de la France est très important. Il est clair que le nouveau président ne dispose que d’une marge de manœuvre très étroite pour s’essayer à inverser complètement la politique budgétaire européenne. Hollande ne peut se permettre, ni ne sera capable de mettre en place un vaste programme des dépenses publiques. En regardant l’économie française, il est clair que la France a besoin de réformes ambitieuses qui auraient pour fin d’être plus compétitives et plus innovantes. Mais il y a un frein important que l’on ne peut se permettre d’oublier: la France possède déjà l’un des secteurs publics les plus importants. Le rendement financier de ce dernier est cependant médiocre. En fait, la France n’a pas équilibré son budget depuis 1974. Au lieu de dépenser les fonds publics, Hollande devra, à partir d’un point de vue strictement néolibéral, adopter le même genre de réformes courageuses que l’ancien chancelier allemand Gerhard Schröder.

Mais tout cela n’est pas vraiment en accord avec ces promesses électorales: seule une économie française plus dynamique et plus forte augmentera le pouvoir de négociation de la France en Europe. Donc, même si l’égalité est un principe fondateur de l’ancienne République française, il vaudrait mieux pour Hollande qu’il apprenne les règles fondamentales de l’économie sociale du marché, point de force de la politique économique allemande. Mais la victoire d’Hollande pourrait jouer une différence sur la scène européenne et ce parce qu’elle met en crise toute une série de convictions de la chancelière Angela Merkel, qui sera en plus seule qu’auparavant lorsqu’elle fera ses demandes sur la scène européenne.

A travers l’Europe, les électeurs disent clairement qu’il est temps de faire quelque chose pour améliorer leur vie. Face à cela, Madame Merkel ne peut se permettre de fermer les yeux. Par ailleurs, son objectif est de réduire l’inégalité des revenus. Elle veut s’assurer que, lors des prochaines élections fédérales, la gauche ne lancera pas une campagne sociale à son encontre. Un des plus proches alliés de Merkel, le ministre du Travail, Ursula von der Leyen, a donc déjà demandé un salaire minimum en Allemagne. Le signal européen est clair: les électeurs visent l’augmentation de la demande et il n’y a que cette voix qui sera utile au maintien de la politique intérieure allemande. La seule solution évidente à ces problèmes est de créer une demande plus forte en Allemagne et surtout dans le sud de l’Europe. La meilleure façon pour y arriver est sans aucun doute la voie de l’augmentation significative des salaires. Il s’agit d’un mécanisme beaucoup plus efficace qu’un programme à court terme de relance budgétaire. En fait, c’est ce que le Président Hollande veut mettre sur la table des négociations.

C’est, par ailleurs, un moyen efficace de régler les déséquilibres dans la zone euro en acceptant le fait que l’inflation allemande va augmenter au-delà de la moyenne de la zone euro, en permettant que les taux d’inflation des autres pays puissent tomber en dessous de la moyenne. Il est également probable que les retombées de la demande vers d’autres pays européens soient plus fortes pour les revenus des ménages allemands que pour les autres ménages.

On peut comprendre ainsi l’argumentation de l‘asymétrie des bases politiques entre la France et l’Allemagne. Mais il y a donc un lien entre l’augmentation des salaires allemands et la négociation d’une politique de croissance dans les autres marchés européens. Cela impliquerait une inflation supplémentaire en Allemagne au-delà de la moyenne de deux pour cent de la zone euro. En ce sens, l’élection en France peut faire une grande différence pour l’Europe. Il n’est pas certain que la France sera en mesure d’inverser son propre cours politique. Cependant, elle va envoyer le bon message à l’Allemagne afin que celle-ci puisse modifier sa vision anti-inflationniste.

Ce sont les vrais visages de l’Europe et le défi des élections peut y arriver en forçant la politique allemande à changer sa position sur les salaires. Résister à la croissance des salaires et promouvoir un boom du crédit en Allemagne serait une erreur. Le système politique allemand a commencé à comprendre que la résistance d’ajustement symétrique va coûter cher à l´Europe.Voici les points de tensions et les possibles solutions que les classes dominantes françaises et allemandes sont obligées de résoudre pour garder vivant la gouvernance européenne.

Pietro Tosi

Pietro Tosi is an Italian student of political philosophy at the Université libre de Bruxelles. He has earned his bachelor degree at Università degli Studi di Bologna with a dissertation about the concept of democracy in the work of Baruch Spinoza (thesis director: Professor Alberto Burgio). He is presently working on his master dissertation about the political thought of Foucault.

Top right: cartoon, copyright ERL; centre: Merkel and Sarkozy, copyright Reuters; bottom right: cartoon, copyright Kroll

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Crisis and gunshots

Political violence makes a comeback in Italy

Shots, screams, blood on the ground. It’s Monday 7th May in Genova, Italy. The man who lies on the ground is Roberto Adinolfi, managing director of Ansaldo Nucleare, a nuclear company which is part of Finmeccanica Group, big name of Italian’s Defence industry. He suffered severe knee wounds, caused by three gunshots fired by unknown perpetrators: this is a criminal action that is known in Italy under the name of “gambizzazione” (kneecap). It consist in shooting at a person’s legs in order either to punish him or to give a public message. This practice has been typical of the so-called “anni di piombo”, a period between the 70’s and the 80’s in which an escalation of political violence has caused an high number of homicides and acts of terrorism, ended in the kidnapping and execution of the former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro at the hand of Brigate Rosse, a pseudo-communist terrorist organisation.

Even though it would be misleading to draw a direct comparison between that dark period of Italian history and the present situation, some similarities brought Italy back to a 40 years old scenario. The responsibility for the attack has been in fact claimed by an anarchic group called “Olga”, which also made clear that other demonstrative actions are going to be carried out. Moreover, in the country a strong resentment is growing against the State Tax Agency, Equitalia, which is seen as an evil “Nottingham sheriff” and considered the moral responsible for the many cases of suicide that happened in the last months. Most of them were workers, small businessmen and freelancers crippled by debts towards Equitalia. Obviously, to blame such an agency for those deaths is like declaring that the guilt for a shooting is carried by the pistol, and not by the person who pulled the trigger. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure: there is a concrete risk of a dramatic escalation, which brought Anna Cancellieri, Italian Minister of Interior, to declare that the army is going to garrison a couple of strategic points.

This night at 4.30 a Molotov cocktail has been thrown against one Equitalia office in Livorno, and on 4th May one man with a gun held an Equitalia’s employee hostage for more than 6 hours, after bursting in his bureau. According to the Italian police, this situation requires a very careful attention, because it is already known that there is a strong connection between Greek anarchists groups and similar Italian organisation. The choice of “Olga” as the name of the group that attacked Adinolfi is in this sense not casual: so it is called one of the five Greek anarchists who have been imprisoned last March on charge of terrorism. After that imprisonment, a document written by one of the convicts has been able to come out from the prison illegally, in order to be translated and put out on the website owned by the “Conspiracy Cells of Fire”, an anarchic organisation. “Let’s attack the managers” is one of the instructions given to the “comrades of the outside”. So it looks like there’s at least one international group of armed anarchists which can be a threat for national security. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The situation is actually more complicated: until now the economical crisis which is afflicting the capitalistic system has been faced by the most influential European governments with measures that are thought to help banks and big companies, in spite of giving to the people a new hope for the future. This dynamic caused a strong disaffection towards the usual ways to be engaged in politics, which are now widely considered ineffective. The first remarkable effect is the rising of the parties which have always been on the edge of the political scenario, either because of their unclear affiliation, like the Piraten Partei in Germany and Movimento 5 stelle in Italy, or because of their extremism, like the Front National in France and E.LA.M. (Golden Dawn) in Greece. The second effect is the returning on the scene of such terrorist groups which has been active in the past, and have patiently waited until the economic and social situation allowed them to commit their usual demonstrative actions. Even though there are no clear signs that such actions can bring more people to a subversive cause, it’s a risk that European democracies should not take. Personally I don’t think that police and the army’s array can be considered as effective measures to resolve this problem: the only way to keep people far from terrorism is to give them the possibility to believe in a future in which the sustainability of the economic system won’t be just an engaging slogan, but a concrete reality.

Riccardo Motti

Top left: the crime scene, copyright Giornalettismo.com; Centre right: soldier in garrison, copyright panorama.it; Bottom left: The symbol of  the anarchist group “Olga”

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France, Greece, Europe: wind of change?

The general elections held yesterday in France and Greece are significant not only in relation to the new political landscape that will now occur in those countries, they are very important for the European Union’s future too.

In France, the triumph of Hollande means a deep change of the French role inside the Community. If Sarkozy has always been Merkel’s first ally, dictating to other countries the policies they were expected to enterprise in order to face the international finance crisis, Hollande’s opinion is quite different. Since the very beginning of his election campaign, he said that his idea of reacting against the crisis is based on a necessary collaboration not only with Germany, but also with countries like Spain and Italy, that were not really involved in the decision procedures until now. Moreover, the new Elysée’s guest has a new approach towards the economical measures that must be adopted in order to stop the rising unemployment and, at the same time, to give a believable answer to people’s request for a bigger buying power and better living conditions. The austerity plan imposed by Germany is based on uncontrolled liberalisations, big cuts to the welfare state, a protraction of retiremen age and the revocation of important worker’s rights. Hollande, on the contrary, has won the elections by saying that this kind of policy cannot be accepted as the only possible strategy to seek a way out of the crisis: his rescue package includes the creations of jobs, a block of the maximum pensionable age (60 years) and, in a general sense, the defense of worker’s rights. Is this proposal realistic? We are going to find it out in a close future. In this regard, one thing is for sure: a failure would mean a big risk for Europe’s political stability. The astonishing success that Marie Le Pen’s National Front has had in the first turn is a clear signal of how much such an Euroskeptic and neo-nationalistic propaganda can be tempting for a big share of the electorate.

For the same reason, we ought to observe very carefully what’s going on in Greece: yesterday’s results are in fact pretty clear. In a country that has been dramatically hit by the economical crisis, all the parties who formed the past caretaker government have been the victims of a strong elector’s disaffection. The two main Greek parties, Nea Dimokratia (right-wing, 20%) and Pasok (left-wing, 13,2%) are not able to form a coalition because of the huge loss of votes they had to face. A third member is needed, that according to Greek observers is nowhere to be found: the only party that could be appropriate in this sense, Dimar (Left-wing, 6,1%), has already made clear that is not going to be involved. Starting from today Nea Dimokratia, first Greek party, has a three-day deadline to form the coalition. If this attempt will fail, the second Greek party is going to have his own chance. And here comes a big surprise. The real winner of this elections is in fact Syriza (16,76%), an array of radical left and green groups. “Merkel should worry and Europe should hope in us”, so the leader Alexis Tsipras during an interview with “The Observer”. Why should Merkel worry? First of all, because this party gained such a result by following and inciting a strong popular opposition against the politics of austerity, wanted by Germany and implemented by the caretaker government. Greece voted against the old political establishment, considered guilty of the economical collapse and, even worse, entirely dominated by Merkel’s government.

"Seastorm" by Roger Schmidt

This sounds like a strong warning for Italian politics too: even though the situation of the two countries is not comparable, some similarities should not be ignored. Monti’s caretaker government is in fact losing public consent day after day, and society is showing a big disaffection towards the parties that decided to take part in it. Moreover, a large decline is still affecting Italian economy, and the request of social equity and sustainable development, similar to the Greek’s one, is clearly rising.

It seems like a wind of change is blowing in the sails of the vessel “Europe”, a wind who speaks of hope and social justice. It remains to be seen whether it will be able to bring the ship in safe waters or nationalism and anti-Europeanism will rock the boat.

Riccardo Motti

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