“Europe is definitely at the heart of our business, so whatever happens in Europe is critical for every country”

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By Marine SUDAN

For my studies’ framework, I needed to interview someone related to my region, Europe. On May, 23th, François Rameau gave me an appointment in his office in Madrid. What about him?

For years, he has been travelling around the globe for his job: Singapore to Mumbai, Hong-Kong to Paris. Few months ago, he had the opportunity to take the general manager of the Spanish branch of the Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, based in the center of Madrid. It is a subsidiary of the French Company. They are dealing with the largest Spanish companies as well as the largest financial institutions as a global client. Not only helping those companies in Spain but also worldwide throughout the rest of their network.

For me it was interesting to interview someone link to my region, with a international background and that have an opinion of his country even if he does not live in it and also about the European Union.

As a French citizen and a European one, the main questions of this interview were to know his points of view about Europe and what happened lately. I wrote this article in a manner to have first his opinion about French election that took place one month ago and their consequences, and then about Europe.

Firstly, I asked him if he did follow the news in Europe. While smiling at me, his response was very clear:

“No choice, I mean Europe is definitely at the heart of our business, so whatever happens in Europe is critical for every country, including Spain”.

Even if he is currently living in Madrid for the next few years, his situation didn’t prevent him from voting for its next President, here in Madrid, as a concern citizen.

So, what about France? My first question was direct: was he satisfied with all the candidates for this presidential election ? Although the company did not have a specific candidate, he could not speak on their behalf. For Rameau, he is quite satisfied with the final outcome of the election because the alternative, if Marine Le pen was elected, it could have been extremely dangerous for the activity. Macron is “everybody’s hope” to make France stronger. Even if there is a lot of waiting for France to adjust with the realities of Europe and those of the world.

My next concern was his thoughts about the younger being a part of Europe. As we seen during the election, lots of them were supporting Melenchon. He understands why many people supported him because young people feel that they don’t necessary belong to the European economy as it is today. But as he said

those are people that have only a short view on the economic reality. They don’t necessarily understand the global environment that we are in”.

If France were to implemented Melenchon’s reforms, it would automatically loose her competitiveness and a lot of jobs would disappear in the process. He thinks that people have a cast of vote of protests because they are not happy with the situation (unemployment is mostly one of the main problems brought during an election and a big concern In French society).

Moreover, this election showed the growth of the populism. Marine Le Pen won a lot of supporters during this election which had not occurred since 2002. For the first turn, she had reached over 21,30%, 3% less than Macron and had won over Melenchon, who didn’t make it to 20% of the voters.

Even if François Rameau don’t have an objective idea on the growth of the populism, he thinks that Europe has reached probably the pic of the populist votes in France. it reflects the fact that many people don’t think they belong to the global economy and don’t necessarily understand it. But in the case of Le Pen, she has targeted the weakest of voters. He means the unemployed people, many of them potentially unemployable, because they have not been properly trained and didn’t adjust to the new reality of the economy. Therefore, Le Pen is promising a kind of a dream as an old France like it was used to be forty or fifty years ago for those people when they were young. It could have been marvelous but it is strictly impossible. Marine Le Pen has no clue on the economy reality shown before the Second turn during a debate.

Thirdly, for years, European Union has weakened and this has not improved with the Brexit. Thanks to the French election happened this year, it will probably be stronger. Many people were concerned about the European project losing its steam. Now that France emerges stronger and is confirming its European commitment together with the support of Germany, the General Manager says that it is “a good opportunity and opening to make it better”. Even if we know that not all countries will agree with those new projects as a common defense, tax system and other things that are not in the current EU treaty. The next thing will be to see if other countries want to be in the same coalition or independent.

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Even if Brexit happened this year, France and Italy almost did. It is still a continue treat because for many years the European Union has benefit more or less to its citizens. For him, EU still benefits to the citizen but those ones are no longer obvious, it is more complicated. It is seen as a huge administration with many problems. Therefore, people think that they have lost a bit of control.  Its shows a strong signal that people want a change. EU has itself understood that it needs to change its ways to process, leave back more power to nations and only get involve in what is important, not being perceive as a substitute for a nation here citizens belong.

After a few minutes exchanging, he finished with this quote:

“I am quite confident that we are coming out of a difficult period, the global economic environment is now stronger, so it will help people to realize that finally the European Union is not that bad. And depending on the outcome of the Brexit negotiation, if and it is my own feeling, that if UK suffers after exiting the EU, then people will think again”.

 

Macron elected President: the world welcomes its victory!

On this day of Sunday, May 7th, Macron has become the new French president. First in polls for several months, French people believed in this young banker to be the one to govern their country. Thanks to his triumph against Marine Le Pen, its competitor, France is no longer divided and finds a semblance of tranquility.

But how did the rest of the world react? Because for some time France has been placed under a microscope almost everywhere. Going from Japan, to the United States, passing through Israel or Venezuela

Firstly, they were also some states in which they offered their support to Marine Le Pen, those special countries had some common characteristics in their political philosophy. The main countries that were backing the ultra-right program in France where; the United States, Russia and the UK government. Especially for UK, which was hoping that France, if Marine Le Pen was elected, that they would not be the only one leaving UE. 

Various political leaders announced by their personal social sites their disagreement to the victory of Macron. As Nigel Farage tweeted “Emmanuel Macron offers 5 more years of failure, power to the UE and open borders. If Marie Le pen sticks in there, she can win 2022”, who directly addresses their support as Le Pen was in favor of leaving the European Union. When the news arrives to Moscow, the reaction of president Putin after his meeting on march 24 with Le Pen was not very likely, as the French leader had included in her political government an exit in NATO and a very friendly relation with Russia.

It is clear that the important influence of the French power had around the world. For this reason the reaction of president Trump wasn’t directly supporting Macron but the past declarations before the elections and the visit of Le Pen to Washington evidently showed a relationship between these right leaders.

On the other hand, Emmanuel Macron was supported by most of the European countries because of Macron’s ideology which is considered pro-European. Many of members of the European departments show their positions as Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and of course, European countries like Germany, where Angela Merkel celebrate the Macron victory by calling him or even Mariano Rajoy, the president of Spain’s government, who sent a telegram to Emmanuel Macron. Furthermore, the ex-president of the United States, Barack Obama  announced his support to Macron too, just before the election on May 4th.

After winning presidential elections and becoming the world’s youngest president, Europe was then going to react to this event, some countries feared a victory of Marine Le Pen because they felt that the place of France was in europe.

And it is thus the most pro-European candidate of this campaign which was elected, what did not escape in his from now on counterparts. From Brussels to Berlin, including Rome or Madrid, congratulations streamed, so sincere as relieved. Concerning United Kingdom, the majority of the political leaders greeted the victory of Macron, which falls in the campaign.

Emmanuel Macron carries at the same time the hope of the countries of the South (Italy, Greece, Spain), who hope a little less obligatorily and a little more reflation, and those for countries of the North, which, to save European spirit, are ready for financial concessions if France implements new reforms. With its election and after Brexit  and more still if Martin Schultz beat Angela Merkel in autumn , Europe has maybe just entered a new cycle.

The “Frexit” election

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First results came out April 23rd 2017 which marks a turning point in the French Political life, even in French society, which is more divided than ever.

The first turn of this election shows the rise in power of the National Front led by Marine Le Pen, the defeat of the Right and Left Political parties, as well as the appearance of a new movement. This one is led by one of the youngest candidates of the presidential elections 2017. What happened? What changed people’s minds? Are any of the current event in charge of this Change of circumstances?

To win, each of the two finalists must build a gathering much bigger than its initial one. So they need to attract as many voters as possible from the candidates beaten in the first round. For decades, this gathering obeyed the logic of the two camps – left and right – that dominated the political landscape. The elimination of the candidates of the Socialist Party and the Republican Party, and the qualification of those of the National Front and “En marche!”. Make this voice reporting mechanism unprecedented and much more unpredictable. 

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Marine Le pen is a layer and right-handed politician who has been decisive in the construction of the modern politics in France. This year, she’s leading a political vision that is taking a lot of controversies in the way of being discriminatory, Eurocentric and fascist. In order to understand her ideas, it is necessary to state three of the main arguments she is willing to fight for.

Firstly, she wants to expel France from the European Union (Frexit), this will completely change the organization of the European program after the Brexit was triggered. As she declared in an interviewI am a ferocious opponent of the European Union, so I’m not held to the choices that have been made, which go completely against the interests of France.

Secondly, she wants to change the national and international security program in which France must be taken out from the OTAN, this make a lot of debates as France is one of the countries in which ISIS had taken the most acts.The fear of the French community is becoming stronger after each terrorist attack, is the responsibility for the candidates to ensure their country’s security.

Finally, Le Pen includes in her political campaign program a new economic platform changing for a protectionism in which they will close many of the international treats,  France will lose a lot of international economic power. This protectionism program has clear similarities with Trump and May objectives, in which the three of them share similarities in their political view.

Macron is a former member of the socialist party, despite of creating the centrist movement called “En Marche!”. According to, his electoral program, the republican candidate give an overall Pro European Union view, however he said in one of his speeches  that he wanted to “make some changes so that the EU can be made stronger”.

In economic terms, the Republican candidate is promoting to make France more a business based on work and responsibility. He wants to make the labour market more flexible and talk about changing the electoral system, which would be more proportional. It is known that these days France is suffering dangerous problems with security, so as Macron established, he had promised to strengthen police and suggest to increase European Union cooperation. Furthermore, the Republican candidate said that it is necessary to make France multicultural.

First not-surprise of this first turn, the surveys were not mistaken. The presidential campaign was characterized by a permanent lawsuit blaming the surveys, in particular after the primary educations of the Republicans where the opening of Francois Fillon had been underestimated and in more general context, marked by the partial failures of the survey institutes to predict Brexit and Trump’s victory at the time of the American Presidential election. On may 7th the French people will make an important choice because the far right has never been that close to preside, which would be a first in the French history.

On the other side, Emmanuel Macron leaves like the favorite of the second turn, however the surveys show that voting intentions are very tight between its two candidates.

The stakes are very important because the program of its two candidates are very different in particular economically with the exit of the Europe concerning Marine Le pen whereas Emmanuel Macron would wish on the opposite “to build Europe of the sovereign nations and free people”. In 4 days, France, Europe and the rest of the world will know the future of France and its place on the European scene.

A french diplomat on the current European affairs

After a intensive month with the visit of the French President and Prime Minister in Spain, Philippe Richou, the press and communication counsellor of the French ambassador in Spain has accepted to answer to some of my questions focused on Europe.  I wanted to cover three important topics: Terrorism, Anti-Europeanism and The Ukrainian conflict, with the point of view of the French State.

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The press and communication councellor, Philippe Richou.

First of all, as a civil servant, Mr Richou wanted to insist on the fact that it was not his role to comment the current events but to inform on the action of his country and the relation between Spain and France.

 On the question of the terrorist threat, the counsellor answered that we need to preserve our democratic model.  After the attack of “Charlie Hebdo”, an old debate emerged in the French society on freedom and fighting against terrorism. The French authorities want to preserve the model of public freedom and face terrorism. “We have to get tools as efficient as possible in order to restrain the terrorist menace and warranty freedom and security.” One of the main ideas of the government is to enable a register in the Schengen Zone for the plane passengers and exchange better data with other countries. This measure is discussed at the European level, and “France hopes that this project is going to progress in the European Parliament”.

But for fighting against terrorism, European member States also have to focus on what is going on outside. Some countries are participating to military interventions against terrorist movements in other continents. Mr Richou reminded that it is the case of France in Sahel or, in Iraq, in the framework of the international coalition against ISIS. Since the 9/11, the fight against terrorism has become more important.  Today, countries are cooperating at a European and Extra-European level. In Our continent, some work has been done but there is still a lot to do. The French position is “that Europe has to be more efficient and improve this coordination.”

After what occurred in Denmark and the attack of a French ambassador, I also wanted to know if embassies changed their security measures. Philippe Richou answered that embassies are open places and their objectives are to create cooperation with different countries but security measures are taken in order to protect this administration.

On the difficulties of the European Union and Anti-Europeanism, the diplomat reminded what he said before “It is not my role to judge or qualify a legal political movement”. There is a big expectation of the European citizens, the results of the previous European elections showed that some citizens don’t trust Europe and are convinced that things are not working in the economic plan.  In answer to these expectations, “the position of the French government is that austerity cannot be the only answer to the crisis and Europe has to be factor of growth”.  With the Junker plan, Europe points out one of its basic principles that is helping States, this is why the French government supported it.  What is sure is that electors are worried and vote for parties against this system.  As a civil servant, he wanted to add: “But we must not judge the electors, it is important to understand why these citizens make these choices.”

On the Greek situation, the French position is to hear the democratic claims of the Greek population, but also to remind that the Greek State underwrote commitment with the members of the European Union. “We have to find “la Sintonía fina”, as the Spaniards say, so as to find a deal between the democratic demands and the European rules accepted by the Greek.”

To finish, on the Ukrainian conflict, the counsellor said that in the case of the cease fire between Ukraine and rebels, European Countries such as Germany or France have played a role. Third parties as our countries “can manage to reunite the belligerents, and try to propose realistic propositions in function of the interests of the different concerned parties. “ But this ceasefire cannot last if there is not interest to stop the hostilities. This agreement is meaningful if the belligerents take advantage on the peace so as to find solutions to the problems that were at the origin of the conflict. The role of member countries of the European Union is to do their upmost in order to create a dialog and end this conflict. “The ceasefire is provisory, it is almost in the domain of the” tactical”, after there is the “strategic” issue and, for us, this strategic issue is peace.”

Nicolas MARTIN

All Europe looks at Spain

On monday 1st of June and after four decades of reign, the Spanish King, Rey Juan Carlos I, abdicated. It was shocking when the Spanish first priminister, Mariano Rajoy, called a press conference which he did not give any hint of what he was going to announce. When everyone was paying him attention he stated that the King gave him the responsability to announce to the population that he was going to abdicate. When that happened, all Europe looked at Spain.

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When Angela Merkel got told that the Spanish King abdicated, she couldn’t stop giving good comments about him. She stated the importance of the King in the transition to democracy and the good relations with Germany due to very constructive and deep conversations with the monarch. Hours before, her speaker, Steffen Seibert, stated that Merkel appreciated the King alot and hopes the best for him.

French newspapers have, as well, been following the latest news about the Spanish king’s abdication. Le Monde has reported in an objective way the facts and the reasons that made it happen. It also announced that Hollande and the King maintained a conversation the same day, in which the French President showed his support to him and the rest of the royal family defining King Juan Carlos as the “personification of the Spanish democracy process, who guided his country through the way of civil and political rights” (François Hollande, 2 Jun.) Some French opinion articles suggest that Spanish population reaction has been of surprise by the new but then, quickly assimilated and defined as a “normal decision” due to the king’s age and royal family’ scandals and they show their support to his son, Prince Felipe, next Spanish King.

The day after the abdication, the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, called the King to show his personal best wishes and to remember him his “deep and ancient” relations with Italy, the country where the King was born. As Merkel also did, he stated the great importance that he had in the Spanish transition.

The English prime minister, David Cameron, stated that the Spanish King has and always will be a very good friend of England. In addition, the British population are convinced that the Queen will not give up and abdicate eventhough a part of the population would be in favour of it. Some assurements about the the continuing reign of Elizabeth were made by the Queen’s cousin, the Hon Margaret Rhodes or even David Cameron, who said that he is sure that she will not abdicate in favour of his son Charles.

Diversity within ‘The Six’

European Elections have brought some shocking results; the increase in popularity of far-right parties in many countries and the uncertain future and direction of the EU.

The first few European Parliament elections Germany‘s voter participation reached good results: in 1979 it reached up to 65,7% turnout – while it decreased strongly in the last two elections: 2004 only 43% and 2009 up to 43,27%.
In the European elections (25th of May 2014) the German turnout increased up to 47,9% and the CDU won again in cooperation with the CSU reaching 36,3%, followed by SPD with 27,4% and GRÜNE with 10,5%.

The critical AfD party also reached 7%, achieving 7 seats in the European Parliament.

The right-wing and radical parties in Germany gathered a few votes, obtaining only 1 seat, however in some other European countries like France and UK it seems to be a big day for them.

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Picture retrieved from: http://tinyurl.com/lkwk2pa

The latest results made in France about the next 2014 european elections showed that only 39% of the population was going to participate. Due to the economic crisis, the number of eurosceptics is increasing in this country, bringing for the first time, a victory for far-right parties in the elections. The National Fron (NF) leaded by Marine Le Pen, described as an anti-immigration and eurosceptic party won with a 25,4% of votes while the other two important ones, UMP a centre-right party achieved 21% and the Socialist party (PS) 14,5%.

The failures of Hollande’s political program and the economic crisis that Europe is suffering right now has made right-wing parties lead the first positions on the electoral lists and have strengthened population’s national and protectionist values, rejecting so, any european future project.

The rest pro-european countries suggest that if the results are these ones, an isolated France would be devastating for european economic and social prosperity.

Currently, the 3 predominant parties in Italy are Forza Italia, Partito Democratica and Five Star Movement.

According to a pole made by “Metapolls” between the 2nd the 9th of May, Forza Italia, lead by Silvio Berlusconi, would obtain between 18,2-20.5%, many less points than Partito Democratico, which the poll gives a prediction of between 30,6-33,4%. Five Star Movement, lead by Beppe Grillo, would between 25-27,6%, many more than the oldest party in Italy, Forza Italia. The Final results at the European elections in Italy have been quite similar as the polls have shown through the past days.

Partito Democratico won the elections with a remarkable difference in comparison with the rest, obtaining 40,8%, followed by Five Star Movement with 21,15% and Forza Italia with 16,8%.

These European elections are the first elections held under the Treaty of Lisbon of 2009, which in article 14 points out that the now elected European Parliament is going to elect the next President of the European Commission. [Responsible for the executive organ of the EU.]

Closing the European Parliament elections of 2014, there is only one question left:

Who is going to be the next President of the European Commission?

Discovering Andorra

BbOBgudIYAApJNq.jpg-large We are used to hear news about Germany, France, Great Britain… but in the European scenario there are some states of very small size, like is the case of Andorra.  Well, as I am a citizen from Andorra, and I had the opportunity to interview the ambassador of Andorra in Spain, Mr. Jaume Gaytán(Picture I him and myself), by this article I will prove you how influential can be the international role of Andorra today.

First of all I will introduce to you the main character of this interview; his name is Jaume Gaytan, born in 1972 in Andorra la Vella. In regard to his professional career he is graduated in Economics and he also coursed a master in International Relations in Madrid. He had been ambassador in Portugal since 2007 until 2009, and has been responsible for multilateral affairs in the minister of foreign Affairs in Andorra la Vella. Now he is ambassador of Andorra in Spain.

We started our conversation talking about the particular political system of Andorra; once I asked him about that, Ambassador Gaytán defined Andorra as a parliamentary co-principality. That means that the General Council acts as the national parliament, elected sovereignly; the parliament designs the prime minister and the prime minister runs the government together with the ministers that he designates. A very curious institution is the figure of the head of state, who are still the Co-Princes; they keep an historical role, but nowadays their power is much limited compared with their role before the Constitution.

14th march of 1993 was a very important date in our history, as that day was approved by referendum the first Constitution of Andorra, solving definitively the question of Andorran sovereignty and giving Andorra its own international personality. Before that date the sovereignty was in the hands of the Co-Princes, the president of France (French Co-Prince) and the Bishop of Urgell (Episcopal Co-Prince) as a result of a peace agreement dated in 1278.

As long as I was speaking with Jaume we both agreed that sometimes is frustrating to confirm that Andorra is not yet a well-known country. This situation reminds me a supposed rumor about the former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy that apparently, when he was elected, he did not know that he was actually the co-prince of Andorra. The ambassador answered that Mr. Sarkozy really knew he was Co-Prince of Andorra, but he probably was not as enthusiastic as others French Co- Princes in his role. This reminds me about his only visit to Andorra, which was a shorter trip compared with the visits of other French presidents; he did not visit the seven parishes of Andorra, as it was the tradition, limiting his official visit to a speech in the capital, Andorra la Vella, together with the Episcopal Co-Prince. In my personal point of view this was a little disappointing, and I hope that the actual president will come and visit us soon and hopefully we will feel more appreciated and better represented by him.

Once this rumor was finally cleared I ask him about the importance of Andorra in the international scene. Ambassador Gaytán explained it perfectly, declaring first of all that “Andorra is a really good example of equality between states, its territory and population is not very relevant compared with other states, geographically Andorra has the same size as the island of Ibiza and a population that is less than 100.000 citizens, but it is not the smallest state in the world, not even in Europe where there are smaller states as Monaco or San Marino. Since 1993 Andorra has the sovereign status that gave the country the conditions for joining the main international organizations, as the United Nations, where as a state the vote of Andorra in the General Assembly has the same value of the vote of the United States, Russia, China, France, Spain or any other member state. Andorra is also member of the Council of Europe, UNESCO, OSCE and other international organizations. Andorra has also diplomatic representations or embassies in Madrid, Paris, Brussels, New York, Vienna Strasbourg, Geneva and Lisbon, and keeps an active role in every important international conference or summit”

Twenty years after the Constitution was approved the international presence of Andorra keeps growing year after year, getting stronger and trying to be more and better known.

Last but not least, as my guest was graduated in economics I thought that it would be a really good idea to ask him about the economic situation and how does that affect to the embassy. With a worried expression he replied me, pointing out that obviously it affects the day by day. He literally said “Andorra is suffering the effects of the economic crisis but fortunately not as much as Spain. In Andorra we have experienced a decrease in tourism, which is really painful because the economy of Andorra is based on trade and tourism; also much of the projects of civil construction have been stopped, but we are managing that by opening and diversifying our economy”. About how the crisis is affecting to the day by day of the embassy he emphasizes saying than important budgetary reductions have been made and now everything is done reconsidering priorities. Asked about how they can do that, he answered:  “With a lot of imagination”.