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And whether or not Ireland likes it, on convergence.
Two years ago this is what he told the Economist
about Europe:
“So, firstly, Europe is gradually losing track of
its history… Europe has forgotten that it is a
community, by increasingly thinking of itself as a
market, with expansion as its end purpose. This
is a fundamental mistake, because it has reduced
the political scope of its project, essentially since
the 1990s. A market is not a community. A
community is stronger: it has notions of solidarity,
of convergence, which we’ve lost, and of political
thought. Secondly, a change in American strategy
is taking place; thirdly, the rebalancing of the
world goes hand in hand with the riseover the
last 15 years—of China as a power, which creates
the risk of bipolarisation and clearly marginalises
Europe. And add to the risk of a United States/
China “G2” the re-emergence of authoritarian
powers on the fringes of Europe, which also
weakens us very significantly.
Finally, added to all this we have an internal
European crisis: an economic, social, moral and
political crisis that began ten years ago. Europe
hasn’t re-lived civil war through armed conflict,
but has lived through selfish nationalism. In
Europe there has been a north-south divide on
economic issues, and east-west on the migration
issue, resulting in the resurgence of populism, all
over Europe. These two crises—economic and
migration—hit the middle classes particularly
hard. By raising taxes, by making budgetary
adjustments which hurt the middle classes, which
I believe was a historic mistake. Thats incidentally
what lies behind the rise in extremism throughout
Europe. A Europe that has become much less easy
to govern”.
The Economist gives Macron an 80% chance of
re-election. He has said and done what he thinks.
It’s good to understand him. History if not ideology
is on his side.
these matters, has claimed that “Mr
Macron has turned into something of
a closet socialist.
The most visible evidence of the
president channelling his inner
Mitterrand is to be found in public
spending. When the pandemic struck,
Macron undertook to do whatever it
took. Since then he spent ten times
more last year to keep firms and
furloughed workers going than France
ever earned in a year from its wealth
tax. France was already outspending
all the Nordic countries on social
programmes, and in indebtedness.
Less noticed is a growing body of
progressive rights and rules Mr Macron has also
introduced: a doubling of guaranteed paternity
leave to four weeks, with one week compulsory;
fines for firms that fail to close the gender pay gap.
Internationally he has championed progressive
multilateral causes, from a global minimum
corporate-tax rate (a Macron pledge in 2017) to
vaccines for Africa.
France’s centre of political gravity has shifted
to the right. This, not the left, is where his toughest
competition will come from in April’s Presidential
election. Macron’s nod to the left is studiously
mild by French class-warrior standards, and in line
with his intellectual roots.
Not surprisingly his policy mix works quite well
in practice, even if not in theory.
Macron is much more philosophical than any
other European leader, contrasting with a long-
standing Irish weakness. His thinking, if he wins
a second term, may drive the future of the EU. It
centres on strength especially globally, on
creating a community not a market, on tackling
extremism and selfish nationalism and on
indulging the disaected centrist middle classes.
our years ago I wrote early in Emmanuel
Macron’s French Presidency that he had
shown more leadership than the entire
rest of the Western world since his
election. “He claims to have found a
political path between left and right, has made
clear in the most elegant ways his disdain for
Trump and has bowed to nobody, least of all
Vladimir Putin, in sharing truths about
international political thuggery.
I had a go at tracing his philosophic influences
largely through Paul Ricoeur of whom he was a
protégé. Through Ricoeur essentially Macron is
more likely to take an ethical approach, less likely
to lie, more likely to keep promises, more likely to
seek dialogue, see the other side and understand
that two interpretations are possible of an act or
situation, to be idealistic and secular.
A good topical example is his role of interlocutor
with Russia which bespeaks his willingness to see
the other side and both his pragmatism and his
idealism. He is touting the Russian perspective
but is a friend to Ukraine and has made troops
available just in case.
Inevitably with that philosophical
underpinning his overall record is
Macron has governed to the right
of centre though he had promised
to be in equal measure right and left
of centre. A former investment
banker, who scrapped the wealth
tax and picked two centre-right
prime ministers, he has moaned
about the money the state spends
on social welfare and does not
idealise France’s comprehensivist
welfare state. He has introduced
looser labour laws into the rigid
French system and he presided over
the longest strikes since 1968
driven by his proposed pension
reforms. He has been tough on
security and Islamist extremism.
Nevertheless the Economist
magazine, not sympathetic on
By Michael Smith
General government spending total, as % of GDP, 2020 or latest available (OECD)


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