Connect with us

EU

The Achilles Heel covered by #Macron #Beirut triumph

Published

on

French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured) received a hero’s welcome in Beirut, walking the streets and embracing the victims of last week’s explosion the way no Lebanese leader could dream to do. Faced with the pleadings of a desperate population, Macron was even placed in the bizarre position to politely decline suggestions to retake Lebanon under French mandate, as it had been between the two world wars of the last century, writes international political strategist George Ajjan.

While his visit serves as a masterclass in statesmanship, this public relations coup covers an Achilles Heel of Macron’s foreign policy. As he appeared triumphant in one small corner of France’s former global influence, two other key dominoes of the francophone world continued to teeter.

On the very day that Macron wept with the injured on the streets of Beirut, both Alassane Ouattara and Alpha Condé significantly advanced their bids to secure 3rd terms as Presidents of their respective countries, Ivory Coast and Guinea. Both nations, resource rich economic pillars of West Africa and former French colonies, in principle have constitutional limits of two presidential terms. The ruling elites bending the law to allow them to remain in power represents African democracy in reverse gear, pedal to the metal.

Depriving millions of Guineans and Ivorians of electoral choice has obvious negative implications within their borders. But on the international level, the autocratic moves by Macron’s African counterparts cause him significant consternation. French leadership naturally keeps a close eye on the political machinations of its former colonies, whose political elites typically retain lobbyists of various levels of sophistication who plead their case in the corridors of the Elysée Palace. Thus, it’s unlikely that Macron did not know in advance that Ouattara and Condé would move in the direction of autocracy exactly when they did.

In an era when the continent moves further away from family dynasties and presidents-for-life, Ivory Coast and Guinea bucking the trend raises serious questions about Macron’s Africa policy. As recently as March, he extolled the democratic virtues of Ouatarra by tweeting: “I salute the decision of [President Ouatarra] to not be a candidate…tonight, Ivory Coast sets the example.” With Macron’s approval, Ouatarra had prepared a clean exit after 2 terms, having groomed his Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, to take the reins. The plan seemed solid.

Just a few weeks after that tweet, however, Coulibaly announced a decision to self-quarantine after coming into contact with someone positive for COVID-19. Though he never tested positive himself, he left to France in May, presumably for medical treatment (he had heart surgery back in 2012) and only returned in early July. Coulibaly dropped dead just a few days later. The vacancy prompted chaos in Ouattara’s party. He laid low as they ostensibly searched for a replacement flag-bearer. But ultimately he is betting that the death of candidate due to bad health less than 100 days before an election in the midst of global pandemic offers considerable cover for an unconstitutional power grab.

The timing of Ouattara’s float of the decision was auspicious. The explosion rocked Beirut on 4 August; he delivered his 25-minute address to the nation two days later on the eve of the celebration of Ivorian independence from France. There is something symbolic, or perhaps cheeky, about an African head of state charting an undemocratic course that is surely to meet the disapproval of its former master on the very day commemorating the removal of the colonial yoke.

As for Condé, he proceeded with a bit more discretion last week while Beirut captured France’s attention: his party merely nominated him to run for a third term. But the groundwork has been laid months in advance, as they rammed through an amended constitution back in April. Macron cannot be too pleased with these conditions, but Condé has many friends in high places in France, as well as a feckless opposition that has not given Macron enough reason to abandon him.

This conundrum is not new. Other French leaders have had to deal with similar rebellious streaks before, like in 2012 when former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade used contorted constitutional logic to try to seize a third term, to the annoyance of then-President Nicolas Sarkozy. In Wade’s case, however, the population grew tired of him after 12 years and he lost by a landslide in the 2nd round of the election.

Neither Ouattara nor Condé seem likely to face defeat, and if they remain in power, the democratic image of francophone West Africa will be badly blemished. That does not auger well for Macron’s legacy. Fortunately for him, he can compensate with the leadership he will exhibit via the Lebanon file.

Macron returns to Beirut on 1 September for another hero’s welcome that makes him the envy of his European peers, and for a convenient distraction from the inevitable media attention focused on questionable third term bids by the presidents of two important nations in France’s sphere of influence.

Economy

Sustainable transport: EU funds clean buses, electric charging infrastructure and more in France, Germany, Italy and Spain

Published

on

Following the EU's investment of €2.2 billion in 140 key transport projects to jump-start the green recovery, as announced in July, the EU is contributing additional €54 million to five projects that aim at delivering safer and greener transport services. Among the selection are projects deploying cleaner busses with charging infrastructure in Paris and Barcelona. The projects also involve constructing 255 new electric charging stations on Italian roads, and installing ERTMS, the European Rail Traffic Management System on 238 rail vehicles in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

The projects will be supported through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), the EU's financial mechanism supporting transport infrastructure, and further contribute to decarbonizing transport as set out in the European Green Deal. These projects were selected through the CEF Blending Facility, which allows the leveraging of additional private financing for the projects, in addition to the EU's support. In total, CEF has now supported 932 projects, with €23.1bn in total. You can find more details on today's five new selected projects here.

Continue Reading

Defence

Security Union: EU law on combatting terrorism led to stronger criminal justice rules against terrorism and more rights for victims

Published

on

On 30 October, the Commission adopted a report assessing the measures that member states have taken to comply with the EU rules on combating terrorism (Directive 2017/541). This Directive is the main criminal justice instrument at EU level to counter terrorism. It sets minimum standards for defining terrorist and terrorism-related offences and for sanctions, while also giving victims of terrorism rights to protection, support and assistance.

The report concludes that the transposition of the Directive into national law helped strengthen member states' criminal justice approach to terrorism and the rights afforded to victims of terrorism. While the measures taken by member states to comply with the Directive are overall satisfactory, there are however gaps that are a cause for concern.

For example, not all member states criminalize in their national law all the offences listed in the Directive as terrorist offences. In addition, there are deficiencies in the measures that member states have taken to criminalize travel for terrorism purposes and the financing of terrorism, as well as to support victims.

The Commission will continue to support member states in working towards full and correct transposition of the Directive. Where necessary, the Commission will make use of its powers under the Treaties through infringement procedures. The report will now be presented to the European Parliament and the Council.

Continue Reading

EU

European Union joins world leaders in committing to reverse nature loss by 2030 at UN Biodiversity Summit

Published

on

On 30 September, President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) represented the EU at the UN Biodiversity Summit in New York which brings together world leaders to step up global actions for nature and confirm their determination in agreeing a new ambitious global biodiversity framework at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, planned for 2021.

Prior to the summit, President von der Leyen, together with more than 70 heads of state and government endorsed the Leaders' Pledge for Nature, committing to ten decisive actions to address the nature emergency. The President pledged to put nature and the climate at the heart of the EU's recovery plan, committing to tackle the interdependent climate and biodiversity crisis, deforestation, ecosystem degradation and pollution, and move to sustainable production and consumption.

President von der Leyen said: “Nature helps us in the fight against climate change. But it is also our ally in securing prosperity, combating poverty, hunger and inequalities, and is essential to prevent future zoonotic pandemics. We need to act now and bring nature back into our lives. This is the moment for world leaders to join hands and the EU is ready to lead the way. The European Green Deal is our vision and roadmap. We call on all to join this collective effort to create a common movement of change, to make the recovery green and to protect and restore our planet - the only home we have.”

The EU Biodiversity Strategy adopted by the European Commission in May 2020 outlines an ambitious agenda for the EU internally, but also globally. It reaffirms the EU's determination to lead by example in tackling the global biodiversity crisis and in developing an ambitious new UN Global Biodiversity Framework at the 2021 UN Biodiversity Conference.

This includes overarching long-term goals for biodiversity so that by 2050 the world's ecosystems are restored, resilient, and adequately protected; ambitious global 2030 targets in line with the EU's proposed commitments; and improved means of implementation in areas such as finance, capacity, research, know-how and technology.

Ahead of the COP 15, the European Commission also launched the global coalition United for #Biodiversity, calling on all national parks, aquariums, botanic gardens, zoos, research centres, science and natural history museums, to join forces and raise their voice about the nature crisis.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Facebook

Twitter

Trending