The fundamental problem of the French presidency has been unexpectedly highlighted by Emmanuel Macron’s response to the Gilets Jaunes. Florence Aubenas, writing in Le Monde, noted that in her visits to ronds-points where protesters were gathered, no politician’s name other than Macron was mentioned. Hence it was only to be expected that their demands would be met by a declaration from the president himself. He delivered a great deal in his televised speech, more than most observers expected he would. But he delivered it on his own, without consultation with the legislature, leaders of his own or other parties, or even, it seems, with the relevant ministries. The practical problems of fulfilling his promises have become apparent only after the fact. For example, the expedient mechanism for increasing take-home pay at the bottom of the income scale–adding to the activity bonus–will leave out many people earning the minimum wage, perhaps justifiably because their spouses are earning more, but perhaps not. Nobody really knows because nobody has investigated the consequences of a measure decided unilaterally, by fiat, by the president. The same goes for the elimination of the CSG on pensions. For administrative reasons, it seems that it can’t be put in place as quickly as the president promised.
The president of the Republic has, when he chooses to invoke them, such unchecked autocratic powers that he can easily promise more than he can deliver, undermining his own credibility. The hasty–dare one say panicky–response to the crisis illustrates the flaw of this autocratic executive model. If Macron wants to get at the root of the crisis, he should impose checks and balances on himself and discipline himself to consult with both public and civil society institutions before acting. This crisis demonstrates the utter failure of France’s intermediary bodies, which must be rebuilt effectively and quickly. And that does not mean giving in to demands for a so-called RIC, or citizen initiative referendum–an idea that will only make an already disastrous situation even worse.
Guest author: Art Goldhammer
PARIS,December 18 -- France has said it will impose its own tax on large internet and technology companies from January 1.
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said at a news conference in Paris on Monday that the measure would be introduced "whatever happens". "It will be for the whole of 2019 for an amount that we estimate at 500 million euros [$570 million]," he said. Monday's move could help Paris close a multibillion-euro hole in the 2019 budget left by President Emmanuel Macron's new measures for low-income families, which were introduced last week to appease the "yellow vest" protesters. France has long been pushing hard for a so-called "GAFA tax" - named after Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon - to ensure the global giants pay a fair share of taxes on their massive business operations in the European Union. The low tax rates paid by the US tech giants in the EU has repeatedly caused anger among voters in many European countries, but the 28-member bloc is divided on how to tackle the issue.
MOSCOW, December 18 -- Intelligence agencies from at least ten countries have been showing high interest in Russia’s Armed Forces.
The head of the Military Counterintelligence Department at the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Colonel General Nikolai Yuryev revealed in an interview ahead of the military counterintelligence agency’s centennial anniversary. "Russia’s Armed Forces still are a matter of interest for foreign intelligence agencies," he noted. "This is proven by the fact that military counterintelligence officers exposed dozens of intelligence agents from the US, Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia and Poland," Yuryev added. The general stressed that the FSB Military Counterintelligence Department and army security agencies were particularly tasked with preventing foreign intelligence agencies from reaching out to the Russian Armed Forces, collecting intelligence concerning security threats, preventing terrorist and subversive activities against the army, as well as with protecting state secrets, countering organized crime, corruption, arms and drug trafficking in the army.
Russia’s military counterintelligence agency will mark its centennial anniversary on December 19.
LONDON, December 1 -- The UK arm of Dutch firm BAM has landed its biggest-ever contract after it was chosen to build a new suite of offices in London’s King’s Cross that will serve as social media giant Facebook’s new headquarters.
Bennett Associates, which is designing the development, aims for Facebook’s buildings to be the lowest-carbon commercial offices in the UK. BAM, which recently completed Coal Drops Yard, also in King’s Cross, said the deal “represents the largest contract signed by BAM” although did not reveal the contract value for reasons of commercial confidentiality. Plots T2 and T3 of the development will become known as 11-21 Canal Reach and will house Facebook’s offices in two BREEAM Outstanding-rated buildings. The building on plot T2 will be 12 storeys high at its highest point at the southern end of the site, stepping down to nine storeys towards the north. There also be roof terraces with views across the city.
BAM is onsite already with a “substantial” enabling and substructure works package. Completion is expected early in 2021. Construction director Ewen Hunter, who has led for BAM on several of the buildings at King’s Cross, said: “Nothing at King’s Cross is ordinary. Every building is ambitious and the client is constantly pushing what can be achieved for itself and others. “Our teams embrace the challenge and our integrated model, involving our design and engineering businesses, makes us an ideal fit for the scale and complexity of this big building with a demanding design.”
LONDON, December 17 -- British Prime Minister Theresa May says the postponed vote on Britain's divorce agreement with the European Union will be held the week of January 14.
That's more than a month after it was originally scheduled and just 10 weeks before Britain leaves the EU. But even as May insisted she could salvage her unpopular divorce deal, pressure was mounting for dramatic action - a new referendum or a vote among lawmakers - to find a way out of Britain's Brexit impasse and prevent the economic damage of a messy exit from the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place. The British government and the EU sealed a divorce deal last month, but May postponed a parliamentary vote intended to ratify the agreement last week when it became clear legislators would overwhelmingly reject it. She tried to win changes from the EU to sweeten the deal for reluctant lawmakers, but was rebuffed by the bloc at a summit in Brussels last week.
May's authority also has been shaken after a no-confidence vote from her own party on Wednesday (Thursday NZ Time) that saw more than a third of Conservative lawmakers vote against her. May told lawmakers in the House of Commons on Monday (Tuesday NZT) that they would resume debate on the deal when Parliament comes back after its Christmas break the week of January 7, with the vote held the following week. "I know this is not everyone's perfect deal," May said. "It is a compromise. But if we let the perfect be the enemy of the good then we risk leaving the EU with no deal."
Opposition legislators - and many from May's Conservative Party - remain opposed to the deal, and accused May of deliberately wasting time by delaying the vote for several more weeks. "The prime minister has cynically run down the clock trying to manoeuvre Parliament into a choice between two unacceptable outcomes: her deal and no deal," Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said.
NYON, December 17 -- The Champions League round of 16 draw, and the Europa League round of 32 draw, took place Monday in Nyon, Switzerland.
They set up the first round of the four month knockout stages, which will end the European club football season. The Europa League final will take place May 29 at the Baku Olympic Stadium in Azerbaijan, while the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium (home of Atletico Madrid) will host the Champions League final June 1. The introduction of VAR for both tournaments from the round of 16 on to the finals adds a new wrinkle, and should be interesting to watch.
Real Madrid has won the last three Champions League titles, and will start its knockout stage defense against Ajax. The four English sides in Champions League, three of which will open at home in the two-legged ties which will start either February 12-13 or 19-20, will have some tough match ups.
Liverpool will face Bayern Munich, Manchester United will take on Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint Germain, while Tottenham will see Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund. Manchester City, as the lone group winner from England, will start on the road. The Cityzens, the current favorite to win the tournament, will visit Schalke 04. There are two more English teams in the Europa League, and they are the two betting favorites to win the competition and earn an automatic berth into next season's Champions League (if it is not in the top four of the Premier League). Arsenal will visit Belarus to take on BATE Borisov, while Chelsea will head to Sweden to take on Malmo.
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW RESULTS
(All first round legs played at home of group runners-up Feb. 12-13 or 19-20.)
PRAQUE, December 17 -- A study prepared by the British Legatum Institute with the support of Erste Group examined work-related migration trends between 2000 and 2015.
During the analyzed period, 400,000 people came to the Czech Republic, which is 3.5 percent more than how many have left the country. The net migration rate has begun to reverse after the Czech accession to the EU in 2004. Over the last year, nearly 30,000 people came to the country. Such net migration rates leave the Czech labor market the second most attractive in Central Europe right after Austria with a positive rate of 7.4 percent. For example, Hungary has a positive 1.1 and Slovakia 0.1 percent. On the other hand, typical emigrant countries include Albania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania.
While Ukraine is not mentioned, it is a number one source of migrants coming to the Czech Republic. There is a special governmental program for workers from Ukraine, Serbia, and Mongolia that matches existing demand with foreign applicants. Additionally, the report shows workers’ satisfaction. The Czech Republic is again second right after Austria regarding an overall standard of living. When it comes to their satisfaction with salary, the Czech market is fourth after Lithuania, Slovenia, and Austria. Work-related migration is going to dominate in Europe for another decade at least. So far, the Czech Republic doesn’t have a problem with closed communities of Gastarbeiters and large groups of unintegrated migrants, which could potentially be a security threat for the country.
Benoist says French President Emmanuel Macron responded too little and too late, and stressed that the people have lost their trust in the political class and the media. He continues by saying that some of the protesters suffer from cultural insecurity – caused mainly by immigration – while others are protesting because of social insecurity, even if they have a job they can’t make a living.
According to the French philosopher it’s becoming increasingly difficult for nation states to regain their sovereignty, and he stressed that liberalism and democracy are not the same thing.
MOSCOW, December 17 -- Missile defense facilities of the United States in Europe are located within a reach of Russia’s effective striking forces.
Strategic Missile Force Commander Colonel-General Sergei Karakayev said this in an interview with Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper. "We must not forget that the European missile defense facilities are located within the reach of other [not nuclear] effective striking means of our Armed Forces," Karakayev replied to a question regarding the deployment of US missile defense facilities in Romania and Poland. Late last month Russian Deputy Feoreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov stated that The deployment of the US Aegis Ashore systems as ballistic missile defense infrastructure in Europe is a direct breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
An Aegis Ashore missile facility went into operation at the Deveselu military base in Romania in May 2016. The facility comprises the ballistic missile defense control center and mobile Mk-41 batteries with SM-3 interceptors. They are serviced by 200 US servicemen. SM-3 missile interceptor batteries are scheduled to go in operation in Poland in 2020 under the Aegis Ashore program. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated on many occasions that the deployment of Aegis Ashore land-based ballistic missile defense systems in Eastern Europe is Washington’s breach of its commitments under the INF Treaty.
US President Donald Trump said on October 20 that his country would quit the INF Treaty because Russia was allegedly in breach of that agreement. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov described this as a dangerous move. Washington was also criticized in Berlin and Beijing. In the meantime, London came out in support of the United States and NATO placed the responsibility for Trump’s decision on Russia, because in its opinion Moscow had apparently violated the treaty. The INF Treaty was signed on December 8, 1987 and took effect on June 1, 1988. It outlawed deployed and non-deployed intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers) ground-based missiles.
In recent years, Washington has repeatedly alleged Russia was in breach of the agreement. Moscow emphatically dismissed the charges and countered them with its own claims over the United States’ non-compliance.
BERLIN, December 16 -- For months proponents of the UN Migration Pact told us that the pact was non-binding.
The response to the many citizens of nation states worldwide having signed country specific petitions was that it was non-binding so there was nothing to worry about, it was going to be good. The immensely opposed and disastrous document declares unlimited migration to be treated as a human right, thereby deprecating the term ‘illegal migrants’, and criminalises any criticism of migration as hate speech.
The points that raised alarm for most was that it seeks to eliminate all forms of dissent. Media organisations for example, should they criticise anything to do with migration would lose access to state funding. People would be labelled as racists or guilty of hate speech which will now be criminalised. This pact will literally erase our borders. The question I’ve been asking is if the countries that refused to sign, are they still bound to it being members of the UN. Most people were of the mind that it would only affect the signatories. Now we know. In a frank exchange with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Hebner of the AfD drew out an admission that it is, in fact, legally binding. As well, that it will be adopted as rule for all UN Member states once enacted.
Mr. Hebner asks: “You can see for yourself clearly that during the conference, the spokesperson for Morocco emphasised that the agreement was legally binding. He said clearly, in a literal sense, that there is a corresponding legal bond for all nations taking part as well as an obligation of implementation. You and your delegation did not raise a single word of objection to that statement but idly accepted it. I would like to emphasise that the parliamentary motion was not presented at the conference. “
Ms. Merkel’s response not only confirmed what we at Voice of Europe have been suspecting all along, the claim it is indeed binding, but that once voted and accepted it will be valid for all:
“So then, during the UN General Assembly next week, the pact will once again be up for debate and a decision will be made on whether to accept it. At this time, a member state can demand a vote. When two-thirds of the represented countries agree then it is valid for all. That’s how majority decision-making works.”
One of the top authors of The Peet Journal is Pete McGea. As a native born Scotsman, Pete
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