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Yellow vests look to capitalize on protest momentum

As President Macron's approval bounces back, yellow vest protesters hope to convert notoriety into electoral success. The movement has brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets across France. At least one demonstrator was injured as France's yellow vest protests entered their 13th week on Saturday. At least 10 protesters were arrested after scuffles broke out with police near the Palais Bourbon, where the National Assembly meets. While many demonstrators marched peacefully, some masked activists tried to break down barriers outside the parliament. Others threw projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades to disperse crowds Others vandalized bus shelters and set fire to garbage cans and vehicles, mostly luxury cars. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner expressed his "indignation and disgust," considering at least one vehicle belonged to France's anti-terrorism police. The protests have brought hundreds of thousands of people out onto the streets all over France. Initially voicing opposition to President Emmanuel Macron's planned tax hikes on fuel, protesters temporarily suspended action on roads, businesses, and even the government. Scores of people have been injured and hundreds arrested since the protests began in November. Paris police said a demonstrator lost four fingers when riot officers stopped protesters from storming the National Assembly. Witnesses told the French AFP news agency that the man's hand had been torn apart when a flash-ball grenade exploded. Another man, who was reportedly seen in front of a line of riot police, had blood streaming down his face. Thousands of protesters also turned out in the French cities of Marseille and Montpellier, as well as in Bordeaux, Toulouse, and several cities in France's north and west. Interior Ministry figures released at 2:00 p.m. local time put the turnout across France at 12,100, of whom 4,000 marched in Paris, down on the previous week's figures. Macron bounces back The demonstrations appeared to be losing steam as Macron acquiesced to some demands and has embarked on a nationwide town hall tour to learn more about people's grievances. Recent polls have suggested that his approval rating is back on the rise. At the same time, some yellow vest participants have been looking to capitalize on the movement's momentum and turn it into electoral success, which could prove tricky as they are very loosely organized and have no specific leadership. To that end, some yellow vest demonstrators met with Italy's populist Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who said he offered them advice on turning a citizen's movement into a political party. The meeting touched off a row between France and Italy, marking a low point in relations between the two founding EU nations. On Friday, Di Maio refused to apologize and accused Macron of playing "political games."

As President Macron’s approval bounces back, yellow vest protesters hope to convert notoriety into electoral success. The movement has brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets across France. At least one demonstrator was injured as France’s yellow vest protests entered their 13th week on Saturday. At least 10 protesters were arrested after scuffles broke out with police ... Read More »

Germany cautious as France leads European defense initiative

France is leading a 10-country defense initiative in a bid to "face new threats" outside existing structures. Germany is wary that the project could entangle its military in foreign interventions and undermine the EU. Defense ministers from 10 European countries gathered in Paris on Wednesday to set the agenda for the European Intervention Initiative (EI2), a defense coalition spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron. "To face new threats, Europe needs a strong defense," the French Defense Ministry said in a tweet after the meeting. "With the European Intervention Initiative, 10 European countries are committed to its protection." EI2's goal is to create a results-based common strategic culture that allows for rapid response joint military operations, including in humanitarian efforts. As such, it is not aimed at establishing a supranational European army. However, as an initiative outside EU and NATO frameworks, the French Defense Ministry has tried to alleviate concerns that it would undermine defense structures in the bloc and alliance. "With the European Intervention Initiative, the whole European Union and the European pillar in NATO will also be strengthened," it added. Germany felt pressured' But France's efforts have done little to placate concerns in Berlin, which Paris sees as a pivotal actor in the initiative. Claudia Major, senior international security associate at the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW that German officials are wary because "it's explicitly and deliberately organized and set up outside the European Union's structures." "For the Germans, making a deliberate attempt to setting up something meaningful outside the EU's structures — and outside NATO — is not seen as a positive move but rather as undermining the EU," Major said. "In the end, Germany felt pressured to agree and engage in the initiative, because otherwise all the talk about France and Germany being the engine of Europe and the heart of Europe, and driving European integration and cooperation forward, would look cheap, wouldn't it?" Fear of 'military adventures' Observers have suggested the initiative poses other challenges for Germany, especially in terms of possible military interventions abroad. Others have even highlighted that the French-led initiative could be used as a means to reinforce Paris' foreign policy objectives. "Berlin has watered down every French proposal for fear of being drawn into ill-considered military adventures in Africa," Philipp Rotmann, associate director of the Global Public Policy Institute, told DW. "But I haven't heard any ambitious, practical proposals from Paris, either — so either the French were too timid in the face of German opposition, or they just hoped that everyone would sign up to taking over the French way of when and how to use military force." Due to Germany's wartime past, the country's armed forces, known as the Bundeswehr, must receive parliamentary approval for military operations on foreign soil. German officials are worried this could be muddied by elements of the initiative. Bundeswehr sources have also pointed to France's decision to disengage militarily in other areas, including Afghanistan and Kosovo, as a cautionary sign of the initiative's purpose, according to the Reuters news agency. Change on the horizon Wednesday's meeting came a day after Macron called for a "real European army" to be established as a means to wean Europe off of US defense guarantees, especially after US President Donald Trump threatened to moderate Washington's commitment to the continent. "We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States," Macron said. The initiative comprises Germany, the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Portugal, Finland and France. While dreams of a supranational European military force remain elusive, Macron's vision for a flexible defense coalition may be just around the corner, even with a cautious Germany.

France is leading a 10-country defense initiative in a bid to “face new threats” outside existing structures. Germany is wary that the project could entangle its military in foreign interventions and undermine the EU. Defense ministers from 10 European countries gathered in Paris on Wednesday to set the agenda for the European Intervention Initiative (EI2), a defense coalition spearheaded by ... Read More »

Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron set eurozone reform plan deadline

Germany's Angela Merkel has said she wants to establish a joint proposal with France on reforms to the eurozone by next March. The French president has been pushing for a shared eurozone budget and governance structure. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that she wants to find "a common position" with French President Emmanuel Macron, on how to reform the eurozone by next March. "We will find a common solution, because it is crucial for Europe," Merkel told reports at the end a two-day EU leaders' summit in Brussels. "The will is there, that's the deciding factor." Macron said he hoped to make progress with Germany on a reform package for the single currency and that all 19 eurozone members would agree to a "roadmap" by June. Read more: Macron: more Europe, please Macron also expressed his optimism that the two nations would find a "convergence" in their plans. "Our aim is to have an agreement in March because at that stage a political step will have been completed in Germany and we will have the capacity to construct together much more clearly on these issues," said the French President. What is Macron's vision for the eurozone? The French president's plans to shore up the eurozone through: The creation of an EU finance minister role. That minister would be responsible for a joint eurozone buidget The minister would also lead a new agency tasked with issuing eurozone bonds, helping to finance public investment and providing a cushion against a future economic shocks. Germany hesitant... until now? Berlin has so far beenreluctant to subscribe to Macron's plans. The notion of pooling financial resources is viewed by many in the Bundestag as form of "transfer union" among the 19 eurozone states, which would see Germany pay in more than it gets out. The federal government is also reluctant to share risks with their more indebted eurozone partners, such as France, Italy and Greece. Read more: Opinion: Angela Merkel is still Angela Merkel in the EU However, Merkel, who herself has expressed reservations over Macron's vision, said she was optimistic that a joint plan would be agreed. When it comes to major European issues, there have always been "struggles between Germany and France, where at the beginning there are differences... but in the end there is common ground," the chancellor said. "I'm sure that will the case here, too."

Germany’s Angela Merkel has said she wants to establish a joint proposal with France on reforms to the eurozone by next March. The French president has been pushing for a shared eurozone budget and governance structure. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that she wants to find “a common position” with French President Emmanuel Macron, on how to reform ... Read More »

‘One Planet’ climate summit gets underway in Paris

Politicians and finance industry representatives are meeting to discuss how to promote green investments to fight global climate change. The summit is taking place on the second anniversary of the Paris climate accord. More than 50 world leaders have arrived in Paris on the second anniversary of the Paris climate agreement for a summit on how to promote green investments to combat global climate change. High-profile public figures also attending the "One Planet" summit include Sean Penn, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elon Musk. French President Emmanuel Macron warned in an interview with French daily Le Monde that the world needed to do more to limit greenhouse gas emissions. "We are very far from the goal of the Paris agreement of limiting the rise in temperatures to below a two-degree threshold," he said. "Without much stronger mobilization, a jolt to our means of production and development, we will not succeed." Read more: 'Make Our Planet Great Again' grants awarded ahead of climate summit Pressuring companies to be greener "We are all in the same canoe," said Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, making the summit's opening speech Tuesday morning. "While the challenge is great, we must do everything in our power to meet it. We know it is the difference between life and death for millions of vulnerable people around the world." Bainimarama urged banks and other investors to put money more quickly in companies that do not contribute to global warming. "There are trillions of dollars sitting in private investment institutions ... We must unlock that finance," he said. The Climate Action 100+ group, an association of over 200 investment funds, pledged to pressure companies into reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and releasing climate-relevant financial information. Read more: In Senegal and West Africa, villages fight climate change EU green investment in Africa The EU's Climate Commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, announced the bloc would invest €9 billion ($10.6 billion) in green projects in Africa through to 2020 as part of a broader investment program for the continent. Valdis Dombrovskis, an EU Commission Vice President, also said the bloc may lower the amount of capital European banks are required to hold for sustainable investments. He added the Commission was also considering a labeling system to make it easier for people to identify "green" bonds. The moves may be part of a package of measures the Commission is to present in March to ensure the EU meets its carbon reduction targets by 2030. Read more: 'Scene that still haunts me': Video of starving polar bear goes viral US to keep its climate promise? French President Emmanuel Macron announced the "One Planet" summit shortly after US President Donald Trump — who was not invited to the summit — said he would withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris accord. Speaking at Tuesday's summit, UN climate change envoy and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Trump's decision had been a "rallying cry" for environmentalists and promised US cities, regions and companies would ensure the country met its carbon reduction goals. Former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed: "It doesn't matter that Donald Trump backed out of the Paris Agreement, because the private sector didn't drop out, the public sector didn't drop out, universities didn't drop out, no one dropped out." Macron's ambition French President Emmanuel Macron announced the "One Planet" summit shortly after US President Donald Trump said in June he would withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris accord. Trump, who has called climate change a "hoax," was not invited to the summit. The 39-year-old president has positioned himself and his country as champions in the global fight against climate change since Trump's decision. On the eve of the summit, Macron awarded the first 18 winners of France's "Make the Planet Great Again" climate research grants. "What you are showing here this evening, with your commitment, with the projects that have been chosen ... is that we do not want climate change, and we can produce, create jobs, do things differently if we decide to," Macron said. Read more: Climate change: Obama regrets lack of US leadership

Politicians and finance industry representatives are meeting to discuss how to promote green investments to fight global climate change. The summit is taking place on the second anniversary of the Paris climate accord. More than 50 world leaders have arrived in Paris on the second anniversary of the Paris climate agreement for a summit on how to promote green investments ... Read More »

France’s Emmanuel Macron: Mixed reviews for first 100 days

He is the youngest president in the history of the Fifth Republic, and is popular abroad. Yet Emmanuel Macron has earned mixed reviews at home in the first 100 days after his election. DW looks at his presidency so far. Popularity The electoral honeymoon is over. Now, 100 days after his election, people in France are much more critical of Emmanuel Macron. The French opinion research institute Ifop shows that that only 36 percent of voters in the country are satisfied with their president. That makes Macron worse off after his first 100 days than his unpopular predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy (66 percent) and Francois Hollande (55 percent). This is alarming for Macron. Dissatisfaction has clearly grown in recent weeks, and the press have taken notice of his sinking approval rating. Apart from actual reforms, the 39-year-old president's personality, which comes across as authoritarian, has drawn criticism. Macron's public dispute with head of the French armed forces Pierre de Villiers, which resulted in the latter's resignation, did not make a good impression. New political culture Macron served as an advisor and minister of economic affairs under his predecessor Hollande. During his election campaign, however, Macron stressed he would dissociate himself from the French political class, an elite group that, in the opinion of many voters, uses the state for its own ends. Now, modesty and self-restraint have become the government's mantra. At the beginning of August, the National Assembly abolished many of its parliamentary privileges, including special conditions for pensions and unemployment insurance. Even the so-called parliamentary reserve, an old institution used to approve budgets for parliamentarians to implement in their respective constituencies at their own discretion, is now a thing of the past. The new law for the "moralization of politics" restrains more than just members of parliament in the National Assembly. Elected officials in other levels of government are no longer allowed to employ family members as parliamentary staff. The conservative opposition, however, intends to go through the Constitutional Council to stop the ban, as it supposedly violates anti-discriminatory principles. The judges will make their decision in September at the latest. Work in progress: Labor market reforms Parliamentary self-restraint implies that something has gotten out of control in Paris. But it is also supposed to make future cuts for citizens more bearable. The heart of the first round of reforms is a liberalized labor law. The government wants to withdraw its powers considerably and let unions and management make decisions. The loosened legislation is supposed to encourage job creation and curb the unemployment rates that have taken off in recent years. The details are still being negotiated, with a result expected by August 31, at the end of the summer holidays. The National Assembly has already cleared the way for the government to implement the liberalization without a parliamentary vote. Macron's plans to restructure pensions and unemployment insurance, however, will be postponed until 2018. Budget: Painful cuts After years of violating the rules, France wants to regain credibility in the EU. This was also one of Macron's major election campaign issues. But in order to meet the Maastricht criteria later this year, state spending will have to go down. Defense budget cuts are targeted, as are grants for France's regions and departments. But that is not enough, the government has also decided to slash social programs. A monthly 5 euro reduction of housing subsidies for people in need, to take effect in October, has unleashed a violent storm of protests - that certainly doesn't help the president's poor approval rating. Another unpopular measure is the increased social security contribution (CSG). This measure will hit retirees unfavorably, as they have no means of reducing their taxes. With an early retirement age of 62 years and large pensions when compared internationally, this part of society has been among the most privileged in France to date. Can Macron withstand the pressure from the street? Macron's predecessors wanted to implement reforms but pressure from the public and inner-party opponents ultimately stymied them. The current president is doing better in this regard. Moderate trade unions are involved in important reform projects, Macron's new but politically inexperienced La Republique en Marche is toeing the party line, and he has little to fear from the opposition. It will be interesting to see how many demonstrators the radical CGT union will draw when it organizes a nationwide protest day on September 12. The reaction to the relatively small, monthly 5 euro reduction of housing subsidies has already shown the government how quickly discontent can spread throughout the country. Pollsters have not given the all-clear signal yet: Almost two-thirds of the French public reject the labor market reform. That politicians have also had privileges taken away from them has not been enough to appease the people. A slim majority believes the "moralization of politics" is good. Security policy needs to be reformed The young president took over a country in a state of emergency, which has granted security forces special powers since November 2015. But Macron's government has extended it for the last time. On November 1, nearly two years after the attacks and bombings in Paris, the state of emergency will come to an end. However, a law extending some of the emergency expanded powers granted to the police, intelligence services and the judiciary is in the works. Europe Macron campaigned for France's own European finance minister and its own budget in the eurozone. Until Germany's September national election, however, nothing will happen in this area. There will probably be some movement when the new government in Berlin has been formed. The president's self-confidence on the Brussels stage and his dealings with the foreign heads of state and government are generally well received by the people.

He is the youngest president in the history of the Fifth Republic, and is popular abroad. Yet Emmanuel Macron has earned mixed reviews at home in the first 100 days after his election. DW looks at his presidency so far. Popularity The electoral honeymoon is over. Now, 100 days after his election, people in France are much more critical of ... Read More »

Emmanuel Macron hosts rival Libyan leaders Fayez Serraj and Khalifa Hifter for peace talks

Libya's Prime Minister Serraj and General Hifter have met to search for solutions that would stabilize the North African country's precarious political situation. A working draft statement provides a glimmer of hope. Against a background of ongoing talks between the UN-backed politician Fayez al-Serraj (L) and the Egyptian-backed Khalifa Hifter (R) at a chateau west of Paris, the French president's office released a draft statement saying that the Libyan guests are committed to a ceasefire and speedy elections for the warn-torn country on the North African coast. "We are committed to a ceasefire," the statement read. "We make the solemn commitment to work for the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible." Earlier this month, Serraj had called for elections to be held in March 2018. French officials underlined that the draft was a working document and one of several currently circulating ahead of the afternoon meetings. The French news agency AFP also reported that the draft version it saw stated that only a political solution - and not a military solution - could end the country's crisis. Looking for peace Tuesday's series of discussions between Serraj, head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, and Hiftar, leader of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army based in the east, are the first since the two rivals sat down in Abu Dhabi in May for what was subsequently described a "significant breakthrough." The Abu Dhabi talks ended without an official statement. French President Emmanuel Macron planned to meet individually with both Serraj and Hifter before the two Libyan leaders sit down together with the United Nations' recently appointed special envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame. The French government, as well as European Union (EU) officials, hope that Serraj and Hifter's Paris meeting will be a significant step towards achieving a political resolution for Libya. The day's round of talks will hopefully end with a "simple but constructive" joint declaration from the two Libyans, a French official said. Such a statement would provide a foundation for the UN's Salame to use in future Libyan peace talks. A split nation Since a NATO-backed uprising toppled Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, the oil-rich nation has been beset by political infighting that has allowed jihadi militants to make inroads into the territory and human smugglers to prey on migrants hoping to make it to Europe. The proposed ceasefire would not affect the country's battle against Islamic militants. After a 2014 political split that resulted in two Libyan parliaments – one in the capital Tripoli and one in the eastern city of Tobruk – the UN eventually brokered a political agreement in late 2015, tapping the Tobruk-based Serraj to head up a new unity government. After moving the newly-formed UN-supported body to Tripoli, Serraj sought to consolidate his power over Hifter's military forces, which remained in the country's east. Hifter gives his political backing to the eastern administration, which has remained in Tobruk and refuses to recognize the GNA's legitimacy. The general styles himself as a patriotic defender of Libya from Islamic militants.

Libya’s Prime Minister Serraj and General Hifter have met to search for solutions that would stabilize the North African country’s precarious political situation. A working draft statement provides a glimmer of hope. Against a background of ongoing talks between the UN-backed politician Fayez al-Serraj (L) and the Egyptian-backed Khalifa Hifter (R) at a chateau west of Paris, the French president’s ... Read More »

France’s Fillon sees support drop as calls rise for election pullout

Francois Fillon - the previous front-runner in France's presidential election - would not get into round two, a poll shows. He is losing support as a scandal involving payments to his wife and family members drags on. A poll by BVA of voting intentions gave Fillon between 18 and 20 percent of the vote in the April 23 first round, behind far-right leader Marine Le Pen with 25 percent and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron with 21-22 percent. A poll by Ifop Fiducial on Friday night showed a similar slide in support for Fillon since a scandal involving payments to his wife emerged in late January. A recent poll by Harris Interactive showed that 69 percent of French people wanted Fillon to drop his bid to become the country's president. Fillon told reporters on Friday that he would fight what he called a "demolition exercise." Macron the new favorite? Emmanuel Macron - the former protege of President Francois Hollande - is now favorite for the presidency. Macron last year created a new political party called "En Marche" ("On the Move"), on a centrist, liberal economic and pro-European platform. By electing Benoit Hamon, France's Socialists meanwhile appear unlikely to make much impact in the race. Marine Le Pen - leader of the far-right National Front - would lose to Macron in the May 7 knockout by 34 percent to his 66 percent, the BVA poll found. If Fillon did get through to the runoff against Le Pen, surveys suggest she would lose, with 40 percent of the vote to his 60 percent. The election will be staged in April and May of 2017, taking place across two rounds. If no one receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, the two candidates with the highest share of the vote proceed to a second round of voting. J'accuse "Le Canard Enchaine," a satirical newspaper, reported on January 25 that the former prime minister had paid his wife Penelope (left) 830,000 euros ($900,000) for work for him that she did not appear to have done. Police sources say two of Fillon's childrenare now implicated in a payment scandal. Sources close to the investigation said on Wednesday they were trying to establish whether the embattled conservative candidate paid large sums of money to two of his children. Fillon has insisted that Marie and Charles Fillon "were lawyers" for "specific assignments" when he was a senator. French prosecutors are seeking to determine whether there are grounds to suspect embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds, which could see Fillon formally charged.

Francois Fillon – the previous front-runner in France’s presidential election – would not get into round two, a poll shows. He is losing support as a scandal involving payments to his wife and family members drags on. A poll by BVA of voting intentions gave Fillon between 18 and 20 percent of the vote in the April 23 first round, ... Read More »

Former Economics Minister Macron to seek French presidency as non-party member

The 38-year-old Macron is seen as a charismatic political newcomer who may be inclined to shake things up. Almost all of his potential rivals for France's top job have issues, either in terms of governance or in policy. Former economy minister Emmanuel Macron is set to announce Wednesday that he will seek the French presidency in 2017. The long-anticipated move has the potential to disrupt election campaigns for candidates on both the right and the left. "He has made up his mind and the decision was taken a long time ago," an unnamed source told Reuters. Macron was a minister in President Francois Hollande's government and served as an adviser before that, but he resigned from the government earlier this year and set up his own political movement "En Marche" (On the Move). The organization now has more than 96,000 members and has already accumulated 2.7 million euros ($2.9 million) in donations. The 38-year-old Macron will seek to seize the political middle ahead of next year's election. To the center-right, candidates for Les Republicains include former Prime Minister Alain Juppe and Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost the presidency in 2012 to Hollande. Sarkozy suffered dismal approval ratings for much of his late term, and left office with support of less than 30 percent. Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right Front National who garnered the third highest number of votes in the first round of the 2012 presidential elections, also poses a significant threat Lowest approval ratings On the left, Hollande, who is suffering the lowest approval ratings of any president in modern French history - under 20 percent, has not yet decided whether to seek a second term. If Hollande decides not to run, the Socialists would likely put forth Prime Minister Manuel Valls as their party candidate. Macron does not plan to run as a Socialist, but would certainly seek the votes of left-wing voters disaffected by Hollande. Macron has sought to position himself as beyond politics but the timing of his announcement - just days before the first round of primaries for Les Republicains party and their center-right allies - brought scorn from Benoist Apparu, a Juppe supporter in Parliament. "He said, broadly - 'I am going to do politics differently, outside of political clans and parties'" Apparu said on BFM TV. "And then the first thing he does is a purely political, calculated, electoral move, telling himself, 'I will try and falsify ... the result of the center-right primary." In France, voters do not have to belong to a political party in order to vote in that party's primary. Macron's announcement could thus compel voters planning to cast a ballot for Juppe to withhold their vote and reserve it for Macron. A recent poll among Socialist voters found Valls leading with 70 percent, with Macron in second place at 50 percent.

The 38-year-old Macron is seen as a charismatic political newcomer who may be inclined to shake things up. Almost all of his potential rivals for France’s top job have issues, either in terms of governance or in policy. Former economy minister Emmanuel Macron is set to announce Wednesday that he will seek the French presidency in 2017. The long-anticipated move ... Read More »

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