Don’t let protests fuel cli­mate change re­treat

The New European - - Agenda -

PARIS: Another round of marches trig­gered by tax hikes on fuel ended in vi­o­lence last week­end, with riot po­lice us­ing tear gas on gilets jaunes pro­test­ers who had erected bar­ri­cades on the

Champs Elysées in Paris. The in­te­rior min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner blamed the in­ci­dent on mem­bers of the far-right who are thought to have in­fil­trated the move­ment.

While the fuel duty in­crease may have been a well-in­ten­tioned at­tempt to cut France’s car­bon diox­ide emis­sions, it has quickly be­come a sym­bol of how re­moved Em­manuel Macron’s gov­ern­ment is from vot­ers’ con­cerns. But that doesn’t mean politi­cians should just give up on tack­ling cli­mate change, ar­gued Me­hdi Ou­raoui, the spokesman for Généra­tion.s, a pro­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal move­ment founded by for­mer so­cial­ist pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Benoît Ha­mon.

“It’s not a fight be­tween city-dwelling hip­sters with their self-cen­tred green agenda against peri-ur­ban and ru­ral louts awash with diesel and in­dif­fer­ent to the fate of the planet,” he wrote in Libéra­tion. “The prob­lem goes deeper.”

With the break­down in Europe’s tra­di­tional forms of po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion, the gilets jaunes are part of what philoso­phers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Gu­at­tari called a “rhi­zomatic” net­work, he ob­served. Like a web of un­der­ground plant stems, it al­lows for new growths to emerge at any point along its hid­den sys­tem. Peo­ple in­volved in the move­ment are “ci­ti­zens hy­per­con­nected in­di­vid­u­ally with a per­ma­nently shift­ing set of re­la­tions”. That is how a sin­gle Face­book post by an an­gry car driver can morph into a na­tion­wide protest move­ment within months, Ou­raoui said.

The down­side of rhi­zomatic or­gan­i­sa­tion is that ac­tivists “are not bound by any shared project, by no grand vi­sion for the fu­ture, they no longer see where we are go­ing to­gether”. And that’s where pro­gres­sive move­ments need to step in, he sug­gested – to rec­on­cile pop­u­lar anger over the cost of liv­ing with a bold am­bi­tion to cre­ate a sus­tain­able econ­omy.

“Europe’s left is faced with an his­toric re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he said. “Putting France and the con­ti­nent back in step with a shared move­ment for so­cial, eco­log­i­cal and demo­cratic progress.” ROME: While Brexit has dom­i­nated Bri­tish pol­i­tics for the last fort­night, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has had big­ger fish to fry. It’s locked in a dis­pute with the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment over pub­lic spend­ing, say­ing the coun­try’s 2019 budget would breach Eu­ro­zone spend­ing rules.

Huff­in­g­ton Post Italia edi­tor Lu­cia An­nun­zi­ata was con­cerned the gov­ern­ment had rad­i­cally mis­judged the mood in Brus­sels. “It is clear that Rome has got its po­lit­i­cal fore­casts par­tic­u­larly wrong,” she said. Its ar­gu­ments for why Italy should be granted ex­emp­tions to Eu­ro­zone rules have fallen on deaf ears, and “al­most all of them have turned out to be fake news”.

The Ital­ian gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach is based on the idea that they stand at the dawn of a new sovereign­tist era in Europe, in which na­tional gov­ern­ments will be given more lee­way by EU in­sti­tu­tions. That may well be the case af­ter the Euro­pean elec­tions in May, An­nun­zi­ata sug­gested, but for now at least Italy has se­ri­ously mis­cal­cu­lated.

“This union – de­scribed as pow­er­less, in­ca­pable of tak­ing big de­ci­sions, black­mailed by its elec­torate, bound to ap­pease its en­e­mies in or­der to sur­vive – has proved it­self to be a ‘big beast’,” she said. It has been in­flex­i­ble in ap­ply­ing its rules, with­out any open­ness to ne­go­ti­a­tion on the Ital­ian budget, she added. The out­come of the clash be­tween Rome and Brus­sels has ul­ti­mately been dread­ful iso­la­tion,” An­nun­zi­ata said. “It’s a pi­ti­ful re­sult.” The gov­ern­ment’s ag­gres­sive ap­proach to deal­ing with Brus­sels has left it with less flex­i­bil­ity than its more co­op­er­a­tive pre­de­ces­sors, she ob­served.

Should Spain ditch its monar­chy?

MADRID: The Span­ish monar­chy played a key role in safe­guard­ing the coun­try’s tran­si­tion to democ­racy af­ter the death of mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor Fran­cisco Franco in 1975. But af­ter a se­ries of high-pro­file scan­dals, does the monar­chy still have a role in pub­lic life?

For Pablo Igle­sias, the gen­eral sec­re­tary of the pro­gres­sive party Pode­mos, the an­swer is no. In an opin­ion piece for El País, he said that the monar­chy’s sole func­tion has been to se­cure the free­doms that safe­guard a healthy democ­racy. “From the mo­ment when the monar­chy is no longer the price to pay for a sys­tem of free­doms (the Span­ish army is now not a threat to democ­racy as it could have been 40 years ago), its his­toric func­tion for Span­ish democ­racy loses its mean­ing.”

What’s more, the in­sti­tu­tion has be­come in­creas­ingly the pre­serve of the most con­ser­va­tive el­e­ments of Span­ish so­ci­ety – “to the point where it has stopped be­ing a sym­bol of unity and agree­ment be­tween ci­ti­zens,” he said.

“Our coun­try to­day needs to equip it­self with repub­li­can in­sti­tu­tional tools that avoid con­formism and a pref­er­ence for strong­men, which rep­re­sent fra­ter­nity, which guar­an­tee so­cial jus­tice and which recog­nise the diver­sity of the peo­ples of Spain.” Com­piled by Si­mon Pick­stone, English edi­tor, Voxeu­rop, a web­site cov­er­ing Euro­pean news and com­ment which pub­lishes in 10 dif­fer­ent lan­guages. Find out more at www.voxeu­rop. eu/en IS­TAN­BUL: Don­ald Trump shocked the Turk­ish me­dia last week af­ter dis­play­ing a to­tal in­dif­fer­ence as to whether the Saudi state was re­spon­si­ble for the death of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi in Is­tan­bul. For po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Ce­mal Fe­dayi, the US ad­min­is­tra­tion’s un­will­ing­ness to point fin­gers can­not al­ter the fact this af­fair has in­deli­bly stained the im­age of Saudi crown prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, although the Saudi gov­ern­ment has con­sis­tently de­nied it or­dered the killing.

Writ­ing in the con­ser­va­tive pa­per Karar, Fe­dayi sug­gested that to trans­form the Saudi state the crown prince has re­lied on “Amer­i­can and Is­raeli sup­port, try­ing to ce­ment his will by fight­ing Mus­lim states, sup­press­ing dis­si­dent voices and even mur­der­ing them”. Pre­sent­ing him­self as a re­formist, prince Sal­man is re­spon­si­ble for re­mov­ing his fa­ther from power, de­tain­ing other princes in a ho­tel and re­leas­ing them only for a $35 bil­lion ran­som, com­mit­ting mas­sacres in Ye­men and caus­ing fric­tions with Tur­key, Fe­dayi said. But it is the mur­der of Khashoggi that has fi­nally shifted prince Sal­man’s im­age from a re­former to a mur­derer, he added. “US in­tel­li­gence knew be­fore it hap­pened but watched it qui­etly,” he claimed, “so that bin Sal­man would be more at the mercy of the US.” Like Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein, “he can­not an­a­lyse the West well,” Fe­dayi added. “The West will use him un­til his ex­piry date ar­rives, then the US and Bri­tain will use other princes who they have al­ready started to cul­ti­vate.”

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