Don’t let protests fuel climate change retreat
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.”