Macron won is the news from Europe today. This is supposed to convince the world that the EU is fine. I bet he’s feeling pretty pleased with himself, I bet he might have even convinced himself that he’s the new leader of France. He’s not. He’s the new PR guy for Brussels. Macron is the gravy on the hot turd sandwich that Brussels needs the French to swallow.
It doesn’t matter that Macron won, even if he cheated.
As reported by Infowars there is some suggestion that the French authorities, not confident in Macron’s second round victory, either rigged or allowed to be rigged French ballots. While electoral fraud and ballot tampering are high crimes in any democracy, even if this particular election was rigged it doesn’t matter.
Some of you reading this will have scoffed at the thought of another Infowars conspiracy theory. Others, like myself, don’t care about the source because it seems entirely within character that the EU authorities would try to cheat to get the result they wanted, it would be more surprising if they hadn’t. And therein lies the point, it doesn’t actually matter if they did, those who prefer Le Pen will suspect it anyway, and the remainder will scoff right up until the first arrests are made.
The actual act of voting is seen as sacrosanct in western democracies, but why? The truth is that democracy is not defined by the act of voting itself, but by the government of the day attaining the consent of the people to be governed. This is what the technocrats of the European Union have consistently failed to understand about forming a political union out of disparate nation-states, those nation-states must believe in the union for it to function.
Whether the EU fiddled with the French election or not, the democracy undergirding France’s participation with the EU remains unchanged. The policies of the EU are held entirely hostage by the mood of French nationalists. Brussels can talk tough with Britain, they’ll need to, but they cannot afford to upset Le Pen’s supporters too much.
Which leaves Macron and Brussels in a very difficult position, 34% of the country, and 44% of voters under the age of 25, do not trust the EU. If you include the absentees and spoiled votes 56.4% of eligible voters were not convinced to actually get behind Macron. And that’s assuming the EU didn’t cheat.
Before we ask what Macron should do about it, we must first ask what can he do about it? It’s not a long list. He can rely on the EU to turns things around, but I’m about to explain why that’s highly unlikely. He could implement a plethora of sticks and carrots, but that’s only going to fuel the nationalist fire. Or he could become diet Le Pen, trying to turn nationalist resentment to his own ends. The third option seems the rational path forward, but it has its own pitfalls.
If he does adopt soft nationalism then his successes will be seen as proof that Le Pen was right all along, but more importantly his failures will also be seen as proof that Le Pen was right all along. This is not contradictory, because any failure is to Le Pen’s credit, but only successes that can be reliably argued to not be nationalistic is to Macron’s. He not only has to do the opposite of what Le Pen would do, it has to work.
In fact the very worst thing that could happen to Macron is if his party, En Marche, gets a majority in the legislature in the elections later this year. His career will be tied, in a way no politician’s career has ever been, to the fortunes of Europe as a whole. If anything goes wrong, and some things are inevitably going to go wrong, it will be his personal fault.
The EU can survive without Britain and Scandinavia, but it cannot survive without France and Italy.
The British are going their own way, Finland is well and truly in the hands of Euroskeptics, and it has become the topic of fierce conversation in Denmark with pro-European parties attempting to hash out a deal that will avoid a referendum all-together. But Britain was never all in and Norway refusing to join in the first place always made Danish allegiance a little suspect. But if Scandinavia were to form its own bloc and Britain and Brussels were to never speak again that would not automatically doom the EU.
Britain is the third most populated country in the EU with 65 million, but all of Scandinavia including Finland and Iceland (but not Norway) contributes only 21.3 million to the EU’s 510 million people. Italy, France and Germany have a combined population of 211 million, or 47% of the EU’s population once Britain leaves. The Germans of course are not even thinking about leaving, but both Italy and France are flirting with nationalism.
Poland and Hungary are in open rebellion against Brussels on the subject of refugee intake. Brussels demands they take 160,000 Middle Eastern migrants to relieve the pressure on Germany and Sweden, Poland and Hungary are flat out refusing. Without the combined pressure of the three largest remaining member countries there is no hope for a deal that sees Poland or Hungary subject to the will of Brussels.
If Brussels can’t impose its will on Poland and Hungary then it’s exposed as a toothless tiger. At the same time it’s got to take a tough stance with its eastern members it needs to negotiate Brexit, deal with Trump’s America, Putin’s Russia, Erdogan’s Turkey, and a still unresolved economic crisis.
The Italian banks are still loaded with bad debt and primed to blow, Spanish unemployment remains at shockingly high levels, Greece is still a basketcase, we don’t hear about these problems any more not because they were resolved, but because they remained unresolved for so long that they stopped being news. In the midst of this Macron has promised to reduce French unemployment from 10% to 7%.
There is only so much tough talk to go around; concessions will have to be made, and at least some of that suffering is going to fall on the French people. The goodwill of the nationalists, both on the left from the Mélenchon camp, but particularly on the right from the Le Pen camp, is not a luxury that Macron might like to have, it’s necessary for the survival of the EU. At the exact time the French need to be buttered up, the EU needs them to hunker down.
Additionally, the capacity of Germany and Sweden to absorb the migrant crisis is at its limit. Sweden’s welfare state is on the brink of collapse, not just financially, but they simply do not have the staff to handle the migrant influx. Germany simply cannot house any more. They need their neighbors to shoulder the load, and their neighbors are simply refusing. The USA is no help, which means the migrants either have to go to France, or Brussels is going to have to use German and French money to bribe Poland and Hungary to open up. Either way France loses.
So the EU needs to find some way to keep a lid on nationalism in France. Macron hasn’t actually helped. All he’s done is make promises he cannot possibly keep. Not only will the French not see a dividend from Macron’s election, but Macron’s failures will be seen as the EU’s failures and vice versa.
We’ve barely even scratched the surface of what’s in store the next few years.
The Islam problem.
People see a subheading like “The Islam Problem” and they don’t skip a beat before they start inventing hashtags. There have been 11 terrorist attacks in Europe so far in 2017 with a casualty count of 21 killed and 51 injured. Six of these attacks have happened in France. That’s a problem, but it’s not the problem.
The problem is that Muslims, in the main, stubbornly refuse to assimilate wherever they go. They have been coddled by well-meaning but short-sighted policies that have neither asked them to assimilate, nor facilitated it on the off chance the Muslims might try on their own. Half a century of anti-Christian policies disguised as secularism have left the west in a theological stupor, unable to distinguish good religion from bad religion, and ill-equipped to stave off the encroachment of a hostile one.
The insane overcorrection for supposed racism in the past, and the rise of the absurdity that is privilege theory, has led to the completely irrational and yet strangely common belief that it is improper to criticize minorities for anything at all. The idea that a country should try to protect its own people and culture from foreign interlopers is now seen as equally racist to slavery in post-revolutionary America. A truly absurd belief and yet people hold it earnestly.
Sweden is a case study in national suicide; this was a country that had everything. Good schools, a strong and sustainable welfare state, globally recognized businesses, high incomes and long life expectancies. It topped the Human Development Index in almost every single category. It was the paradise that the center left had always dreamed of with just one problem – in addition to being the happiest country on earth, it was also the whitest.
Thanks to an astonishingly pointless effort by the long reigning center left Social Democrats to prove that Sweden wasn’t racist, Sweden is no longer paradise for anyone, especially Swedes, who are leaving the country at rates not seen since a famine in the 19th century. Initially the Swedish government sought out refugees from the world’s trouble spots, notably the Horn of Africa including Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Not long after that trouble came looking for them from the Arab world, at first a trickle, and then a flood.
A compliant Swedish media tried to cover this up, but a rape epidemic soon attracted the attention of foreign journalists, including a film crew from Australia, who were attacked in broad daylight by a gang of immigrant thugs.
Muslims right across the west are completely unapologetic about this, long sermons about “Islamophobia” abound while imams and muftis openly preach their violent religion on the streets, enforce Sharia law, and even set women’s hair on fire for not wearing a veil.
These people are not terrorists; these are ordinary every day Muslims obeying their religion. Many of them are second or third generation, raised in western welfare states, educated in western schools, and yet they still manage to adopt the barbarous practices of their abhorrent faith.
There is no relief on the horizon either, the rise of Islamism in the Middle East is not only creating an endless supply of refugees, but it has become a breeding ground for radicals and hardliners. Foreign policy blunder after foreign policy blunder has handed the entire region to Islamists, preaching a holy war, and destroying what is left of secular civilization there.
Our allies are just as bad as our enemies. President of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan has just promoted himself from figurehead to supreme ruler, while driving the Turkey closer to Islamism in search of past greatness. This is the country upon which Brussels has pinned all its hopes for stopping the migrant crisis, costing a fortune in the process.
Expecting Turkey to play ball on immigration is a policy of desperation, but the EU is desperate. With seven million Muslims in France open hostilities between Muslims and non-Muslims, particularly with a trigger-happy USA in charge of the world, could be very bad indeed. At this point they must know that doubling down is not going to work, but they lack any better options.
America and Russia are not helping
Seemingly determined to be unhelpful in this matter are the Americans who, being only vaguely aware that Europe is somewhere east of New York, and Asia is somewhere west of Los Angeles, seem to be blissfully unaware that both Russia and the Middle East sit smack dab in between the two.
The absolute last thing Europe needs at this point is its large eastern neighbor and most important trading partner, to be squaring off with its western neighbor and most important ally.
Putin might make a good Bond villain on CNN, but he is extraordinarily popular in Russia, in no small part due to his hardline stance against nationalists in Ukraine. American reluctance to update maps caused a significant rift in relations when Russia annexed Crimea.
Of course Americans are no saints either, reneging on a promise not to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. The permanently paranoid Russians believe this, along with sanctions, to be in preparation for an invasion, which is entirely reasonable given the behavior of the USA after the end of the cold war.
The EU is once again stuck between a rock and a hard place; it has to condemn a Russian crackdown on nationalism, while at the same time conducting its own crackdown on nationalism.
But it gets worse, in the Middle East Russians are actually killing terrorists while the USA vacillates between shoring up dictators against terrorist groups, and regime change which would hand the terrorists an empire of their very own.
Europe is also increasingly reliant on Russia for gas supplies. German overinvestment in renewable energy has caused the use of coal and nuclear plants, which take a long time to turn off and on, to become unfeasible. The result is that Germany, and in fact all of Europe, is increasingly reliant on Russian gas to level out its energy supply.
At this point one might become convinced that the EU might turn on the United States and do a deal with Russia, conceding Ukraine, and supporting Russia’s bid to shore up the Assad Regime in Syria. But this presents its own set of problems; first and foremost the dissolution of NATO combined with Brexit would leave Europe without a credible military force barring that provided by France.
Britain and France make up roughly half of European military spending. Brexit means France’s military spending rises to more than a third of Europe’s military expenditure. France, Italy and Germany combined make up about three quarters of Europe’s combined firepower. Once again the burden of Europe falls on French shoulders.
Further, siding with Russia in Syria virtually eliminates the possibility of a pipeline through Syria to compete with the Russian energy giant Gazprom, while at the same time making Gas deals with North American companies that much harder to negotiate. Doing a deal with Russia against the United States would have to be the worst deal in history.
One way or another the French are going to suffer, and the EU needs them to suffer gladly.
Italy is next, and it doesn’t look great for the EU
The rest of 2017 will be quiet, with only the French and German parliamentary elections to make any news. However on the horizon the Italian election is of far greater concern for Brussels than Le Pen ever was.
If the Italians were using the same system as the French, or even the Westminster system of the UK, I would say the euroskeptics are about to score a thumping win against the EU. But the Italian electoral system was designed by madmen to appease dark gods and it seems to change every few months.
It is a “perfect” bicameral system where two houses have equal powers, the election of the senate is governed by an act passed into law in 2005 that was declared partially unconstitutional in 2013, the Chamber of Deputies is governed by a law passed in 2015 that was declared partially unconstitutional early this year. And late last year they had a referendum to change the system to something more agreeable to Europe which didn’t pass.
There are that many special rules and legal tricks that keep getting passed, overruled, rewritten, declared unconstitutional, and reinstated so what the actual rules will be in 12 months’ time is anyone’s guess.
That said public opinion is not in Europe’s favour. The four major players are the incumbent center-left Democratic Party led by the recently rehired Prime Minister Mateo Renzi, the Forza Italy Party led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the centrist Europskeptic Five Star Movement led by Beppe Grillo, and the hard-right Euroskeptic Lega Nord (Northern League) led by Trump supporter Matteo Salvini.
In 2013 it was a three way race – Forza and the Democrats with the Five Star Movement holding the balance of power. In 2014 The Democrats held a 20 point lead over the Five Star Movement with Forza dropping below 10%. In 2015 Lega Nord overtook Forza as the third largest party. Today the Five Star Movement and the Democrats are neck and neck while Lega Nord and Forza battle it out for third place.
Renzi and Macron have a lot in common; they’re both young, photogenic, big on dreams and light on detail. One key difference is that Renzi has not tied himself to Brussels the way Macron has, though interestingly enough he has adopted the campaign slogan “In Cammino” (“On the way”) which is almost a direct translation of the name of Macron’s party En Marche.
While parallels between Renzi and Macron are easy to draw, parallels between Le Pen and Beppe Grillo, leader of the Five Star Movement, are almost impossible, but there are quite a few parallels with Trump. Grillo’s number one enemy is not his political opponents, but the media. His background is in show business, not in public service. And his key platform seems to be that the political class has failed utterly and it’s time to clean house. There has also been an on-again-off-again relationship with Nigel Farage and UKIP.
Indeed the fight between the Democrats and the Five Star Movement seems to be following the pattern set in America quite well. Firstly the conversation is dominated by a left wing press completely incapable of understanding why their narratives of left and right don’t make sense any more. Their joy at the downfall of Silvio Burlusconi, their old enemy, is completely overtaken by their inability to understand how a foul mouthed comedian is so popular.
Like Trump the rhetoric against Grillo borders on insane, he is painted as a conspiracy theorist, a clown, and a racist. The more the media sides against him the more he seems to rise in the polls, helped in no small part by social media savvy.
While the media, the establishment, and Brussels might like to see Grillo drop dead, in the wings lurks an even larger threat. Grillo is not Le Pen, but Mateo Salvini and his Northern League are. Not Marine Le Pen either, but her father Jean-Luc. Swept to prominence by the rising tide of Nationalism across Europe, the fierce anti-immigration and anti-Islamic sentiment in Northern Italy has produced Italy’s own National Front.
The Northern League doesn’t just want out of Europe, they want out of Italy! They seem to hate any authority not their own and anyone that doesn’t live in or around the Alps. They have oscillated between 12% and 15% of opinion polls for the last three years. To keep a lid on the Northern League the establishment needs Beppe Grillo to capture all the anti-EU sentiment.
The Establishment obviously wants Renzi to win, and they cannot destroy Grillo to do it. This leaves them with one option, a great big electoral bribe, possibly the largest one in history. Where are they going to get the money for this from? France and Germany of course.
So Macron’s plan to make the EU work for ordinary Frenchmen is not going to happen. The EU might have staved off a Le Pen disaster, but it cannot afford to lose Italy either. The Italians will be watching France to see how credible Macron’s promises actually are, and Macron’s promises are not credible.
2019 – The year all hell breaks loose
If the EU manages to survive the Italian election, it’s not going to survive 2019. Beginning with Sweden in September of 2018 the elections come fast and furious until Poland in November the following year. Both Turkey and Ukraine have general elections in 2019, with far reaching consequences for both. In the middle of that the European Parliament has elections in June of 2019.
Poland and Hungary can’t reasonably threaten to leave the EU, none of the former soviet bloc countries can. They simply don’t have the kind of economic and foreign policy muscle to give the finger to Germany and Russia at the same time. But neither does Germany have the power to give the finger to them, Germany needs them too.
Both Poland and Hungary are controlled by right-wing populist euroskeptic parties, and they are both refusing to take any more migrants from the Middle East, which is not doing them any harm at all electorally. Hungary’s election comes around the same time as Italy’s election. Victor Orban’s hard right Fidesz party is not only unchallenged in the Hungarian Parliament but at every level right down to the Budapest City Council.
Macron’s promise to take a tough stance on Hungary and Poland is the only promise he can actually fulfill because Hungary and Poland can just wait it out. The EU has to bribe Italy, which means very little left to bribe Poland and Hungary to take a significant number of refugees. If Poland and Hungary don’t take the refugees then Sweden and Germany are going to have to take them.
Kicking off this political nightmare in the months before the Swedish elections, the headlines will read “No deal with Poland on refugees.” Looking at the opinion polls they are all over the place. Yougov has the anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats up by a point; Ipsos has them down by eleven. Those of you who were watching the polls before Trump’s election last year should know what this means – they can’t both be right. One of them is lying and it’s probably the one telling the media what they want to hear.
As I pointed out above the Swedish press have become notorious liars, covering up the problems of immigration, and providing only coverage favorable to the dominant paradigm, which makes them completely useless in convincing anyone of anything. The western press is still reeling from Trump and are about to take on Grillo so they’re not going to be much help either. The Swedish elections will be won with a memewar, evidence optional. Plus WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has a grudge to settle with the Socialists there.
If the Swedish Democrats win in Sweden it will be devastating to the EU. If they lose it will be at most a pyrrhic victory as a month later the Austrian elections will take place surrounded by strong Euroskepticism on almost every border. The Euroskeptic Austrian Freedom Party has maintained a consistent lead over both the Center-Right and the Center-Left parties since May last year.
The Germans only have so much money and so many resources to keep putting out these fires. If Putin has any guile at all (and his track record suggests he has quite a lot), this is exactly the moment he is going to pick to become a problem. The Ukrainian elections take place at the end of March 2019 – Ukrainian nationalists versus Russian loyalists with both sides corrupt and willing to fight.
Now Brussels not only has the internal problem of a fracturing Europe and lack of money to hold it together, but they have the external problem of a civil war in Ukraine. Fighting makes them look stupid. Backing down makes them look weak. If Russia taps the brakes on the gas supply in January or February the German economy could very well collapse (and I will write articles about the folly of wind and solar).
The EU itself has an election in June, those European Commissioners that haven’t committed suicide by this stage will be patting themselves on the back for not giving the European Parliament any real power. They’re also going to have to deal with the inevitable problem of forming a government in Belgium where the EU capital is located, not to mention the Danish elections.
Then Greece and Portugal both have elections, I’m actually hesitant to speculate here, not least because I am reasonably convinced that Europe would be negotiating the breakup of the union by this time. It’s worth noting that these two countries are the only two countries, other than Germany itself, in which Euroskeptic parties don’t stand a chance. The ruling party in Greece is Syriza, which is a Euroskeptic party, but they’re so unpopular they’ve stopped taking opinion polls.
If the EU survives they still won’t be out of the woods, not only will Poland almost certainly reelect their hard-right Euroskeptic government, but the increasingly Islamist Turkey will be about to have an election which will no doubt involve an even greater swing away from Europe toward Islamism.
Macron has been set up to fail.
Macron’s entire campaign was built on a pro-Europe stance, and that’s no exaggeration. Learning from the Trump campaign that policy documents go unread by the voting public and what really matters is keeping the camera lens focused squarely on himself, Macron was big on promises but light on detail.
In fact Macron’s “centrism” was really just a hodge podge of soundbites from both left and right all under the heading “Europe fixes everything.” His tough talk on Poland and Britain meant that his victory walk to the tune of the European anthem, instead of La Marseillaise, was the least surprising thing about a very straight laced campaign.
His campaign was not without controversy though, Macron was booed and jostled at a factory in Ameins, his support among the youth was not high, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s refusal to endorse him in the second round meant that Macron was entirely reliant on being the least objectionable candidate to the most people.
Macron is the stooge of Brussels, the fresh young face on old ideas; his legitimacy rests entirely on making Europe work for France but as I’ve explained Europe is beset by very expensive and intractable problems. Fixing France’s problems are very low on the EU agenda and he will be held responsible for problems over which he has very little control. His position will mean constantly asking the French for a little bit more.
The immigration problem is going to get worse, not better. Not only are Hungary and Poland not going to pick up the slack, but Sweden and Britain are going to stop taking migrants as well, that’s at least an extra hundred thousand that need to be put somewhere on top of the hundred and sixty thousand that Poland and Hungary are not going to take.
The terrorism problem is going to get worse as tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims, not just in France but globally, inevitably increase.
The economic problems are going to get worse as not only will the EU have no cash to splash on France, but they’re going to need extra cash from France to bribe the population of Italy and make-up for the hole left by Britain.
And the political problems are going to get much worse, not just inside Europe, but also with Russia, the USA, and Turkey.
And in the middle of this impending clusterfuck stands Emmanuel Macron who has kindly volunteered to take the blame for all of it.