“The Europeanization of identities”

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TIME cover October 6, 1961, Jean Monnet 

 

In the World War II aftermath, The European Coal and Steel Community forced economic dependency between France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands to deter the continent from its belligerent tendencies. It created an economic and identity niche that disregarded sovereignty over financial security: “the Europeanization of identities,” a term coined by French political economist, and diplomat Jean Monnet. Considered as “the unifying force behind the birth of the European Union,” Monnet pictured that shared economic advantages brought by a “super-state” process would eventually form a single and common identity between countries and fight extreme nationalism.

In 1957, the appellation changed to “European Economic Community” and established a customs union. In 1993, the Maastricht treaty favored economic liberalization and the opening of frontiers, which further diminished the countries’ sovereignties. The European Union was born.

Although relatively successful with a coherent identity of peace and prosperity, Monnet’s vision of the European Union started to fall apart in the 1990s.

Over the past couple years, the EU strained itself with competition from emerging markets in China, India and Southeast Asia, dealt with the PIIGS’ (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain) economy crises and security threats from the East.

Such factors critically triggered an identity crisis in the 21st century. As Europe still fails to assure its economic purposes, the social construct perished, and financial insecurity led to a general animosity regarding open borders.

One of the current sparks that threaten the EU is Brexit, where the European identity is once again being tested to its core.

On the other side of the Channel, French politician Marine Le Pen and her extreme political views are gaining more popularity among those who no longer want to participate in this exclusive club and want to focus on saving their country from all that is pressuring the EU. Others are stuck between enduring hard times or leaving the EU, an option still considered as a potential risk for economic security.

However, Monnet and the founders of the European Union were right to an extent; European countries are stronger together, and the EU has its perks.
The single market and free movements of capital made the EU the largest economy in the world, generating almost 17% of the global GDP in 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund. The European Bill of Rights and system of supranational decision-making favor a high Human Development Index. In a whole, Monnet’s project evidently led to progress in many fields since the creation of the union.

On the EU’s 60th birthday, the next presidential elections all over the continent could further undermine the union’s already-weak mechanisms if leaders do not find a way to remind their people of their precious European identity and how better off they are together. As Jean Monnet said: “Europe will be forged in crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.”

Article by Rebecca Giovannetti

France’s first presidential debate

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From left to right: candidates Marine Le Pen, François Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and Benoît Hamon (image courtesy of AFP for RTL)

-Article by Alice Ferré

Last Monday, France had its first presidential debate, which opposed Marine Le Pen (extreme right), François Fillon (right), Emmanuel Macron (center), Benoît Hamon (left), and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (extreme-left). The debate aimed to clarify the candidates’ political agendas and ideologies for the France of tomorrow.

A pre-debate polemic occurred as only five of the eleven candidates running for office were invited on the set. TF1, the channel broadcasting the debate, justified this selection between candidates as an “editorial freedom of the channel” and based on polls.

Mr. Fillon, Mrs. Le Pen, and Mr. Macron did not miss the opportunity to criticize the channel for this move as soon as the debate started.

Presidential function

Mr. Fillon, from the right-wing party “Les Républicains,” claimed to be the candidate of national recovery and aims to bring France to the rank of first European superpower in five years.
Mr. Macron, former Secretary of the Treasury under President François Hollande and leader of the newly-founded centrist party “En Marche!”, stated to be the face of a new hope and new methods with “a just, efficient, and hopeful project.”
Mr. Mélenchon, leader of the extreme-left party “France Insoumise,” wishes to end the fifth republic, and thus redraw the Constitution: “The people must reconquer their power, especially on Finance.”
Mrs. Le Pen wants “to be the president of France, and France only,” meaning that she wants the country to leave the European Union. “I don’t wish to be the Vice-Chancellor of Mrs. Merkel,” she said, embracing her habitual rhetoric. “Nothing will be implemented without the people’s explicit consent and deliberate decisions, expressed through referendums,” she added.
Mr. Hamon, from the left party, claimed he would be “a just and honest president,” away from lobbying and self-interested politics.

Education

Mr. Fillon argued for fewer teachers in the workforce, but better paychecks, while Mélenchon and Hamon agreed for more teachers, and Macron for more school hours and a maximum of 12 students per class in Educational Priority Areas.
Mrs. Marine Le Pen advocated for the necessity of a more rigorous learning of French at school and expressed her disapproval of “languages of origins classes,” a statement to which Mr. Mélenchon shouted: “But everyone already speaks French at school!”

Laicity and Radical Islam

Mrs. Le Pen was the first candidate to expose her point of view on one of France’s current and most alarming societal issue. “The reality is that there is a rise in radical Islamism in our country. They are through clothing and alimentary provocations. We need to promote laicity and fight communitarianism,” she said. Mr. Mélenchon stroked again against Mrs. Le Pen, claiming that the establishment of “a clothing police” on the streets would be absurd.
Mr. Fillon appealed to the French Muslim population, urging Muslims to revolt against religious radicalism and help the Republic.

Morality and politics

Mr. Hamon restated his want for eradicating lobbies.
Mr. Fillon argued for a parliamentary commission that would regulate transparency, upon which Mrs. Le Pen attacked him later on because of the recent corruption scandals.
Mr. Melechon stated that “we have to punish the corrupted and the corrupting.”

The revocation of the “Martine Aubry law” on work hours?

Mr. Fillon would like to cancel the law that settles the minimum of work hours to 35 to allow citizens to work more if they want to and be paid for it; which means more negotiations would be allowed in firms.
Mr. Hamon, the self-proclaimed “candidate of the working class,” fights for a universal wage, which would raise the minimum wage, currently 1150 euros, to 1350 euros – to which Mr. Macron claimed it is not a reasonable or realistic plan which would lead to more taxes.
“People have to be able to live; surviving is not an option,” declared Mr. Mélenchon who wants to regularize the Labor Code.
Mrs. Le Pen advocates for “economic patriotism”  and a comeback to “a strategic state;” she doesn’t want to favor economic growth and job opportunities in neighboring countries.
Mr. Fillon accused her of causing “economic chaos”  by leaving the euro zone.

Today’s polls announce Emmanuel Macron (orange line on the graph below) as the winning candidate although he is facing a slow decline of 1,5 points. Marine Le Pen (black line) has remained constant as the second favorite since March 23. Mr. Hamon remains behind, at the last position (pink line). But the polls’ most surprising finding remains Mélenchon’s (red line) still climbing rate, 3,5 points behind François Fillon’s (blue line) – a first for a party of far-left ideology in France.

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Polls from March 27 by L’internaute.fr

 

Rotten from within: the Brazilian political system and meat industry

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Image courtesy of MercoPress

 

-Article by Rebecca Arce

A corruption scandal involving the Brazilian meat industry was exposed last Friday when 22 companies were accused of selling expired meat. The police operation called “Weak Flesh” suspects the Ministry of Agriculture Farming and Supply inspectors to be involved in the fraud scheme.

According to allegations, inspectors were bribed to license beef warehouses without performing any sanitary inspections. Inspectors who refused to be a part of the bribery were reallocated to other warehouses or fired.

The police obtained recorded phone calls in which owners of warehouses debated on how to sell the expired meat. “They have been using acids and other chemicals in amounts much larger than permitted by law to camouflage the physical appearance of the expired meat,” explained the delegate responsible for the police operation, Maurício Moscardi Grillo, at a news conference on Friday.

The investigation began due to an accusation from one of the Ministry of Agriculture’s inspectors, Daniel Gouvêa Teixeira, who suspected that rotten meat was being sold by companies in Curitiba, Paraná. Some of Teixeira’s attributions as an agricultural inspector were withdrawn in 2014 because he was considered “too rigorous” when inspecting warehouses which stored expired meat. “We usually are in charge of five, six or seven warehouses. It is impossible to do a good job with that many. Since I’m more strict, the companies complained about me, and I was left with only two,” said Teixeiria to the police.

Maria do Rocio do Nascimento, Teixeria’s former boss and head of the Animal Product Inspection Service (Sipoa) in Curitiba, considered as the leader of the fraud scheme, was arrested on Friday.

As Brazil is the world’s biggest beef and poultry-exporting nation, companies under investigation such as BRF Brasil, which control brands like Sadia and Perdix, triggered several worried reactions from the meat industry worldwide.

Over the weekend, many local meat producers in European countries tried to block the import of Brazilian beef. The European Union agricultural organization COPA-CONGECA issued a statement concerning the reliability of Brazil’s sanitary inspections. “We have some of the highest food safety and animal welfare standards in the world which must be met by imports. Otherwise, our safety standards will be compromised,” said Pekka Pesonen, secretary general of the EU organization.

China, Brazil’s largest meat export market, has suspended imports of Brazilian meat since Friday.

Infected Political Scenario

This incident is not the first big corruption scandal involving the Brazilian government. In May 2015, the then-newly reelected president Dilma Rousseff was impeached due to her involvement with several corruption scandals: amongst them, the “Car Wash” operation, which stole millions of Reais from Petrobrás, Brazil’s largest oil company at the time. After being impeached, Dilma’s vice-president, Michel Temer, rose to power.

Unlike popular expectations, impeaching Dilma was not the last battle against corruption in Brazil. The country’s fraud epidemic does not seem to be linked to specific people but to the political system as a whole.

The “Brazilian way of life,” known for always having an unlawful way around situations, only reflects a government that abuses juridical loopholes to perpetuate its unethical legacy.

Recap: François Fillon’s corruption cases: a legal, ethical, private, and public affair

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Image courtesy of JAMnews

-Article by Alice Ferré

The French presidential election’s first round will be held on April 22nd; here is a recap of the corruption scandals that surrounded the candidate François Fillon over the past weeks.

So far, the right party has been in hot water. Although its candidate had always claimed their honesty and high morals, recent events proved the contrary.

François Fillon from the right party Les Républicains (LR) has been involved in more corruption scandals over the past few months than he has been during his entire political career as revelations poured:

On January 24, the French newspaper “Le Canard Enchaîné” revealed that the right party candidate’s wife, Pénélope Fillon, was paid for fictional work as a parliament assistant for 15 years, earning a total of 680.000 euros. Her severance pay amounted to 45.000 euros. Later on, during an interview on French channel TF1, Mr. Fillon declared that, while he was Senator, he employed his children as parliamentary attachés, which violated the Senate’s legislation. They earned 84 000 euros.

Mr. Fillon is also charged with influence peddling, as Penelope Fillon was employed by « La Revue des Deux Mondes, » from 2012 to 2013, and paid 5000 euros per month, regardless of having written only two notes for it. The publication’s owner, Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, is close to the Fillons and received the Legion of Honor in 2011.

Finally, Les Républicains are accused of misappropriation of funds earned by the parliamentary aides from 2005 to 2007. Mr. Fillon received 21.000 euros.

Following these revelations, Mr. Fillon’s investigation procedure started on March, 15. He, nonetheless, chose to remain in the presidential race. The investigation procedure allowed Mr. Fillon to access the accusation files and build a defense against all the charges. The investigation is however disturbed by the electoral calendar: if Mr. Fillon is elected, he cannot be prosecuted.

The seventh article of the French Constitution allows postponing the election if a candidate withdraws themselves from the race, or is impeached, and if they are not replaceable by another candidate from the party’s primary election. The Constitutional Council decides whether the election should be postponed.

However, such scenario seems unlikely, as Mr. Fillon declared he will remain in the race. The UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents), which had previously abandoned their support for Mr. Fillon early March, changed their minds and agreed to endorse him again – for the sake of the party. Thierry Solère, Mr. Fillon’s campaign spokesman who also resigned early March, stayed in his position.