The Brief — Macron forgets how to count –

The first rule of politics, said US President Lyndon Johnson, is “to be able to count”.

Johnson earned a reputation in the US Senate as a ruthlessly efficient majority leader, and his ability to count votes enabled his administration and the Kennedy administration to pass the landmark civil rights and welfare legislation that, nearly 60 years later, is still largely used are intact .

Emmanuel Macron has always been a good teller. How else to explain the seemingly effortless rise to French President of a politician who started with no political party but in about seven years destroyed the left and right parties that dominated politics in the Fifth Republic?

This week’s decision to use the powers of the presidential decree in the constitution to push through an unpopular but economically logical pension reform is probably Macron’s biggest political misjudgment.

Without an overall majority in the National Assembly, he would always rely on opposition MPs, mostly from the centre-right, to back reforms that raise the retirement age in France from 62 to 64.

It appears Macron didn’t realize the numbers were too tight until the eleventh hour and decided the “financial and economic risks” existed [of losing] are too big” to bring the proposals to a parliamentary vote.

The implementation of the reforms via presidential decree underscores the extent of the power vested in the French Presidency. But it is also a clear sign of weakness.

Macron’s critics, including Communist MP Fabien Roussel, say the move amounts to “denial of democracy”. While that’s not entirely true, given that pension reform was the focus of Macron’s successful re-election campaign last May, it’s rhetoric that will likely resonate well on the streets where the pension-reform battle is now being fought.

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Therein lies a lesson from history.

Johnson’s presidency and legacy were derailed not at the ballot box or in Congress but by the level of public opposition to the Vietnam War.

The president may be less than a year into his second term, but there are no question marks over his job security, although it could be different for his prime minister, Élisabeth Borne.

The legacy of the Macron presidency is less certain. If the public protests and nationwide strikes of recent weeks escalate into a possible general strike, it will further embolden the left and far right ranks in Parliament and threaten the Borne government’s remaining ability to pass legislation.

If Macron is to inherit in the next four years, he must learn to count again.

The abstract

Talks to reach a political agreement on joint procurement of ammunition for Ukraine are due to resume on Friday (17 March) as EU ambassadors try to clear the final hurdles ahead of expected approval next week.

The European Union should oppose what could become the world’s first squid farm, two organizations have said after plans were announced for what they call a “cruel” project in the Canary Islands.

Romania’s regulator on Friday announced the bankruptcy of the country’s largest car insurer, Euroins, a Bulgarian-owned company owned by Eurohold holding company, a move the latter described as a “hostile takeover”.

A bid by German publishers to split the European Media Freedom Act into a directive appears to have stalled amid broader opposition to watering down the proposal.

After months of back-and-forth, EU ministers have finally agreed their negotiating position on a proposal to cut EU industrial emissions, but their final agreement has not gone down well with farming stakeholders.

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The European Commission on Thursday set a target of enabling annual carbon dioxide injection capacity of 50 million tonnes by 2030, a move that is putting pressure on the oil and gas industry to deliver a technology they have been peddling for years.

The European Commission wants to lower hydrogen prices by subsidizing production and paying part of the bill for every kilogram of hydrogen produced, a move that drew applause from industry and criticism from experts.

Bulgaria has stopped receiving Russian gas after Gazprom unilaterally halted supplies last April. But the Bulgarian authorities and the Russian monopolist are at odds over the amount of the latest bill, an investigation by EURACTIV Bulgaria has revealed.

The newly proposed Critical Raw Materials Bill has been lauded for its ambitious approach to securing supplies of much-needed raw materials, but there are concerns the proposal may be little more than a toothless tiger.

While several EU countries and many in the agricultural sector are critical of the proposed EU-Mercosur deal, the German government has emerged as a champion of the trade deal, hoping to achieve sustainability through working together.

The collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and last week’s market turmoil must make EU politicians reconsider their approach to banking regulation and keep regulatory standards high, MEP Jonás Fernández told EURACTIV.

Finally, don’t forget to check out our Agrifood Brief: Schrodinger’s Food Security and Tech Brief: GPAI Commitments, CRA Life Extension.

Watch out for …

  • EU Commissioner Vĕra Jourová speaks at the conference “The Future is Digital: Getting up to Speed ​​​​for the Digital World” on Saturday.
  • Commission Vice-President Dubravka Suica on an official visit to New York, Monday-Wednesday.
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[Edited by Alice Taylor/Nathalie Weatherald]

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