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4/30/17

UN Clean Power Report: Clean power is up, costs are down and Europe leads - by Roger Harrabin

EU Solar Power:  Netherlands - Almere - Local Solar Power Station
The world added record levels of renewable energy capacity in 2016, according to the UN.

But the bill was almost a quarter lower than the previous year, thanks to the plunging cost of renewables.

Investment in renewables capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuels, says the report from UN Environment.

It follows news that the cost of offshore wind power has fallen by around a third since 2012 – far faster than expected.

But the report’s authors sound the alarm that just as costs are plunging, some major nations are scaling back their green energy investments.

This, they say, reduces the likelihood of meeting the Paris climate agreement.

The paper is published in conjunction with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Ulf Moslener, a co-author, told BBC News: “Things are heading the right way, and the learning and technical costs of renewables have done a large part of their job. But investments are not yet there to meet the structural change agreed in Paris."

The world added record levels of renewable energy capacity in 2016, according to the UN.

But the bill was almost a quarter lower than the previous year, thanks to the plunging cost of renewables.

Investment in renewables capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuels, says the report from UN Environment.

It follows news that the cost of offshore wind power has fallen by around a third since 2012 – far faster than expected.

But the report’s authors sound the alarm that just as costs are plunging, some major nations are scaling back their green energy investments.

This, they say, reduces the likelihood of meeting the Paris climate agreement.

The paper is published in conjunction with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Ulf Moslener, a co-author, told BBC News: “Things are heading the right way, and the learning and technical costs of renewables have done a large part of their job. But investments are not yet there to meet the structural change agreed in Paris."

The report finds that wind, solar and other renewables added 138.5 gigawatts to global power capacity in 2016 - up 8% from 2015. The added capacity roughly equals that of the world's 16 largest existing power producing facilities combined, it says.

Recent figures from the International Energy Agency cited the switch to renewables as one main reason for greenhouse gas emissions staying flat in 2016 even though the global economy grew by 3.1 per cent.

Europe led the way on renewables investment with a 3% increase. The UK spent $24bn and Germany $13.2bn. India kick-started a huge investment in solar with what’s said to be the world’s biggest solar farm.

But globally new investment in solar and wind fell from 2015. Much of the finance drop was due to reduced costs, but countries are also needing less electricity than projected as economies switch towards services, use more LEDs and governments impose standards making appliances like fridges and air-conditioners more efficient.

Some nations are also taking the opportunity to scale back ambition on energy investment.

But Michael Liebreich from BNEF said the key argument over costs had been won: "The question always used to be 'will renewables ever be grid competitive?'.

"Well, after the dramatic cost reductions of the past few years, unsubsidised wind and solar can provide the lowest cost new electrical power in an increasing number of countries, even in the developing world - sometimes by a factor of two."

And Ulf Moslener added a message directed at President Trump: “These technologies are there because they are competitive. We see wind - and in some cases solar – are the cheapest alternatives. Subsidies play less of a role. That’s where the markets are going, and it’s probably a bad idea to work against markets.”

There was a more muted reaction from Dr John Constable of the anti-green group GWPF, whose campaign against wind subsidies has arguably put downward pressure on renewables costs.

He told BBC News: "Faced with a barrage of criticism about subsidy levels, the offshore wind industry has reacted with claims of major cost reductions." But he said the cost of wind power could be deceptive, as it didn't include the cost of supplying the cables to tie turbines into the national grid.

Note EU-Digest : hopefully the US Trump Administration will also take note of this report. 

Read more: UN report: Clean power is up, costs are down - BBC News

USA:Trump Administration: After first 100 days, Trump impeachment seems like a safe bet - by Jason Silverstein

President Trump has courted so much constitutional disaster in his first 100 days that an impeachment now seems like a safe bet, government ethics experts say.

"He does not seem to show any interest in not violating the Constitution," said Jordan Libowitz, communications director at the ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington, D.C.

CREW has filed nearly 100 ethics complaints — including lawsuits, FOIA requests and demands for investigations — within the first 100 days of Trump's presidency.

"The number of issues we've seen this early in this administration is unlike any other," Libowitz said.
100 Days of Trump: Timeline of America's roller coaster ride
 
In January, the Daily News spoke with four experts ahead of Trump's inauguration about how he had set himself for potential impeachment from the moment he took the Oath of Office. The experts highlighted Trump's financial conflicts of interest, his hints at obstruction of justice and his potential for perjury in dozens of open lawsuits. No other President, they argued, had ever taken the job with so many causes to lose it.

The News checked back with those same four experts about Trump's first 100 days, and they saw only more reasons to anticipate an ouster. The trouble Trump took to the White House has only deepened or expanded in his short tenure, they said.

One expert, American University Professor Allan Lichtman, famously predicted before Election Day that Trump would win, but would also be impeached.

Lichtman has now bet his prophetic reputation on an impeachment, publishing a book this month, "The Case For Impeachment," that argues a Trump removal is inevitable.

Read more: First 100 days, Trump impeachment seems like a safe bet - NY Daily News

International Justice: "The US has long supported international justice, now it should be subjected to it'

They call him the “dictator hunter”. Reed Brody has been following the bloody trail of infamous political leaders for over 30 years, his latest trophy is Chad’s former president, Hissène Habré. And his next? George W Bush and Henry Kissinger are on his list.

Brody worked with the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) between 1998 and 2016. He was personally involved in the investigation and preparation of criminal cases against at least four US-backed dictators during the Reagan administration: Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Hissène Habré in Chad, Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti, and Ríos Montt in Guatemala.

He has dedicated his life to laying siege to the great political criminals. When in 2012 the panel of judges of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone considered former Liberian President Charles Taylor responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1991 and 2002 during the conflict in Sierra Leone, which cost the lives of 120,000 people, the HRW’s lawyer issued a warning to the world’s most powerful: “With this verdict, Taylor became the first former head of state convicted by an international tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity, after the Nuremberg trial. The same legal logic could be applied to Vladimir Putin or Henry Kissinger.”

Charles Taylor was convicted of having encouraged and provided weapons and logistical support to the Sierra Leonean rebels, a criminal complicity that brings to Brody’s memory Kissinger’s role in the atrocities committed during the Indonesian invasion of East Timor: “East Timor weighs heavy on Kissinger’s conscience.”

Documents made public in 2001 revealed that on December 6, 1975, the day before the invasion of East Timor, US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave the green light to the military operation during a meeting in Jakarta with Indonesian dictator General Suharto.

The occupation lasted until 2002 and cost the lives of about 200,000 East Timorese. The US provided the Indonesian military with 90 percent of the weapons used, and Kissinger ensured supplies continued being delivered despite the restrictions imposed by the US Congress, when the invasion had already led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths.

“Unfortunately, the powerful and those they protect continue to escape an international judicial architecture still under development.”

The fight against the impunity of the powerful;

Born in 1953 in New York, the son of a Hungarian Jew who escaped from the German forced labour camps and a militant pacifist mother, Reed Brody soon felt the call to align with the weak.

In the 1970s he campaigned against the war in Vietnam. While most of his colleagues at Columbia Law School integrated into Wall Street’s financial institutions, he insisted on being the “advocate of the persecuted.”

In 1984, he left the position of Assistant Attorney General of the State of New York and headed for Nicaragua, where he collected testimonies of the atrocities committed by the Contras, the guerillas armed by Washington which fought the Sandinistas of Daniel Ortega, then in power.

Based on the testimonies of the victims obtained with the help of Catholic missionaries, he produced a detailed report. Published in 1985 by the New York Times, the document led the US Congress to convene an inquiry and cancel for some time the financing of Nicaragua’s Contras.

Between 1987 and 1992, Brody worked in Geneva with the International Commission of Jurists and the UN Commission on Human Rights. He was sent by the United Nations to El Salvador in 1994 and to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1995 and 1997.

In 1998, he had already joined the HRW, and participated in the Rome Conference that validated the Statutes of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the first permanent court of its kind after Nuremberg.

In October of the same year, Augusto Pinochet was detained in London. After being recognised as a party to the litigation and HRW’s Brody sent his reports to the British judges. And when in November Britain’s House of Lords withdrew immunity from the former Chilean dictator, the American lawyer’s fight against the impunity of the powerful reached a new milestone.
The Pinochet precedent

It was after being contacted by Souleymane Guengueng, a political prisoner of the Hissène Habré regime, that Brody began a 17-year pursuit of Habré, accused of 40,000 murders and systematic torture during his eight years as Chad’s president in the 1980s.

Judged in 2015 in Senegal, where he had been living in exile since 1990, the former dictator was sentenced a year later to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity which included torture, rape and sexual slavery.

It was the first process of universal jurisdiction carried out on the African continent, the first in which a head of state was tried in a court of another country.

“Under the Rome Statute, victims are actors of international justice rather than its passive subjects,” says Reed Brody.

It was like this in the Habré case: the testimony of the survivors was decisive for the Senegalese court backed by the African Union to condemn the dictator. The prosecution of Jean-Claude Duvalier for crimes against humanity was possible thanks to the perseverance of survivors such as Boby Duval, who recorded 180 deaths in Fort Dimanche jail cell and journalist Michèle Montas. Likewise, in Ríos Montt’s trial, the prosecution strategy was based on the testimonies of indigenous communities and human rights activists, who identified the survivors.
US resistance

The United States bolsters the existence of a justice system that is applied to other countries in the world and has been a leading contributor to the architecture of an international accountability system. With one exception, Brody points out: “This system should not be applied to the United States. They like the Hague tribunal for Yugoslavia, for Rwanda, Sierra Leone or Cambodia, but not for a court that has unlimited jurisdiction.”

According to the human rights activist, this conviction is shared by most policy makers in Washington. Democrats and Republicans do not appreciate the idea that Washington might find itself constrained in its military strategies by an international law enforced by an international judicial body. “The traditional view of the protection of American interests is that American interests are better protected if the United States is the strongest country and not subject to a system of international rules and regulations.”

US society is not even aware that these things have happened: “When recently, in an interview with Fox News, they asked Donald Trump about Russia, he replied that our country is not so innocent. If we were honest, it was a statement with a sense of reality,” says Brody, adding that “no country that exercises the kind of power the United States exercises, whether the United States, Russia or China, will have an entirely ethical international policy.”

When it became clear in 2011 that the Obama administration did not intend to take any legal action against former President George W. Bush following the US Senate report on the use of torture techniques by the CIA after the 9/11, Reed Brody called on foreign governments to file lawsuits for war crimes against Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and ex-CIA director George Tenet for ordering the practice of torture and other crimes.

“Under international law, any government has jurisdiction to try cases of torture and war crimes,” says Brody.

An EU-Digest Special Report of EUronews

US Trump Adm. Environmental Policies: Thousands join worldwide climate marches on Trump's 100th day in office

Thousands of people across Canada, the United States and other countries marked U.S. President Donald Trump's 100th day in office by marching in protest of his environmental policies.

Participants in the Peoples Climate March say they're objecting to Trump's rollback of restrictions on mining, oil drilling and greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants, among other things.

In Washington, D.C., large crowds on Saturday were making their way down Pennsylvania Avenue, where they planned to encircle the White House. Organizers say about 300 protest marches are taking place around the country, and dozens more in Canada and overseas.

Note-EU-Digest:  the EU hopefully is prepared to act forcefully in what is becoming an ever greater increasing problem in dealing with the US Trump Administrations irresponsible executive orders and decisions, among others, those of combating Global Warming.  

Read more: Thousands join worldwide climate marches on Trump's 100th day in office - World - CBC News

4/29/17

The Third Industrial Revolution: Will It Create An Economic Boom That Saves The Planet? - by Jeff Beer

Jeremy Rifkin sees a Third Industrial Revolution coming
Jeremy Rifkin, a US born economic and social theorist, writer, public speaker, political advisor, and activist, thinking about how to build a clean-energy powered, automation-filled future is inspiring major infrastructure plans in Europe and China. 

Can he also convince American political and business leaders to buy in? 

First, the bad news: GDP is slowing all over the world because productivity has been in decline for two decades. The result has been higher unemployment (especially among young people) and economists talking about 20 more years of slow growth. According to new numbers from Oxfam, just eight people are as rich as half the globe. In addition to this unprecedented inequality, we face climate change that’s taken us into the sixth extinction wave in the history of the planet, and the last time that happened was 65 million years ago. To turn things around before it’s too late, we need a plan that’s both compelling and doable. Economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin thinks he has just that plan: creating what he calls the third industrial revolution, which will be sparked by harnessing renewable energy and enabling automation and the internet of things to result in a prosperous new economy powered by clean energy.

The good news is that people are listening. On February 7, the European Union unveiled its “Smart Europe” plan influenced by Rifkin’s work, which outlines how the 350 regions of Europe will start building out the road maps to transition into a new infrastructure of 5G internet, renewable energy, and automated driverless transport internet, all riding on top of an internet of things platform. Regions in the north of France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands have already begun their transition over the last few years. There’s a similar plan taking place in China: After Premier Li Keqiang read Rifkin’s seminal book, The Third Industrial Revolution, he made Rifkin’s strategies core to the country’s 13th Five-Year plan that was announced last March, and includes billions in renewable energy investment by 2020.

While his plans are in the works in Europe and Asia, The Third Industrial Revolution, a new film about Rifkin and his work, that recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, aims to explain his framework for a plan for the U.S. While President Trump and Republican and Democratic lawmakers have made some attempts toward putting together a massive $1 trillion infrastructure plan, any details remain murky. Rifkin wants a plan that instead would take power from the bickering tug-of-war of federal politics, and give it to the people, businesses, and local officials who can affect change on the ground.

The film (a Vice production) is based around the theories Rifkin presented in his book of the same name, and two other of his books, The Empathic Civilization (2009) and Zero Marginal Cost Society (2014). The film explores the challenges of climate change and globalization, the opportunities created by the rise of the internet and automation, and how governments and corporations should be preparing for–and working to build–a society and economy driven by sustainable innovation, and powered by renewable and distributed energy. “I think the green shoots are coming up everywhere; we’re seeing telltale signs of what’s in the film,” Rifkin tells Fast Company. “My hope is if people see the film it will make sense to them because it’s already on the tip of their tongue. They know all the sentences, they just hadn’t put the chapters together. Then it just makes sense. And once that happens, they never go back. I think a lot of people are right there.”

The doc takes place in an empty Brooklyn warehouse. It’s a version of speeches Rifkin has been giving around the world, told over two hours in An Inconvenient Truth-style, lo-fi lecture. Rifkin is in his 70s, and looks a bit like if the Monopoly Man was a college professor. In addition to being a best-selling author, he’s also a senior lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education Program, and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C. In the film, as in person, he comes across as friendly and down-to-earth, able to outline and articulate complex problems and proposed solutions in a way that makes you feel like you’re just having a beer with a favorite uncle, and just happen to be chatting about the link between global economics and climate change.

While in Europe and China, Rifkin has spent years consulting with top government officials, but this new film with Vice represents a starkly different approach for U.S. audiences. Rifkin sees the real potential for change and influence in American business and local community leaders. So the documentary will be his calling card, a TLDR version of his books, to screen for everyone from CEOs to university students, to quickly get people excited and motivated to help boost the economy and save the planet. Could it possibly work?


"What I'm suggesting to you is that this could be a renaissance. We may be on the cusp of a future which could provide a tremendous leap forward for humanity.

It may be that everything the life science companies are telling us will turn out to be right, and there's no problem here whatsoever. That defies logic.

They're now turning those seeds into intellectual property, so they have a virtual lock on the seeds upon which we all depend for our food and survival ".

Also read the interview with him in The European.

Read more: Will The Third Industrial Revolution Create An Economic Boom That Saves The Planet?

4/28/17

EU Medicines Oversight Body: Spain offers to host EU medicines agency after Brexit - by Ciaran Giles

Competition is heating up among European Union countries hoping to reap some of the benefits of Britain's exit from the EU, with Spain joining the list of nations bidding to host the bloc's medicines oversight body.

Health Minister Dolors Montserrat told a meeting of business representatives and journalists Thursday that Spain believes the Mediterranean port city of Barcelona is the ideal place to house the headquarters of the European Medicines Agency when it relocates from London.

Barcelona has offered its multicolored, aluminum-and-glass Agbar skyscraper as the headquarters. The city was runner-up when London was chosen as EMA headquarters in 1992.

The Netherlands and Portugal are also among several countries presenting bids for the lucrative oversight body. The Portuguese government said Thursday it would propose the capital, Lisbon, which is already home of the EU drug agency and the EU maritime safety agency.

The medicines agency, employing about 900 people, is one of the biggest EU institutions with an annual budget of more than 300 million euros ($325 million).

The EU is also expected to relocate the European Banking Authority as part of Brexit. It isn't known when the bloc will decide on where each body's new headquarters will be.

The EMA evaluates, supervises and monitors medicines developed for use in the EU and coordinates with around 1,600 companies.

Read more: Spain offers to host EU medicines agency after Brexit - ABC News

Britain: Theresa May knows she's talking nonsense - here's why she's doing it

The Prime Minister's argument increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in her words - the Tories your vote.

For the complete report click here: Theresa May knows she's talking nonsense - here's why she's doing it

Northern Ireland: EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland - by Eszter Zalan

EU leaders are to confirm at a summit in Brussels on Saturday (28 April) that if Northern Ireland reunited with Ireland it would automatically become part of the bloc.

The issue could irritate London ahead of 8 June's general election and the soon-to-begin Brexit talks.

The Irish commitment, which had always been an informal understanding, will not be part of the EU 27’s negotiating guidelines, but it will be annexed to the document as part of the minutes of the discussion upon Ireland's request.

The British government has a similar understanding.

Brexit secretary David Davis in a leaked letter in March said: "In that event [Irish reunification] Northern Ireland would be in a position of becoming part of an existing EU member state, rather than seeking to join the EU as a new independent state."

On the other hand, if Scotland broke away from the UK to become a sovereign state it would have to apply for EU membership.

The Scottish government said it wants to hold a new independence referendum because Scots voted to stay in the EU in the Brexit referendum last year.

The Irish pledge is the only new element that has emerged in the EU's position as it prepares for its first ever formal summit without the UK under the Article 50 exit procedure.

Read more: EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland

Turkey: Germany rejects calls for EU to end Turkey accession talks

Germany said it's against breaking off accession talks between Brussels and Ankara. But after a day of talks with other EU ministers, German Minister Gabriel admitted that the bloc must place a new offer on the table.


However, after a day of discussions with other EU foreign ministers and their Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Gabriel told reporters that the real issue was whether the bloc could offer Turkey a new, looser agreement before stepping back entirely from the EU accession process.

"We can try to open new channels for negotiations," he said, referencing a suggestion that the EU could broaden its trade ties to Turkey through increased tariff-free access.

Read more: Germany rejects calls for EU to end Turkey accession talks | News | DW.COM | 28.04.2017

North Korea: US urges UN to act on 'real' nuclear threat of North Korea or face 'catastrophic consequences' - by Clark Mindock

Mr Tillerson’s call for new sanctions came during an address to the United Nations, following weeks of mounting tensions over North Korea's nuclear program.

“All options for responding to future provocation must remain on the table. Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed up by a willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action if necessary,” Mr Tillerson said. “We much prefer a negotiated solution to this problem but we are committed to defending ourselves and our allies against North Korean aggression.”

Mr Tillerson said that the sanctions would be tough on North Korea and that the country would face hardships in the future should it not adhere for demands that it stop testing its nuclear arsenal.

“This new pressure campaign will be swiftly implemented and painful to North Koran interest,” Mr Tillerson said, noting that nations allied to North Korea may not approve. “But the catastrophic effects of a North Korean nuclear strike outweigh any economic benefits.

We must be willing to face the hard truths and mark hard choices right now to prevent disastrous outcomes in the future. Business as usual is not an option.”

 Read more: US urges UN to act on 'real' nuclear threat of North Korea or face 'catastrophic consequences' | The Independent

US economic growth hits its lowest level in 3 years

The U.S. economy turned in the weakest performance in three years in the January-March quarter as consumers sharply slowed their spending. The result repeats a pattern that has characterized the recovery: lackluster beginnings to the year.

The gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, grew by just 0.7 percent in the first quarter following a gain of 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday
.
The slowdown primarily reflected slower consumer spending, which grew by just 0.3 percent after a 3.5 percent gain in the fourth quarter. It was the poorest showing in more than seven years. Analysts blame in part the unusually warm winter, which meant less spending on utility bills.

Economists believe the slowdown will be temporary. They forecast GDP growth will rebound to 3 percent or better in the current quarter.

Averaging the two quarters, they forecast growth of around 2 pecent.

Read more: US economic growth hits its lowest level in 3 years

French Presidential Elections: EU MEPs act to strip Le Pen of immunity in fake jobs case - by Eric Maurice

Le Pen and Putin during their recent meeting in Moscow
The European Parliament launched a procedure to lift immunity of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Wednesday (26 April) over claims she misused funds.

The assembly's president Antonio Tajani announced that a request from French judges had been forwarded to its legal affairs committee. The process is scheduled to begin in June.

The move comes as Le Pen, an anti-EU politician who has been an MEP since 2004, campaigns for the second round of the French presidential election on 7 May.

French judges requested her immunity be lifted at the end of March over claims of undue payments to members of her National Front (FN) party.

The parliament alerted the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf, in 2015 after it discovered that about 20 people paid as assistants to FN MEPs were also listed as working at the party's headquarters near Paris.

According to a report leaked by French media earlier this year, Olaf found that Le Pen signed work contracts for her bodyguard and her head of cabinet assistant. It said the contracts could constitute a "misappropriation of funds, or fraud and use of fraud".

Last September, Le Pen was asked by the parliament to repay €339,946 to cover the salaries of the two assistants.

Paris judges opened a case against the FN over embezzlement, organised fraud, forgery, and undeclared work. They searched the party's headquarters in February.

Le Pen's head of cabinet, Catherine Griset, was charged a few days later.

According to Le Monde newspaper, judges found a document that could prove that the FN established a system to fund the party with EU parliament money.

"In the coming years, we can manage only by making large savings thanks to the European Parliament and if we obtain additional transfers," FN treasurer Wallerand de Saint Just wrote in a note to Le Pen, according to Le Monde.

On Thursday, the AFP press agency said parliament told judges the cost of the alleged fake jobs between 2012 and 2017 was €4,978,122.

Le Pen has denied any wrongdoing and said that the case was "persecution by political opponents".

She has so far refused to comply with court summonses, but losing her immunity would oblige her to obey.

The EU parliament already lifted her immunity in an unrelated case in March. She is under investigation in France after posting on Twitter, in 2015, pictures of men being tortured and killed by the Islamic State (IS) militant group, to protest against the comparison between IS and her National Front party by a journalist.

Le Pen, who came second in the election first round on Sunday, wants France to leave the euro and has promised to organise a referendum on the country's EU membership.

Read more: MEPs act to strip Le Pen of immunity in fake jobs case

4/27/17

EU France’s next big challenge: defense policy – by Paul Taylor

French voters face a stark choice on May 7 between retreating into isolationism or taking the lead in shaping a European defense policy to respond to Islamic terrorism, an unstable neighborhood, a resurgent Russia, an uncertain America and a rising China.

France prizes its strategic autonomy but can no longer afford to go it alone as a pocket superpower.

That means the two options represented by the finalists in the presidential election — independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and anti-EU nationalist Marine Le Pen — represent a crucial fork in the road when it comes to France’s defense and foreign policy.

Macron, the front-runner and most pro-European of the 11 first round contenders, advocates closer European defense integration compatible with NATO as part of a strengthened EU and eurozone.

Le Pen wants to pull France out of NATO’s military wing, restore border controls, abandon the euro and call a referendum on France’s EU membership, raise protectionist trade barriers and pursue a strictly national defense policy.

If Macron wins, he has a historic opportunity to lead Europe in defense provided he eschews traditional French arrogance toward smaller EU countries and embraces a more comprehensive approach to security that combines “hard security” with diplomacy, development aid, open trade and institution building.

He will also need to jettison a half-baked campaign promise to restore a one-month compulsory military service period for all young French people, which would be costly and yield no extra military capability.

The 39-year-old political novice may also have to face down resistance in the high command, political establishment and defense industries to closer EU cooperation on defense policy, arms production and military technology.

Read more: France’s next big challenge: defense policy – POLITICO

US Aluminum Industry:President Trump Signs Order to Launch Aluminum Imports Investigation

The alliance for American Manufacturing reports : Another 'Section 232' investigation for the Trump administration. Will it lead to action? ? First steel, now aluminum.

President Donald Trump officially signed an executive order on Thursday (April 27)  afternoon to initiate a Section 232(b) investigation into aluminum imports. Overseen by the Commerce Department, the investigation will determine whether foreign imports of aluminum threaten national security - and if so, Trump will have the power to act to restrict imports, including through tariffs.

The Commerce Department has 270 days to conduct the investigation. Once it gives its recommendation to Trump, he will have 90 days to respond.

There's little doubt that American aluminum makers are threatened because of China's aluminum overcapacity. Chinese state-owned enterprises produce far more aluminum than China can use for its own needs. Instead of curbing production, China dumps its excess aluminum (which, we note, is heavily subsidized) into the U.S. market priced far below market cost.

It's part of a strategy to capture market share and put American aluminum makers out of business. Over the past 15 years, China's aluminum production quintupled, from 11 percent of the world's production in 2002 to 53 percent in 2016; imports took 55 percent of the market in 2016.

Meanwhile, eight American smelters have closed or curbed production since 2015. Only two are fully operational today. There is only one remaining American smelter capable of producing the high-purity aluminum needed by the aerospace industry for F-35, F-18 and C-17 aircraft, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters during a Wednesday briefing.

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said that the investigation could be a step toward recovery for the blue-collar aluminum industry workers impacted by China's unfair trade practices.

'If we're to see real change, this investigation must be followed by appropriate trade enforcement,' he said. 'For years, China has promised to cut its massive industrial overcapacity, all while increasing production… If China is unwilling to keep its promises, there should be clear and enforceable penalties to force actions.'

Trump's executive order earned bipartisan support, including from Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who noted in a statement that 15,000 American aluminum workers have lost their jobs in the last decade. But Brown also cautioned that the investigation must lead to action.

'It's good that the Administration is using this tool, but what matters to Ohio workers and the aluminum supply chain is whether it leads to real relief and action against China's market-distorting policies,' Brown said.

Heidi Brock, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association, said in a statement that Trump's executive action 'recognizes the value of U.S. aluminum industry.' United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, whose union represents thousands of aluminum industry workers, said any action stemming from the investigation should focus 'on those countries that are actually breaking the rules.'

He named names. 'China's overcapacity is swamping world markets, driving down prices and making some operations unprofitable,' he said.

While Section 232 investigations are rare, this is now the second time that Trump has opted to initiate one; he announced a Section 232 investigation into steel imports on April 20.

But as our Scott Paul noted last week, China's industrial overcapacity and persistent unfair practices - coupled with the need to maintain a strong industrial supply chain for our national security needs - mean such action is appropriate.

'America's steelmakers are vital to our national security, providing essentials ranging from the armor plate on our tanks and specialty metals in our high-tech aircraft, to the hulls of our battleships and everything in between,' Paul said. 'China's massively subsidized and grossly over-scaled steel industry is an existential threat to our own domestic makers.'

Note EU-Digest: Once again this Trump executive order is probably not only worth the paper it is written on but also  in conflict with established rules of the World Trade organization. But also contradictory as to the actual situation of the US Aluminum Industry .

How would this order be applied to US Aluminum giant Alcoa, which has operations in Australia, Brasil, Canada, Guinea, Iceland, Norway, Saudi Arabia Spain and Suriname (Alcoa is presently in a negotiation phase with the government, as Alcoa winds down its operations there)? Nevertheless,would these subsidiary, or partner companies of Alcoa, also be seen as "foreign competition", which in a geographical sense they are.

Once again. it looks like the Trump administration only used this "Executive Order" signing  ceremony today, April 27, surrounded by CEO's of the US aluminum industry, "to investigate Aluminum Imports", as a  PR photo opportunity.

EU-Digest

4/26/17

French Presidential Elections: Can France's 'new man' prevail?-by Trudy Rubin

 Trudy RubinTrudy RubinThe final vote for the next French president, on May 7, will not only be critical for all of Europe but will have a major impact on the United States.

Despite their country's political and cultural differences from America, the French are going through an election upheaval that is amazingly similar to the convulsion that produced Donald Trump. The country is split between the winners from an open, globalized society and the losers who feel abandoned by traditional politicians.

On Sunday, in a first-round ballot with a field of 11 candidates, voters rejected mainstream parties of left and right, along with a host of independent candidates. The top two choices for a runoff were a political novice, Emmanuel Macron, who heads a new centrist party and supports an open society, closely followed by the populist, immigration-bashing nationalist, Marine Le Pen.

The polls show Macron ahead by 20 percent, yet - in these strange times - the outcome is far from certain. Should Le Pen pull an upset, we could see the collapse of NATO and the European Union and a further surge of populism on the continent.

In conversations this week with the current French ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud, and a former French ambassador Pierre Vimont, I heard serious concerns about the likely results.

"I would bet yes for Macron," says Araud, who was in Philly speaking for the French-American Chamber of Commerce and at Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania. But then the ambassador listed his caveats.

Le Pen appeals to those who have been hurt by free trade agreements or automation. "It's not by chance that Hillary Clinton lost in the [U.S.] rust belt," he says, "and Marine Le Pen has done well in the French rust belt." Moreover, says Araud, the problem goes well beyond the issue of trade. "Ahead of us we have more automation, so how do we retrain a 45-year-old truck driver? We are facing a real problem that may worsen.

"As in America, the result in Europe is that we increasingly have dual societies, where 50 percent are quite comfortable and confident, and the other part of the population is suffering, with their income stagnating and dropping. They are looking for scapegoats, like immigrants."

This new political climate has helped Le Pen overcome the long-standing French distaste for the neo-fascist origins of her National Front Party. She has disavowed the party's anti-Semitic founder, her father, who advanced to the second round in 2002 presidential elections but then lost 80 percent to 20 percent.

Araud fears that Le Pen could win "because Macron is an unknown quantity and he will need people from the left and right to vote for him." That poses a problem which may look familiar to Clinton's supporters. In the first round of voting, third place with 20 percent of the ballots went to a far leftist with a certain resemblance to Bernie Sanders; many French Berniacs, including young activists, say they will never vote Macron, while some may switch to Le Pen.

Some voters for the fourth-place candidate, from France's conservative Republicans Party, may also vote Le Pen. And many disgruntled voters may stay home.

So the future of Europe depends on this: whether the 39-year-old Macron, a banker whose only political experience was a brief stint as economics minister for the current socialist government, can convince enough French voters that he offers new answers for a divided country.

Note EU-Digest: We can only hope the French voters contraruto the US voters will vote with their head,  and not vote for candidate Le Pen who is not only supported by Putin and Trump, but who, with her convoluted ideas, could also destroy France and the EU.

Read more:Can France's 'new man' prevail?

USA: Trump tax plan needs dynamic scoring to justify budget - by Linette Lopez

We now know a bit more about President Donald Trump's massive tax cut, which he has called "the biggest in history."

We know it's intended to be a simplification that would cut corporate tax rates to 15% and eliminate deductions and things like the alternative minimum tax, which would be a big deal for Trump himself.

We know that, according to the Tax Policy Center, the corporate tax cut alone could cost the country $2 trillion over the next 10 years.

Most importantly, we know that if the plan has any hope of survival, its architects must engage in a massive generational theft, and they would use a classic budget trick to pull it off.

The trick is a method is called dynamic scoring, which in reality is just a fancy way of justifying massive increases in the national debt.

"As we said, we're working on a lot of details," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said during a press conference on Wednesday to unveil the plan. "This will pay for itself with growth and reduced deductions."

Dynamic scoring has to do with the "growth" part of Mnuchin's explanation. To make tax cuts that look as if they wouldn't put a massive hole in the budget, policy wonks estimate the future benefit of tax cuts to the economy after making a load of assumptions — including about what a future government might do in response to falling tax revenue.

Those imagined benefits are then added to future budget projections, and — BOOM — you've got a healthy-looking balance sheet for America.

Now, you might think that so-called fiscally conservative Republicans would be opposed to things like this and that Trump might face opposition from his party.

But he won't. That's because there is a way to make Washington's budgets sound more sensible than they are. That's where dynamic scoring, much beloved by deficit hawks like House Speaker Paul Ryan, comes in.

The Republican-controlled House adopted dynamic scoring last year, but it's still up for debate in the Senate, where opponents like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont have been critical of the practice. They say it politicizes the budgeting process.

That's in part because there's no exact way to dynamically score anything. This is not a science. There's no set process, and there are no set rules on the assumptions made. For example, Mnuchin said during the press conference that his office was playing with a bunch of different models. (That's reassuring.) 

Read more: Trump tax plan needs dynamic scoring to justify budget - Business Insider

EU-Electric Car Market: E-mobility and the growth of the electric vehicle in a decarbonized Europe – by ENEL

Mercedes Electric Car
Last November, the European Commission presented a package of clean energy initiatives with the aim of achieving global leadership in renewable energies and promoting energy efficiency. The package seeks to provide a fair deal for consumers and support the EU’s commitment to cutting CO2 emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030.

The so called “jumbo package” also includes specific measures to support e-mobility, such as promoting the installation of recharging points in new, non-residential buildings. With these measures, there is a commitment to use renewable electricity in transport and to ensure renewable sources and new technologies are integrated and allowed to compete on a level playing field.

It is hoped that these changes will improve the penetration of electric vehicles (EVs) in the transport sector. Figures currently estimate their market share to be well under 1 percent, although analysts predict a potential upsurge that could see this figure as high as 35 percent by 2035.

“E-mobility has the potential to be a game changer,” explains Simone Mori, Executive Vice President for European Affairs at Enel. “It can help to deliver a whole range of inter-connected benefits, from cleaner air and less pollution, to greater energy security. But barriers exist and these need to be pulled down if these benefits are to be realized.”

EVs are also supporting the market for renewable energy sources (RES), with car batteries offering new opportunities for grid-connected storage and bringing “prosumers” into the electricity market.

A key to this is the continued development of innovative Vehichle2Grid (V2G) technology, which allows managing bi-directional flows between the EV’s battery and the electric grid. By acting as a “virtual power plant,” they can sell the energy back to the grid and help the system operator improve reliability by balancing supply with demand. Enel is currently working on major V2G programs in Denmark and the U.K., with the goal of introducing it to other European cities.

There are further wins for both consumers and the environment. Building the market share of EVs means a higher use of electricity in satisfying consumers’ energy needs in transport, which improves energy efficiency by reducing primary energy needs. In fact, evidence shows that in the past decade, as the use of electricity as an energy carrier has grown, the economy’s energy intensity — the ratio between final energy consumption and GDP — has decreased, providing the tangible proof of the benefits of electrification. In particular, EVs can be three to four times more energy efficient than conventional cars, therefore they bring greater energy security to Europe by reducing energy imports. With poor air quality currently exposing urban populations to numerous health risks, e-mobility can dramatically reduce air pollution in our cities.

Read More: Decarbonizing Europe By Growing The Electric  Vehicle Market Politico

4/25/17

Germany: Ivanka Trump gets booed, hissed at during Berlin event – by Annie Karni

Ivanka Trump arrived in Berlin Tuesday morning armed with facts and figures to recite at what was expected to be a high-brow international summit to discuss women entrepreneurship, alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But on her first international trip as an official representative of the United States, the first daughter was put on the spot about her father’s attitudes toward women, booed and hissed at by the crowd, and grilled by the moderator about what, exactly, her role is in President Donald Trump’s administration.
“You’re the first daughter of the United States, and you’re also an assistant to the president,” the moderator, WirtschaftsWoche editor-in-chief Miriam Meckel, said.

“The German audience is not that familiar with the concept of a first daughter. I’d like to ask you, what is your role, and who are you representing, your father as president of the United States, the American people, or your business?”

It was an aggressive opening for the first daughter, who was seated next to Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and one seat down from Merkel. Queen Maxima of the Netherlands was also a participant on the W20 panel. And it appeared to put her on the spot.

She did not define what her new role as a senior White House official entailed, but said that she cared “very much about empowering women in the workplace” and defined her goal as enacting “incremental positive change. That is my goal. This is very early for me, I’m listening, learning.”

But she was booed and hissed at by the majority-women audience at the conference when she lauded her father for supporting paid leave policies. “I’m very proud of my father’s advocacy,” she said, calling him “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive.”

Meckel, the moderator, pushed her to address the vocal disapproval from the audience.

“You hear the reaction from the audience,” she said. “I need to address one more point — some attitudes toward women your father has displayed might leave one questioning whether he’s such an empower-er for women.”

 She defended her father from her vantage point of loyal daughter — a familiar crouch from when she was confronted by uncomfortable questions about her father on the campaign.

A private meeting with Merkel, a privilege normally reserved for the most senior foreign representatives, was not on Ivanka Trump’s agenda.

And despite the insistence of the White House that Ivanka Trump was invited to attend the panel by Merkel in her role as a senior White House official a  German government spokesman also stressed that, contrary to reports that Merkel had personally asked Ivanka Trump to attend the conference, she was in fact invited by two women’s groups organizing the event.

“The Chancellor didn’t invite her,” spokesman Georg Streiter said during a press briefing on Monday. Streiter added that after Merkel’s “pleasant discussion” with Ivanka Trump in Washington, she signalled to the organizers that she would welcome Ivanka Trump’s participation.

Read more: Ivanka Trump gets booed, hissed at during Berlin event – POLITI

EU-US Trade Deal: TTIP stumbles on - by Peter Sharpless

The much-discussed Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership is on the verge of collapse after the French government threatened to stop the deal at its present stage due to concerns over effects on the environment and consumer rights.

This comes amid a scandal after Dutch Greenpeace leaked documents from the negotiations between U.S. and E.U. officials. The talks have been held mostly in secret but what is known about the negotiations concerns Trade Unions, campaign and environmental groups all over Europe.

What is TTIP? - TTIP is a trade agreement which is being negotiated between the E.U. and the U.S. since last February. The aim of the agreement is to reduce the regulatory barriers on trade for big business and come to a mutual recognition of each other’s trade standards. Something which could potentially affect things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. It has been hotly debated how far along negotiations actually are, but a chart that has been leaked states that they’re at an advanced level.

The deal isn’t completely dead in the water but it is struggling for air; and it is looking increasingly unlikely after these latest setbacks that the deal will get the go ahead. For the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to become law it requires ratifying by each one of the 28 member states of the E.U.; and with protests springing up and persisting in various European cites, it is an uphill challenge in which the hill keeps growing to get TTIP enshrined in law. This latest round of negotiations was the 13th and on conclusion of the round the EU’s chief negotiator for TTIP Ignacio Garcia Bercero said in a statement: “On the E.U. side we are ready to work hard to try to conclude these negotiations in 2016 but, only if the substance of the deal is right. It needs to be the most ambitious, balanced and comprehensive agreement ever concluded between either us or the U.S.”

Read more: TIP stumbles on | Holland Times

4/24/17

USA: Trump Administration: Trump's 100-days promises: A long way to go on most of them - by J. Colvin and C. Woodward

Sure enough, the big trans-Pacific trade deal is toast, climate change action is on the ropes and various regulations from the Obama era have been scrapped. It's also a safe bet President Donald Trump hasn't raced a bicycle since Jan. 20, keeping that vow.

Add a Supreme Court justice — no small feat — and call these promises kept.

But where's that wall? Or the promised trade punishment against China — will the Chinese get off scot-free from "the greatest theft in the history of the world"? What about that "easy" replacement for Obamacare? How about the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and huge tax cut that were supposed to be in motion by now?

Trump's road to the White House, paved in big, sometimes impossible pledges, has detoured onto a byway of promises deferred or left behind, an AP analysis found.

Of 38 specific promises Trump made in his 100-day "contract" with voters — "This is my pledge to you" — he's accomplished 10, mostly through executive orders that don't require legislation, such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

He's abandoned several and failed to deliver quickly on others, stymied at times by a divided Republican Party and resistant federal judges. Of 10 promises that require Congress to act, none has been achieved and most have not been introduced.

"I've done more than any other president in the first 100 days," the president bragged in a recent interview with AP, even as he criticized the marker as an "artificial barrier."

In truth, his 100-day plan remains mostly a to-do list that will spill over well beyond Saturday, his 100th day.

It was not what you call a success story for President Trump these 100 first days.

Read more: Trump's 100-days promises: A long way to go on most of them

French Presidential elections: Parties in France Unite Against Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Penn is expected to have great difficulty in overcoming the united opposition of all other French mainstream political parties now united against her in support of Emmanuel Macron, the Centrist Candidate

Read more: Parties in France Unite Against Marine Le Pen - The New York Times

EU - Merkel Trumps U.S. Putting EU Ahead Of Britain In 'Trade Queue,' Begs Questions - by Roger Aitken

Shock, horror! U.S. President Donald Trump may prioritize the European Union (EU) over Britain for a trade deal following discussions in Washington with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. Remainers in the UK weren’t surprised and reacted with heavy sarcasm. But what does it mean for UK export and investment prospects?

Alastair Campbell, journalist, broadcaster and Downing Street press secretary under former Prime Minister (PM) Tony Blair, tweeted this weekend following news reported in The Times: “What's that Times front page I see? Trump putting EU deal ahead of UK? But they held hands...surely not?

Another ex-journalist who worked for the BBC, Ben Bradshaw, Labour politician and MP for Exeter, wrote on the same social media channel: “Trump puts EU before UK in trade deal - what a surprise! Another reason why leaving the Single Market & Customs Union would be madness.

It all comes within days of British PM Theresa May calling a snap general election that is scheduled for June 8. Hold onto your seats.

According to the report in The Times, the U.S. could forge a free-trade agreement with the EU bloc now that Trump had a change of heart on the issue after Frau Merkel persuaded the New York-billionaire to warm to the idea and became convinced it would be easier than he first thought.

That said, it apparently didn’t stop ‘The Donald’ from asking Merkel - in the first meeting between the West's pre-eminent leaders - no less than ten times if he could negotiate a trade deal with Germany according to a senior German politician who was quoted in the report.

Read more: Merkel Trumps U.S. Putting EU Ahead Of Britain In 'Trade Queue,' Begs Questions

Suriname: A struggling country's past and future shaped by Alcoa and its aluminum - by Rich Lord and Len Boselovic

Suriname: The Brokopondo dam at Afobaka
The following excerpts come from a lengthy and fascinating  report in the US Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Pulitzer Center , describing the Multi-National Aluminum Company of America's exploitation of  Suriname's (a former Dutch colony on the North East Coast of South America) natural resources (bauxite deposits) since 1916. 

It must be noted that several governments, especially in Latin America and Africa, have been receptive to the negative images and have adopted hostile policies towards MNCs. 

However, a careful examination of the nature of MNCs and their operations in the Third World reveals a positive image of them, especially as the allies in the development process of these countries.

Even as MNCs may be motivated primarily by profits to invest in the Third World, the morality of their activities in improving the material lives of many in these countries should not be obscured through miss-perceptions and negative publicity usually circulated by corrupt local governments.

"It electrified this South American country even as it drowned a jungle, so the 1.2-mile-long dam Alcoa built here to harness the Suriname River is more than stone and turbines. It’s a symbol, in this tropical land of 560,000, of progress, trauma and a global company’s ability to dominate a little country’s landscape and society.

Now the Alcoa Corp. is leaving Suriname, and the Afobaka Dam’s future rivets everyone from the capital’s dealmakers to the forest’s subsistence farmers.

In a country just north of the equator that would fit within a combined Pennsylvania and West Virginia — a country that’s already in a downturn locals call “the crisis” — Alcoa’s decision to permanently end mining and refining has delivered a resonating blow.

Alcoa, the aluminum company founded in Pittsburgh in 1888 that eventually spanned six continents, set up shop here in 1916 when it found bauxite beneath the jungle floor. Cutthroat conditions in the global aluminum market compelled a shutdown in November 2015.

Halfway through that century, Alcoa finished the dam, flooding a forest people’s heartland but also jolting a plantation-based economy into the industrial age. Alcoa created mammoth mining and refining sites and raucous river towns, building a middle class while toughing out a nation’s independence, civil war and an unstable government.

Alcoa found in Suriname, circa 1916, “an almost forgotten and impoverished Dutch colony … which had to look forward to a future without a glimmer of hope,” according to a glossy, celebratory magazine the company produced in late 2014.

It was a land of subsistence farms and wild rubber extraction, plus “colonial plantations” producing cocoa, coffee and sugar. In Alcoa’s first half-century there, the company mined bauxite to the east and south of the capital and sent it abroad, by boat, for processing.

In 1958, the company, the local minister-president and the Dutch governor agreed on a plan to power an ore-to-aluminum industrial complex and signed the 75-year Brokopondo Agreement, named for the town just north of the proposed dam site.

From 1959 through 1965, Alcoa built the Afobaka Dam, and in Paranam a refinery to turn bauxite into alumina, and a smelter to convert that to aluminum ingots. The plans were crafted “on the drawing table of Alcoa’s Engineering Department in Pittsburgh,” according to a company history of the project.

The lengthy Brokopondo Agreement contained just one sentence about the 6,000 people living in 43 villages just upstream of the dam — leaving it to the government to “remove the population, the buildings and other property from the reservoir area.”

The lengthy Brokopondo Agreement contained just one sentence about the 6,000 people living in 43 villages just upstream of the dam — leaving it to the government to “remove the population, the buildings and other property from the reservoir area.”

The 1958 agreement gave Suriname’s government a fraction of the dam’s cheap electricity priced at 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour. But circumstances changed in 1999 when Alcoa closed the smelter, a big user of the dam’s electricity.

Although many say the smelter’s small size and environmental issues were the reasons for the shutdown, there was a nagging suspicion among some that Alcoa had another motive.

Henk Ramdin, Suralco’s general manager until retiring shortly before the smelter was shuttered, said many employees at the time believed the company could make more money selling the power than it could making aluminum.

“They didn’t say it openly, but I could feel it,” Mr. Ramdin recalled.

An Alcoa spokesman wrote that such decisions are based on “a comprehensive evaluation of market conditions, regulatory certainty, and capital requirements,” but declined to be more specific.

The dispute over the dam and electricity pricing came to head in October 2015, when Alcoa and Suriname’s current minister of natural resources signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding outlining proposed terms for Alcoa’s departure.

Alcoa agreed to clean up its mines and industrial sites to U.S. standards, to consider eventual mining of bauxite in western Suriname, and to give the dam to the country’s government at the end of 2019 — 13 years before the Brokopondo Agreement ended."

For the complete report click here: A struggling country's past and future shaped by Alcoa and its aluminum | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

4/23/17

France: Macron 23.9% faces Le Pen 21.7 % for French presidency as mainstream parties bow out early

Macron wins first round - Runoff May 7
If Macron tops the first round – his score two hours after polls closed was estimated at 23.9 percent, 2.2 points up on the populist Le Pen, according to estimates by the Ipsos firm – it would somewhat salvage France’s reputation in Europe after the Europhobe Le Pen had topped polls for months before figures tightened down the stretch. If he doesn’t, Europhiles will have to be content with the fact that the other Europhobe in this race, the far-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, monsieur momentum in the final days, did not advance to a showdown with Le Pen that would have spelled almost certain existential crisis for the European Union.

Le Pen matches her father’s achievement in 2002, when National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked the country by making the run-off with 16.86 percent of the vote. But the younger Le Pen’s performance, far from a surprise, is a radically different exploit. Initial estimates show she has reached the second round with nearly five points more than Le Pen père scored 15 years ago and with a much higher estimated voter turnout.

Moreover, the senior Le Pen found himself pitted against incumbent president, former prime minister, and former Paris mayor Jacques Chirac in the 2002 run-off, eventually losing by a landslide 82.2 percent to 17.7 percent. This time, Marine Le Pen faces a neophyte politician in the 39-year-old Macron. The latter served as an Élysée Palace advisor and economy minister under unpopular outgoing Socialist President François Hollande, but he has never been elected to any post.

Polls have universally put Macron well ahead of Le Pen in surveys testing a run-off between the pair, but the vote on May 7 is likely to be considerably closer than the 2002 final. A Harris Interactive poll released Sunday night after the first round showed Macron scoring 64 percent ahead of the run-off to Le Pen’s 36 percent. A Cevipof poll released Wednesday put Macron at 61 percent to Le Pen’s 39 percent. Another poll this week, by the Elabe firm, put him at 62 percent.

But the result sets up a duel that Marine Le Pen will likely relish: the opportunity to wield her anti-establishment rhetoric against a former investment banker who attended two of France’s elite schools (Paris’s Institute of Political Studies -- Sciences Po Paris -- and the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, which trains the country’s top public servants) and who rose to power as the protégé of the unpopular Socialist Hollande.

The two run-off candidates will present French voters with stark choices, not least with regard to the European Union. The Europhile Macron, who won an explicit endorsement from German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble before the first round, faces Le Pen, who wants to re-establish France’s national borders and whose programme calls for a referendum on France’s membership in the bloc.

"I want to be the president of the patriots against the threat of nationalists," Macron told cheering supporters after Sunday's vote.

Read more: Macron faces Le Pen for French presidency as mainstream parties bow out early - France 24

France: Tight race for the Elysee Palace - by Bernd Rieger

French voters will be going to the polls this Sunday with the memory of Thursday's deadly attack in Paris still fresh in their minds. All candidates, from left to right, cancelled their final campaign appearances following the incident. They are all calling for police and investigative authorities to be boosted.

The right-wing populist Marine Le Pen accused the Socialist government of having failed in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in his turn accused Le Pen of exploiting the terror threat for the purposes of her campaign.

Surveys indicate that, after the fear of economic decline, voters are most worried about security and the threat posed by terrorism. There are no opinion polls recent enough to have measured voter sentiment following the most recent attack, which targeted police officers in the heart of Paris.

The state of emergency imposed in France after the Islamist attacks in Paris in November 2015 is still in force.

The race for France's presidency is wide open. The latest polls predict that four candidates out of the 11 candidates have a realistic chance of advancing to the decisive May 7 runoff. Two candidates, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron, who founded a new party, have both been touted as favorites for the last several weeks. Some polls give Le Pen a slight edge; others give it to Macron. It is a neck-and-neck race. But far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and conservative Francois Fillon, the only representative of an established party, also have a decent chance of advancing. The two are just 2 or 3 percentage points behind front-runners Le Pen and Macron. That is well within the margin of error for such polling.

Election researcher Stephane Wahnich warned in a recent DW interview that nothing was certain. "We have many undecided voters in France. About a quarter of all voters have said that they will not decide until election day. That means that we are asking people who they will vote for even though they have yet to make up their minds." Wahnrich complains that France's voting public is no longer stable. "Our society is radically changing. This makes it difficult to come up with reliable projections. When you consider that fact, you have to conclude that opinion polls for this election are completely overrated."

Far-right populist Le Pen lost out in the first round of France's last presidential election in 2012. This time it seems certain that she will advance to the runoff. The ruling Socialist party of departing - and extremely unpopular - President Francois Hollande is playing no role whatsoever in the election. That is also something completely new in French politics. The country's political left is more divided than ever before. On the other hand, the rise of far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, who is especially popular among young French voters for his radical anti-EU slogans and calls for 100 percent taxation on the rich, is rather astonishing. Melenchon utterly rejects globalization and free-trade: "All trade deals that devastate the signatory countries must be stopped."

Read more: Tight race for the Elysee Palace | Europe | DW.COM | 22.04.2017

France - Presidential Elections: Young French voters seduced by extreme candidates despite EU stance – by Marion Candau

Disappointed, aggrieved, disoriented, the French youth is crying out for change. With unemployment levels high and a strong perception of corruption throughout the political class, young people are turning to the extremes of the political spectrum, represented by Marine Le Pen on the right and Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the left.

But for the section of the population that most strongly identifies as European, this is something of a contradiction.

An Ifop-Fiducial poll from 14 April credited Mélenchon with 30% of voting intentions among voters aged 18-24. Close behind in this age category was Le Pen (29%), with centrist pro-European Emmanuel Macron in third place (20%).

But according to this same poll, just 55% of people in this age category were sure of who they would vote for

Read more: Young French voters seduced by extreme candidates despite EU stance – EURACTIV.com

4/22/17

EU Panel Warns Against Rise of Nationalism in Populist Surge- by Karl Herchenroeder

A European Parliament member on Tuesday warned against the surge of nationalistic and xenophobic sentiment in populist movements across the globe, citing troubling trends in the U.S. and the UK.

Pedro Silva Pereira – a Portuguese member of the European Parliament who appeared at Georgetown University – described Britain’s exit from the EU as a “marvelous illusion.”

Brexiteers leading the campaign, Pereira said, convinced the majority of voters that in order to block unwanted migration of refugees, terrorists and the democratic failings of the EU, Britain should turn inward, restoring power to Parliament. He said similar pleas were made by President Trump during his 2016 campaign, when he pushed for border control and immigration reform.

“We have to fight (in the United States), where the battle is based on the issue of values and political ideas,” Pereira said. “Let’s bear in mind that history tells us that we should take nationalism seriously.”

Recent developments show how volatile the situation remains with the refugee crisis in Europe, where politicians continue pushing populist agendas. British Prime Minister Theresa May announced Tuesday that the country will hold a general election on June 8, three years ahead of schedule. British general elections determine who will serve in Parliament, and June 8 will offer a good reading of the political temperature in the UK following Brexit.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, fresh off his contested victory in a controversial referendum that boosted his powers, plans to restore the death penalty in Turkey and has demanded that Europe allow visa-free travel for Turks across the region.

According to Eurobarometer, EU’s official public opinion poll, immigration and terrorism top the list of concerns for citizens across the continent. Tuesday’s panel agreed that populists have also seized on fears over continued downward mobility brought on by wage freezes, economic stagnation and high unemployment.

“The incapacity to implement bold and necessary reforms has led, in my point of view, to a lack of confidence in the political class as a whole and to the belief that there are no efficient solutions to the problems facing our societies, and therefore there is a perception that this negative cycle might have no end,” said Pedro Reis, former president of the Portuguese Agency for the External Commerce.

Reis said that sustained cycles of unemployment and a lack of competitiveness have left the majority of European citizens with little hope that the economic situation will improve. Recent surveys, he said, show that 36 percent of European citizens trust EU institutions, compared to 57 percent in 2007.

While immigration and terrorism are chief among the EU’s concerns, France is most worried about unemployment, according to Eurobarometer. Unemployment stands at 10.5 percent in France. Maria Carrilho, former member of the Portuguese and European parliaments, said the French outlook is particularly interesting considering that the country has been repeatedly hit by terrorist attacks. 

Both Carrilho and Pereira predicted the defeat of France’s right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen in this Sunday’s presidential election. Pereira cited the losses of far-right candidates Norbert Hofer in Austria and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands as evidence, while Carrilho said Le Pen’s program for job creation is not consistent enough.

Read more: EU Panel Warns Against Rise of Nationalism in Populist

Earth Day: April 22: The G20’s Time for Climate Leadership, as Trump Adm. ready to block project - by Teresa Ribera

Global Warming Disaster:The question is not if but when
At the start of 2016, the United States was well positioned to lead the global fight against climate change. As the chair of the G20 for 2017, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been counting on the US to help drive a deep transformation in the global economy. And even after Donald Trump won the US presidential election, Merkel gave him the benefit of the doubt, hoping against hope that the US might still play a leading role in reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions.

But at Merkel and Trump’s first in-person meeting, no substantive statements were issued, and their body language made the prospect of future dialogue appear dim. Trump’s slogan “America first” seems to mean “America alone.”

By reversing his predecessor’s policies to reduce CO2 emissions, Trump is rolling back the new model of cooperative global governance embodied in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The countries that signed on to that accord committed themselves to sharing the risks and benefits of a global economic and technological transformation.

Trump’s climate-change policy does not bode well for US citizens – many of whom are now mobilizing resistance to his administration – or the world. But the rest of the world will still develop low-carbon, resilient systems. Private- and public-sector players across the developed and developing worlds are making the coming economic shift all but inevitable, and their agendas will not change simply because the US has a capricious new administration. China, India, the European Union, and many African and Latin American countries are still adopting clean-energy systems.

As long as this is the case, businesses, local governments, and other stakeholders will continue to pursue low-carbon strategies. To be sure, Trump’s policies might introduce new dangers and costs, domestically and worldwide; but he will not succeed in prolonging the fossil-fuel era.

Still, an effective US exit from the Paris agreement is a menacing development. The absence of such an important player from the fight against climate change could undermine new forms of multilateralism, even if it reinvigorates climate activism as global public opinion turns against the US.

More immediately, the Trump administration has introduced significant financial risks that could impede efforts to address climate change. Trump’s proposed budget would place restrictions on federal funding for clean-energy development and climate research. Likewise, his recent executive orders will minimize the financial costs of US businesses’ carbon footprint, by changing how the “social cost of carbon” is calculated. And his administration has already insisted that language about climate change be omitted from a joint statement issued by G20 finance ministers.

These are all unwise decisions that pose serious risks to the US economy, and to global stability, as United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently pointed out. The US financial system plays a leading role in the world economy, and Trump wants to take us all back to a time when investors and the general public did not account for climate-change risks when making financial decisions.

Since 2008, the regulatory approach taken by the US and the G20 has been geared toward increasing transparency and improving our understanding of possible systemic risks to the global financial system, not least those associated with climate change and fossil-fuel dependency. Developing more stringent transparency rules and better risk-assessment tools has been a top priority for the financial community itself. Implementing these new rules and tools can accelerate the overall trend in divestment from fossil fuels, ensure a smooth transition to a more resilient, clean-energy economy, and provide confidence and clarity for long-term investors.

Given the heightened financial risks associated with climate change, resisting Trump’s executive order to roll back Wall Street transparency regulations should be a top priority. The fact that Warren Buffet and the asset-management firm Black Rock have warned about the investment risks of climate change suggests that the battle is not yet lost.

Creating the G20 was a good idea. Now, it must confront its biggest challenge. It is up to Merkel and other G20 leaders to overcome US (and Saudi) resistance and stay the course on climate action. They can count as allies some of the world’s large institutional investors, who seem to agree on the need for a transitional framework of self-regulation. It is incumbent upon other world leaders to devise a coherent response to Trump, and to continue establishing a new development paradigm that is compatible across different financial systems.

At the same time, the EU – which is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome this year – now has a chance to think about the future that it wants to build. These are difficult times, to be sure; but we can still decide what kind of world we want to live in.

Note EU-Digest: the EU needs to take its own independent and united position on this issue. Compromise should not be part of the equation. In addition, it has become extremely difficult  for any country to negotiate with the Trump Administration on just about any issue, given they change their position more often than the Kama Sutra. 

Read more: The G20’s Time for Climate Leadership by Teresa Ribera - Project Syndicate

4/21/17

Wake-Up EU Please: Trump’s Plan to End Europe - by David Frum

The disturbing characters gaining access to the Trump White House profess to be united by their shared nationalism. That’s not how nationalism works out in real life, though. Competing nationalisms ripped apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In Ukraine, an assertive Russian nationalism has sparked a conflict that has left some 10,000 dead and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes. Between Hungary and Romania, between Ukraine and Poland, between Bulgaria and Turkey, there still smolder antique grievances that a demagogue could rekindle.

Of course, one nationalism has troubled the peace of Europe more than any other: Germany’s. Whenever Germany has unified—whether in 1871 or 1990—other European countries have gotten scared, and understandably so. How were they to live in peace with such a rich, strong, and well-organized neighbor? Here’s Benjamin Disraeli speaking in the British House of Commons after the first unification: “The balance of power has been entirely destroyed, and the country which suffers most, and feels the effects of this great change most, is England.” And here (according to Helmut Kohl’s memoirs) is what Margaret Thatcher said, even more pungently, on the eve of the second: “We beat the Germans twice, and now they’re back.”

Our parents and grandparents’ second reason for supporting European integration was economic. Before 1939, wages and living standards were much higher in the U.S. than in Europe. Transatlantic trade was limited; American companies didn’t export much, and European consumers couldn’t afford to buy much. Hitler’s response to Germany’s privation was to conquer, enslave, and plunder the rest of Europe—a plan that propelled the Continent into war and genocide. The war’s North Atlantic victors built a system both more humane and more effective: An integrated European market joined to a global open-trade system has raised European living standards to compare with those in NorthAmerica, making us all better customers for one another.

The men who built the postwar world anticipated this danger and sought to avert it. They designed trade and treaty systems governed by rules, rules to which the United States would submit, even though it was the strongest party. Indeed, they intended exactly the things that Donald Trump now complains about—that the U.S. would have to make concessions to smaller partners; that it would not act as judge in its own cases; that it would subordinate its parochial and immediate national interests to the larger and more enduring collective interest. America would find security by working for the security of others.

The Americans who led the effort took this approach in part because it’s what they were accustomed to: The U.S. Constitution likewise overweights the interests of minorities and small groups. They also did it because they had learned from their wars against rulers who sought to dominate their neighbors. In the world as at home, systems that serve the interests of all endure better than systems that oppress many to serve a few.

They wanted a future in which non-Americans would be the ones who most wished to uphold U.S. hegemony and most feared to see that hegemony end. They succeeded in this, against every external danger. And now the good and wise and even glorious accord they created is more threatened than ever before—not by an enemy, but by the narrow-minded, shortsighted bullying of an accidental and unfit American president. Will the story really end this way? It all seems not only heartrendingly sad, but also teeth-grindingly stupid.

Read more: Trump’s Plan to End Europe - The Atlantic