Game, set and match: Putin has helped France become the new master of Europe


Brussels agro-chemical is succumbing to pressure from multinationals. This has delayed another revised directive on the sustainable use of pesticides and ecosystems.

It is a parallel story on the energy front. The worst gas crisis in living memory finally ended the era when Germany could export its anti-nuclear ideology through EU rules. Berlin has been unable to stop France from labeling nuclear power as clean energy under Europe’s €1 trillion ($1.5 trillion) Green Deal. This opens up huge investment flows.

France’s nuclear power has proved to be a strategic buffer in times of crisis, as Europe seeks to reduce dependence on Russian gas.Credit:getty

Putin has rehabilitated France’s nuclear industry, which still provides 70 percent of its electricity. The network was in trouble earlier this winter when a fifth of its 56 reactors were shut down for safety reasons, and France had to set fire to two old coal plants. Of course, it’s still in trouble. The first Hinkley-style reactor in Flamanville has been delayed until 2023, 12 years late and more than four times over budget.

State-owned EDF is expected to hit €26 billion this year, partly because it is being forced to provide energy below market value to help Macron’s re-election. It would require a state bailout, so this consumer subsidy is disguised taxation. Nevertheless, France’s nuclear power has proved to be a strategic buffer in times of crisis, as Europe tries to reduce dependence on Russian gas.

It is Germany that is struggling to explain why it shut down three well-functioning reactors in January, and why it plans to shut down the last three later this year, yet still Emphasizing that a gas embargo against Russia is too painful to consider.

France has the terrain and latitude to undertake the vast expansion of solar at a viable cost. Macron is pushing for a tenfold increase to 100 gigawatts and has ordered a fast-track planning campaign to eliminate “unbearable delays and bottlenecks”.

The French solar core is likely to prove largely the cheapest form of energy in Europe and could replace France with Britain’s offshore wind as the backbone of the EU’s electrification strategy.

France is unquestionably the EU’s paramount military power, and the shock of a full-fledged Russian invasion has turned it into gold dust on Europe’s top table.

For the balance of military credibility, the war in Ukraine has exposed the absolute losses left over by 15 years of German penny-pinching and disarmament. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht acknowledged this week that the Bundeswehr has exhausted its stock and cannot send more weapons to Ukraine without jeopardizing Germany’s ability to defend itself. “I have to be honest, we’ve hit a limit now,” she said.

Macron has hardly covered himself with pride since the start of the Ukraine crisis. He ridiculed warnings from the US and Britain that Russia was ready to attack. He became a useful idiot of Putin, falling for assurances of a “de-escalation” in early February.

He has continued to legitimize Putin by having obscene conversations. It has sent anti-tank weapons to Milan to Ukraine but only in small numbers. Almost everyone gets the impression that Macron’s policy, like that of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, is to prompt Ukrainians to surrender early to deal with the problem.

The German economy is facing many adversities, including an aging workforce.

The German economy is facing many adversities, including an aging workforce.Credit:bloomberg

But France is unquestionably the EU’s paramount military power, and the shock of a full-fledged Russian invasion has turned it into gold dust on Europe’s top table.

The spoiler for France’s growing fortunes is that the country is on a trajectory of slow fiscal ruin and arguably the highest structural deficit in the OECD. Its public debt has reached 116 percent of Club Med’s GDP, up 18 points since the start of the pandemic. The debt gap with Germany has widened to 50 percentage points.

But it loses relevance when Paris gets its hands on Berlin’s credit card through a permanent EU “fiscal entity”, a Hamiltonian able to collectively raise debt for the EU treasury.

It’s loading

French hopes of turning Europe’s €800 billion ($1.16 trillion) one-time COVID recovery fund (actually nothing to do with COVID) into an irrevocable debt union a few months ago were going nowhere. Putin has come to the rescue.

There is an increasing likelihood that it will be strengthened and rebuilt due to energy solidarity. Brussels is exploring alternatives to some form of Ukraine fund (which will have nothing to do with Ukraine) to continue the game for joint EU debt issuance, unless it is an irreversible exercise by the Monet method of creepage. Happens.

If so, chapau, mess amis. Or as we say: game, set and match for France.

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