Calais: understanding the ‘post-Jungle’ era

In October 2016, the refugee and migrant camp in Calais previously known as ‘the Jungle’ was destroyed and evacuated by French authorities. Despite being buried under layers of rubble, the Jungle has once again become a hotspot for people wanting to cross to the UK.

French riot police (CRS) look on as a tent burns in Calais, France.

Over the past year, trickles of refugees and migrants – primarily from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea – have temporarily settled in and around Calais. As of today, there are roughly close to a thousand people in the area, and their situation has significantly worsened since the destruction of the camp.

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s changed?

  1. There are now 5 different distribution points for refugees.

Five relatively small clusters of refugee and migrant populations have emerged around Calais, loosely divided by ethnicity. Volunteers have called these sites ‘Old Lidl’, ‘Covoit’, ‘Jungle’, ‘L’hôpital’, ‘Norveige’.  After the demolition of the Jungle, it was easier for migrants to scatter given the constant police evictions breaking them up.

  1. Volunteers now have to provide drinking water.

There used to be several water points for the Jungle’s population of 12,000. These also doubled up as a place to wash. These no longer exist. Volunteers drive around with a water truck, providing water for everyone at the five distribution points.

  1. CRS burn and slash tents on a regular basis.

Officially, no structures of any form are permitted in Calais anymore. This includes tents. The CRS (French riot police) often forcefully evict people if they see any tents pitched. According to Human Rights Watch, police slash and burn tents, rendering them unusable .

A former Calais CRS officer of fifteen years openly discussed the allegations with Help Refugees, stating “I have destroyed many encampments, I have emptied canisters of tear gas to contaminate people’s sleeping bags…I [have] colleagues who set tents on fire so badly that the fire brigade had to be called.”

However, according to Help Refugees, French President Emmanuel Macron is threatening to take charities to court for “defamation” of the police force. Macron attributed the claims of police brutality to the “lies and manipulations” of these charities, according to The Guardian.

  1. Pepper spray, tear gas and excessive violence often interrupt migrants sleeping rough.

This includes children. The idea is to ‘evict’ people by any means and drive them away from Calais. There are countless reports of physical abuse every single day. Talking to the New York Times Michael Bochenek of Human RIghts Watch reported that CRS routinely confiscate and pepper spray donations so they are unusable, as well as disrupting food distributions.

  1. Women are so scared of sexual assault that they no longer sleep in tents.

For many women in the makeshift encampments, going to the toilet at night is too frightening. This is why in Dunkirk – where one of the camps has formed to the east of Calais – volunteers hand out nappies so women  don’t have to leave their beds.

In Calais, there is no such provision. It is actually safer to sleep rough, as very few people have the luxury of sleeping in a tent. According to long-term volunteer Sarah, tents are obvious targets for abuse, and women feel even more vulnerable in them for fear of attracting other migrant men or CRS officers. Sarah estimated that there are only between 5-10 women in Calais. Unlike in Dunkirk – where there is a large Kurdish population of women who have travelled with their families – the women of Calais are alone. They are primarily from Eritrea and Ethiopia – none are from Afghanistan – and usually have male friends from home who will ‘protect’ them, often pretending to be their husbands.

  1. Volunteers can’t distribute tents unless there’s enough for everyone.

Due to constant shortages, there are two effective distribution methods which are used to fairly determine who receives a tent:

1.) Individually according to vulnerability: This involves going to each community asking if people need a tent. This method is difficult to get right, though, according to long-term volunteer Beth*, as “you never really know if someone truly needs one”. For a migrant, a spare tent could be sold for money, or swapped for other valuable provisions.

2.) En masse: This involves a large distribution from a set point at a set time with a van full of tents. But there is never enough for everybody, which causes problems between and within communities that are exacerbated by criminal gangs and smugglers. Recent clashes in Calais leaving 22 in hospital and 2 fighting for their lives is a prime example of this, supposedly instigated by smuggler gangs as suggested by the French Interior Minister. People queue for hours and walk away empty-handed. When this inevitably happens, they are reduced to stealing from other communities, causing violence and an ‘alpha-male’ hierarchy. Volunteers are blamed for withholding tents.

Unpredictable police evictions makes this harder. Tents are sometimes distributed only to be destroyed the next day. Volunteers speak to communities every day, who alert them if there has been an eviction. Stock of tents and sleeping bags are counted for each of the five communities. The Help Refugees/L’Auberge des Migrants warehouse has emergency tents packed in case of an eviction.

…and what hasn’t changed

  1. There is still no government aid.

Not one of the numerous organisations based in Calais during the Jungle period was government funded. Today, most NGOs are gone, leaving few charities such as Help Refugees, Utopia 56, Refugee Community Kitchen and L’Auberge des Migrants as the only aid in Calais. Britain has put £100 million into Channel border security; funding CRS, building a 1km wall to prevent migrants getting close to the motorways and extensive barbed wire and CCTV around the port.

The Jungle Books building functioned as a classroom and library during the Jungle.
  1. Charities are still arguing over the best distribution methods.

As ever, there are ongoing tensions between charities. A number of volunteers from Help Refugees consider Care4Calais’ distribution methods “undignified”; blowing a whistle and handing out donations from the back of a van on a first come first serve basis. Meetings to re-evaluate the effectiveness of these methods and how to adapt to volatile situations are ongoing, new rules and regulations are introduced every day. Volunteers, on call around the clock, are still burnt out.

  1. Donations still aren’t enough

The lack of stock has forced charities to come up with distribution methods aimed at not making people feel undignified. There are ticketing systems, which seems like the fairest option; people don’t have to queue for hours only to be disappointed due to the inevitable lack of stock, instead their name is called and they come up and collect their item. But still, because there isn’t enough, it promotes a hierarchy where the youngest and weakest often end up with nothing unless they have a deal with someone to ‘protect’ them.

      4. There is still no guarantee that vulnerable children will be safe at night.

In the Jungle, ‘Salaam’ was a (relatively) safe place where unaccompanied children could go to sleep at night. It was built to keep vulnerable migrants – primarily women and children – safe at night, doubling up as a place for migrants to shower and receive legal information. However, space was limited, so Salaam tended to prioritise younger, more vulnerable children aged 14 and under.

‘There is temporary accommodation which opens subject to weather conditions, where there is space for 60 kids. There are well over 100 in Calais.’

This meant that unaccompanied minors between the ages of 15 and 18 were sleeping alone. Not only is this still the case, but children even younger are being forced to sleep rough. There is temporary accommodation which opens subject to weather conditions, where there is space for 60 kids. There are well over 100 in Calais.

  1. People are still risking their lives to get across the border.

Five children with a legal right to be in the UK have died attempting to cross the border over the past two years. Since December 2017, two people have been put in intensive care after accidents trying to get to the UK. One, hit by a train, has lost his legs. Three more people have died, including a 15-year-old boy trying to reach his sister in the UK. His 13-year-old friend had to call for an ambulance.

~

By Molly Whitmey

EU’s migration policy ‘hypocritical’ says Human Rights Watch

PARIS – Human Rights Watch called the European Union’s migration policy ‘hypocritical’ and raised concerns about France’s anti-terrorism laws on the launch day of its World Report 2018.

The European Commission in Brussels.

At the launch of the 28th edition of the charity’s global report, executive director Kenneth Roth said that by financing and training the Libyan coastguard, the EU was ‘directly or indirectly’ forcing people to stay in ‘hellish conditions.’

It would be wrong to suggest that there was ‘anything approaching a systematic improvement of conditions’ of migrants in Libya, he said.

‘Either they have the right to receive protection in Europe, or they are de facto sent back to their countries of origin,’ said director of advocacy Philippe Dam in a Facebook Live shortly after the press conference, ‘but pretending that training Libyan coast guards to send [migrants] back to Libya is the right thing to do is absolutely wrong.’

Roth said that the EU should ‘by all means’ endeavour to provide migrants with alternative ‘safe and legal avenues’ to Europe, but that authorities must still treat them humanely, using the correct asylum procedures for those arriving in Europe by boat.

In December, France took in a group of 25 migrants – from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia – who were rescued from Libya and flown from Niger to Paris, avoiding the treacherous Mediterranean crossing.

In a press release published on the same day as the report, Benjamin Ward, HRW’s deputy Europe and Central Asia director, said that too often in 2017 the EU had treated human rights as an ‘optional extra.’

The communiqué also said responses to migration and terrorism ‘should reflect’ the institution’s ‘core values.’

Macron must do more

On the day that Emmanuel Macron visited British Prime Minister Theresa May at Sandhurst military academy to discuss, amongst other things, counter-terrorism and migration policy, Roth described the French President’s record on human rights issues as ‘mixed.’

Roth described Macron’s recent diplomatic visit to China as a notable ‘low point,’ saying that he heard ‘barely a peep about human rights’ from the French leader.

Emmanuel Macron pictured with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

He also expressed concerns that France’s anti-terrorism laws, adopted late last year, could lead to ‘discriminatory abuse, particularly against the Muslim population,’ and added that Interior Minister Gérard Collomb ‘continues to be in denial’ about ‘police abuse’ of migrants.

Last year Human Rights Watch published reports documenting and denouncing the police’s ‘excessive force’ when dealing with both adult and child refugees in Calais.

Roth congratulated Macron, however, for firmly opposing such mistreatment on his recent visit to Calais, and praised him for ‘reinforcing rather than running away from democratic values’ during his presidential campaign.

He described Macron’s rejection of the authoritarian populist tendencies adopted by some other European leaders as a ‘turning point’ of 2017.

The bigger picture

In a wide-ranging press conference, Roth described the United States as ‘a wall when it comes to human rights,’ and said that Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi was ‘not the leader the world should look to for guidance’ on how to combat ‘the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.’

Asked about the UK, he said he was ‘concerned’ about the rhetoric of certain Brexiteers, and criticised those who wanted to leave the European Convention on Human Rights for their ‘very short-sighted approach.’

However, the World Report also noted that there were ‘hints’ that European leaders were ‘beginning to recognize’ that the future of the EU ‘depends on a willingness to stand up for human rights’. This was particularly observable in the bloc’s response to the ongoing threats to the rule of law in Poland.  

‘The lesson of the last year,’ said Roth, ‘is that resistance matters.’

~

by Frank Andrews

France: hundreds of thousands unite in protest against reforms

Over 223,000 people united on Tuesday in protest against French Employment Law reforms. Philippe Martinez, of the French General Confederation of Labour, proclaimed the rally a success, wrote Le Monde.

Philippe Martinez, Secretary General of the French General Confederation of Labour

‘We are off to a promising start,’ declared Martinez, who spearheaded the rally alongside several other unions. Reported turnout figures across the country varied widely; in Marseille, 7,500 according to local authorities or 60,000 according to the organisers; in Nantes, 6,200 compared to 15,000; and in Havre, 3,400 compared to 10,000.

Minor clashes in Paris

The Parisian procession marched from La Place de la Bastille – accompanied by a fairground brass band – to La Place d’Italie. Despite the celebratory atmosphere, the rally was marred by several incidents. Protesters threw projectiles at police, who retaliated with tear gas and water cannons, as observed by a journalist from Le Monde.

Police stated that 300 people in balaclavas were present at the march and reported ‘several acts of vandalism’, including the damaging of windows and defacing of adverts. One person was taken to hospital.

Political personalities mobilised

Amongst the crowd were several political figures such as Benoît Hamon, Socialist Party candidate in the last election, Pierre Laurent, National Secretary of the French Communist Party.

In Marseille, leader of ‘La France Insoumise’ Jean-Luc Mélenchon promised to ‘make the President back down’. In Strasbourg, five European MPs participated in the protest.

‘La France Insoumise’ supporters

Placards bore messages targeting Macron for recent remarks in which he promised ‘to make no concessions to absconders, cynics or extremists’. One banner read, ‘You’re in trouble Macron, the slackers are marching on.’

Strikes and blockades

The day was also marked by strikes and deliberate travel disruptions. Several schools in Paris and surrounding areas were partially or momentarily blocked off by students, but without violence.

Tens of fairground lorries disrupted morning traffic in Paris and the rest of France, in response to a call to protest by the ‘Fairground King’ Marcel Campion. According to Campion, ‘around 10,000 trucks were mobilised throughout France, of which between 400 and 500 were in Paris.’

Divided trade unions

The proposed reforms go against many of Macron’s electoral promises: a cap on compensation awarded by industrial tribunals, the merging of independent staff representatives into companies, reform of the CPPP (safeguard against ‘difficult working conditions’) and greater power accorded to intra-company agreements.

Yet the unions are divided. The Worker’s Force did not publicly align itself with the movement, though some members decided independently to protest. The same was true for the Democratic Confederation of Labour, the Confederation of Management, the Confederation of Christian Workers and the National Union of Autonomous Unions.

The General Confederation of Labour has already called for another protest on the 21st September, the day before the reforms are presented at a Cabinet meeting.

 

Trump and Macron: best of enemies

‘Just because the French president gives a good handshake doesn’t mean he sees himself as a champion of the liberal West,’ says Benjamin Haddad in Foreign Policy.
macron and trump
French president Emmanuel Macron with US president Donald Trump.

To outside observers, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron’s relationship didn’t get off to the best start.

First came the ‘infamous handshake,’ then there was the French president’s “make the planet great again”  comments after his American counterpart pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement.

Pitted as ‘a direct repudiation of Trump’s populism,’ Macron was seen as ‘Europe’s best hope for standing up to Trump.’

It was Macron – who once taught philosophy and can recite Molière – the liberal defender of the EU and the free market, versus Trump, the “America First” protectionist who supported Marine le Pen, Macron’s election rival.

Yet, ‘different as they are, Macron and Trump are likely to get on rather well,’ says Haddad.

First, Macron is ‘no Hillary Clinton.’

Despite being a liberal, the French president ran on an anti-establishment platform and criticised both the major parties on the left and right.

‘Like for Trump, few “experts” would have bet on Macron’s victory just a few months before the election.’

And his first bill will aim to “moralise” French politics, imposing maximum terms and ‘barring MPs from hiring family members or working as consultants.’

Did someone say “drain the swamp?”

Second, Macron sees himself as a realist, and has embraced the “Gaullo-Mitterandien” realpolitik tradition of ‘realist French foreign policy.’

And despite his strong criticism of Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, let’s not forget that early on in his presidency Macron invited Putin to France to discuss cooperation in Syria.

‘For years, this French attitude of independence has raised eyebrows in Washington; these days, it fits perfectly with Trump’s agenda.’

Third, Macron’s “Europe first” attitude ‘seems to dovetail with Trump’s wariness of free-riding allies.’

macron and trump
Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump may be closer than you might think.

The French president wants to increase eurozone budgetary coordination, as well as create a finance minister for the bloc.

This will mean ‘convincing Germany to give up on trade surpluses that have reinforced imbalances within the EU,’ and the two nations have already begun discussions for the creation of a European defence fund.

Rather than ‘embracing movements like Brexit that weaken Europe and leave it more dependent, the America First president should welcome European leaders who want to strengthen the continent and shoulder more responsibility for defending their own interests and security,’ says Haddad.

Finally, both Macron and  Trump support military action and assertive foreign policy.

He has ‘repeatedly said his top foreign-policy priority would be fighting Islamism,’ and supported the Trump administration’s airstrike of the Syrian Army’s Shayrat airbase.

‘Paris – always more comfortable with hard power than Berlin – could be a more neutral partner for the Trump administration.’

Macron has vowed to increase France’s defence spending to 2 percent of GDP.

Widespread dislike of the new US president saw many people hopefully cast Macron as an ‘anti-Trump champion.’

But the French Constitution grants the president much more freedom in foreign policy than, say, Germany, and the ‘widespread loathing for the US president, real though it may be, is unlikely to have a major impact on Macron’s decision-making.’

Their initial handshake was frosty, ‘and it remains unlikely that Macron and Trump will be taking in any Molière performances together anytime soon, but sometimes a rough handshake can be the start of a fruitful relationship.’

Enrico Letta

About EU Reforms – Interview with Enrico Letta

We set down with Enrico Letta, the former Italian Prime Minister, in his office at SciencesPo University, Paris, following the launch of his new book ‘Through thick and thin’ (published in Italian only) to discuss eurozone reform and how the EU can do better.
Enrico Letta
Former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta

TPE Is reform of the euro desirable?

Enrico Letta Reforming the euro is crucial, because the euro was built for summer, not for winter.

Winter shows us the euro’s weaknesses. Some of these began to be addressed in 2012-13, with the Banking Union and the European Stability Mechanism, but after the worst moments of the crisis there was a lack of political will to finish the job. So these changes were never completed, which is why I believe we must finish off the blueprint for the euro.

Today’s imbalance is less pronounced than ten years ago, when Ireland first sought financial help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) [the first banking crisis in a Eurozone country].

What was created in 2012-13 – a partial Banking Union, and the European Stability Mechanism – under Mario Draghi [President of the European Central Bank] was very important, but not enough.

Today we see the difficult consequences born out of a lack of a real European Monetary Fund, which would mean complete the European Stability Mechanism, and a Banking Union with – crucially – a European wide deposit guarantee.

There needs to be an investment branch accompanying EU monetary policy. The Juncker Plan is this investment arm in its embryonic form, it must be fleshed out.

In my book I outline a project that I would call ‘Big Europe,’ which would have the European Investment Bank (EIB) at the heart, the motor, which would become just as powerful as the European Central Bank (ECB).

So Europe would be both the ECB and the EBI. Their aim would be to increase investment and budgetary discipline, as well as monetary and interest rate stability.

Without that, we will be powerless to remedy the next crisis.

I hope that after the election of Macron, and the German elections [in September], the Franco-German axis will reorient Europe in this direction. Mario Draghi is already pushing for such measures.

enrico letta
Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank

TPE You pay homage to 3 men that were active in the 80s and 90s, Helmut Kohl [former German chancellor], François Mitterand [former French president], and Jacques Delors [former president of the European Commission]. Shouldn’t we judge them by the consequences of their policies? The rejection of Europe, the rise of populism, the euro crisis, increasing sovereign debt…

Enrico Letta Mr Kohl, Mr Mitterand and Mr Delors finished their work in the mid-1990s.

The problem is that we haven’t continued with their same vision and execution –that is what has left the euro incomplete.

The process of the creation of the euro as a currency – which began in the 70s – was dealt a mortal blow in 2003 by France, Germany and Italy, when France and Germany crippled the Eurozone’s Stability and Growth Pact [by continually flouting the spending rules], with Italy in the EU presidency willing to turn a blind eye.

For me, that’s what opened the door for the Greeks to fiddle with their accounts.

letta
Anti-IMF graffiti in Greece.

They could say ‘if France, Germany and Italy don’t adhere to the Stability Pact, why should we?’ So 2004 not only signalled the beginning of Europe’s financial woes, but also the beginning of the non-completion of the Economic and Monetary Union, as the Stability Pact was not respected.

Certain countries didn’t take their responsibilities seriously, and consequently EU coordinated financial solidarity and investment never materialised.

Europe is stuck in this position and nothing has moved forward. I believe it’s not the fault of the leaders, but the fault of the governments’ lack of courage in the 2000s. They believed that the euro was so large a mouthful to swallow that everything else had to be put on hold.

The 2000s mentality was ‘we’ve done the euro, now we need to digest.’ But they didn’t understand that they had to continue, not stop, because the world was changing. The EU was left without effective financial tools.

“There is a fatal divide between what the elites and the people think.”

TPE Is there not a gap between certain elites – who refuse the idea of borders on a moral basis – and certain sections of society – who call for tighter borders? Should the elites impose themselves on the people in a democracy? Or not?

Enrico Letta A study published by Chatham House recently showed a clear divide between the ‘elites’ and the ‘people.’

In all the big European countries, it is exactly as you say. There is a fatal divide between what the elites and the people think.

There is a real job to be done. Not only does it relate to media and the stories they tell, but it is also cultural, political and educational.

Big changes are required in each of these domains to bridge the gap. The elites can’t brutally impose their will on the people, the internet makes all that impossible.

I wrote my book in reaction to Brexit and Trump’s election, which are symptomatic of this gap. The rise of Macron is a positive sign that the world is moving in the right direction, but it is by no means definitive.

“The EU must work out how to make a difference to people who aren’t part of the elite.”

We need a European leadership that is capable of speaking to the people. This is absolutely essential.

Until now the European leadership has been able to speak to – and win over – the elites, on the left and the right, but the people have rejected them. This needs to change.

One example I give in the book is the Erasmus scheme, which is a double-edged sword. It’s Europe’s great success, but if we talk about it as if it were the only big success story, we arm those who say that the EU is purely for the elites. After all, Erasmus is only for university students, who will likely end up forming part of the elites.

The EU must work out how to make a difference to people who aren’t part of the elite.

TPE Christian Democratic thinking is widely prevalent in Italy. Do European morals not contravene the notion of restricting immigration? And what do Christian Democratic values say about defending ones own interests: borders, defence of culture, the preservation of heritage…?

enrico Letta
Facade of St Andrew’s Church at dawn. Kiev, Ukraine. © Mstyslav Chernov

Enrico Letta The EU must demonstrate that it is not currently capable of managing this enormous migration phenomenon, but that no country would be able to manage the crisis efficiently on its own.

That’s the message the EU must send.

Naturally, it is a difficult message to convey when there is an influx of one million people. There are the ‘normal’ migration routes, but the war in Syria – which was linked to a particular concoction of factors – meant one million people coming to Europe. It was disastrous

But ‘normality’ will continue. Europe is shrinking, and ageing. The population of Africa will double in 30 years, and it is getting younger, so there is clearly a way forward.

Christian – and secular – values must be applied to the refugees, but they must be separated from economic migrants, who need to be subject to certain selection criteria.

We must also maintain relationships with the sender countries, or things will get worse.

The EU must demonstrate that it is not currently capable of managing this enormous migration phenomenon, but that no country would be able to manage the crisis efficiently on its own.

enrico Letta
Irish Naval personnel from the LÉ Eithne rescuing migrants as part of Frontex’s Operation Triton.

TPE Is it Europe’s responsibility to take refugees in from the Middle East? Shouldn’t other international actors who had a hand in the crisis not also lend a hand? The U.S, Russia, Iran, the Gulf States etc.

Enrico Letta Of course, the answer is yes.

The French version of my book perhaps sheds some light on what I think about this issue: “Building Europe in a world of brutes.”

“I’m in Pisa, you’re in Paris, and we’re both voting for a Spaniard.”

Not everyone shares the European attitude towards democracy. The ‘strongmen’, enforcer-type leaders are who I am referring to as ‘brutes.’ Should we become more like them, say ‘this is the mood of our time,’ and be like Erdogan? A bit of Trump here, a bit of Putin there?

No, absolutely not. We must fight to do exactly the opposite.

TPE Is Europe currently acting as a pawnbroker, where every nation state hands in a few precious items – a portion of national sovereignty – in return for money, and a bit of protection? Don’t we need the EU to actively help the nation states – with, for example, a border force, or military protection – rather than just giving them money?

Enrico Letta I like the analogy very much, and I would add that what’s missing is a European political space.

“A bit of Trump here, a bit of Putin there? No, absolutely not.”

Now is the time to create this space. The evolution of what European nations are collaborating on means that there is a collective desire to determine how to work together.

We can’t just ask our Prime Ministers or our delegates in the European Parliament (EP) to work it out. They are election by national constituencies; they operate on a national level.

I strongly believe that we must make the most of the 73 British MEPs who are due to leave the EP. Rather than redistributing them between the member states, which would turn into a bloodbath and do nothing positive for the image of the EU, these seats should be given to pan-European deputies.

EU Parliament enrico letta
European Parliament, Strasbourg.

This would mean the creation of a 28th electoral college, where we would mix the candidates and the electorates. I’m in Pisa, you’re in Paris, and we’re both voting for a Spaniard because of our political beliefs.

This would be a major change because it would finally bring about a Europe-wide political debate.

Gérard Collomb Calais

Refugee crisis: Emmanuel Macron’s Home Secretary Gérard Collomb backs Calais police

In a visit to Calais, French Home Secretary Gérard Collomb announced police reinforcements, poked fun at asylum seekers, and seemed to contradict President Emmanuel Macron.
French Home Secretary Gérard Collomb
French Home Secretary Gérard Collomb

CALAIS ­– Gérard Collomb, the newly appointed French Home Secretary, made a visit to Calais on Friday (23/06) and said he would be announcing a new national asylum strategy within two weeks.

Striking a far sterner tone than President Emmanuel Macron, Mr. Collomb praised the police for acting with “plenty of conscience and humanity” towards Calais migrants, who – he quipped – are not famed for their “gentleness.”

This despite years of accusations of police violence, which he described as “completely overblown.”

Nine refugees recently decided to lodge an official complaint about police violence to the IGPN – the body which supposedly monitors the French national police – and regular reports and videos of French police blocking food distributions have called  the French authorities’ tactics into question.

The Mayor of Calais Natalie Bouchart banned food distributions to refugees several months ago.

Eight months after the demolition of the Jungle, Mr. Collomb is keen to avoid building another camp and rehousing the 5,000 or so people living in the Calais area. He believes this would create a “pull factor.”

On the same day, Emmanuel Macron said that France “must welcome refugees” as a “duty” and an “honour” in a joint press conference with Angela Merkel in Brussels.

Perhaps, says Libération, this betrays a difference of opinion. Or maybe it is the result of a pre-planned good cop-bad cop arrangement.

Macron the humanitarian, Collomb the hard-nosed enforcer.

 

Jungle Books, an English and French school in the Calais Jungle Gérard Collomb Calais
Jungle Books, an English and French school in the Calais Jungle

Having said the region’s NGOs should “use their savoir-faire elsewhere,” Mr. Collomb announced that he would soon outline a plan to “deal with the asylum problem.”

François Guennoc, joint-head of the Auberge des Migrants charity, said that even “regarding the minimum expectations,” the Home Secretary had given them “no response.”

Jean-Claude Lenoir, President of the charity Salam, said he left his meeting with Mr. Collomb “demoralised.”

“All he said regarding Calais was that he wanted no more ‘fixation points.’”

Migrants had become “embedded” in Calais, said Mr. Collomb, which had become a “fixation abscess.”

He said that he didn’t want to build any more “centres” in the area to avoid “history repeating itself.

 “We start with a few hundred people and end up with several thousand that we can’t manage: every time we build a centre, we create another ‘pull factor.’”

Gérard Collomb Calais
A refugee arrives in Greece

‘All the same Calais is only 30 kilometres from the British coast, which – for thousands of forced migrants – remains their “El Dorado.”’

Last year, France received 85,000 asylum claims, far fewer than Germany or Sweden.

French nationality

Brexit: 254% spike in Brits applying for French nationality

1363 Brits applied for French nationality in 2016 compared to 385 in 2015, according to Le Monde.
French nationality
People flood the streets after the 2012, 14th of July parade in Paris.

Worried about their rights as Brits in Europe, a record number of the ‘Queens subjects’ living in France decided to apply for French nationality in 2016 – 254% more than the year before.

According to estimates, between 150,000-400,000 Brits live on French soil, which shows that only a slim percentage have taken the decision to apply for nationality since Brexit.

But the spike does show that a considerable number of Brits are anxious about losing their EU residency privileges.
And early figures suggest that applications have increased even further in 2017.

The region of Picardie, for example, has received 27 since January. They received zero in 2016.

According the ­prefecture of l’Oise, who organise the applications region-wide, “these are British people who have been living in France for a long time, often married to French people.”

It is mostly older Brits filing the applications, according to the prefecture of Ille-et-Vilaine.

“In interviews, they say that Brexit prompted them to apply for French nationality, as they have real worries about the possibility of staying in France after the negotiations.”

Brexit negotiations are due to end in March 2019, and the nationalisation process takes roughly a year and a half.

Remain French Nationality
A dejected Remain voter, 24 June 2016.

Applicants must first prove they have been living in France for five years then provide a plethora of official documents, which must all be translated.

Then individuals then face an interview in French to evaluate their assimilation into French life.

They must show that they have “an adequate understanding of history, culture and French society.”

The equivalent statistics in Germany are even higher than those in France, however, with an ‘explosive rise’ in naturalisations of Brititish citizens – 361% between 2015 and 2016.

According to the Financial Times, the number of European citizens applying for British nationality rose by a third in the same period, with French people making up the largest portion of applicants.

French President Emmanuel Macron

France: Macron’s LREM Party set for landslide in parliamentary elections

French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Republic Onwards’ (LREM) Party looks likely to win a crushing victory in the second round of the parliamentary elections, said RFI.
French President Emmanuel Macron LREM
French President Emmanuel Macron

Projections have LREM and their allies the Democratic Movement (Modem) winning 400-445 of 577 seats in the National Assembly, which would ‘give the new president one of the biggest parliamentary majorities for 60 years.’

‘France is back,’ said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, himself a former Républicain. ‘For the past month the president has shown confidence, willingness and daring in France and on the international stage.’

In total, LREM won over 32% of Sunday’s (11/06) vote, but ‘the victory was marred by a historically low turnout.’

51% of the electorate ‘did not make it to the polling booth, casting a shadow over celebrations.’

Like the presidential vote, the top two candidates in each parliamentary constituency will go through to a second, deciding round, and face off for a seat in the National Assembly.

If projections are correct, the right-wing Les Républicains will be the second biggest bloc, with Jéan-Luc Mélenchon’s ‘Unbowed France’ emerging with its communist allies as the ‘main force on the left, replacing a humiliated Socialist Party,’ who won just 9.51% of Sunday’s vote.

Jean Luc Mélenchon LREM
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left ‘Unbowed France’ movement

Some of LREM’s deputies in the National Assembly will be political novices, after Emmanuel Macron promised that his MPs would be ‘half politicians, half new faces.’

Though it was actually closer a third of new faces, there will still be ‘a high number of political newcomers in LREM’s ranks.’

Jean Quatremer, author of 'The Bastards of Europe.'

Explaining EU problems – Interview with Jean Quatremer

In his latest book, The Bastards of Europe, French journalist Jean Quatremer names and shames the politicians that he believes have leeched off the European Union, and acted against the best interests of the European public.
Jean Quatremer, author of 'The Bastards of Europe.'
Jean Quatremer, author of ‘The Bastards of Europe.’

We spoke to him about what we should thank the EU for, what we should change, and who these bastards actually are.

TPE Your book is a bold attempt to explain how the European Union reached the deadlock that it seems to have been stuck in over the last two decades. In your introduction however, you say that the benefits Europe has lavished on its citizens shouldn’t be forgotten. Can you remind us of what these benefits consist of?

JQ Any essay on Europe should start with gratitude.

Let’s start with the basics: with the aid of NATO and the United States, the EU consolidated peace in wartime Europe.

And it seems most of us have forgotten – or have never been aware of – what crossing borders within Europe was once like for people, goods and services. It is now as simple to travel within Europe as it is within one’s own country.

It is no coincidence that cross-border work has exploded since controls have been removed at EU internal borders. The replacement of our old currencies with a single one led to invaluable benefits not only for those traveling within Europe, but also for all businesses exchanging goods and services.

The considerable harmonisation of technical norms and health standards, achieved at the cost of considerable work within the institutions, allows us to buy goods anywhere in Europe and use them at home. The harmonisation of rights, of consumer protection, of academic degrees and many other rules have been a blessing for all Europeans.

TPE You write that Europe could not have been build other than behind closed doors. Why?

JQ Two approaches regarding the building of Europe were in conflict at the end of the forties. The institutionalists recommended the creation of a federal state from scratch, with defined institutions and jurisdictions. Whereas the functionalists thought that integration could only be achieved from the bottom, step by step, domain by domain.

The only continental power to exercise political and diplomatic influence at this time, France, was then at the centre of the decision process. Two of the most influential political forces in France, the communists and the Gaullists, were opposed to building a federal organisation in Europe: France was still traumatised by defeat and occupation.

Adolf Hitler in Paris
Adolf Hitler in Paris

Reviving grandeur was the only way for the French to heal. France still had an empire – even though it was beginning to crumble –, mistrust towards Germany was still high, and the communists saw the European project as an instrument to combat the USSR. The employers and trade unions were also strongly against the European project.

It was politically impossible for France to call a European constituent Assembly that would have adopted a Constitution following a broad debate involving citizens. Such a venture would have been doomed to fail, and Europe would not have recovered from it. Reality had to be taken into account, and they had to act cautiously, taking it one step at a time. The second – functionalist – approach naturally prevailed.

History shows that Europe was not built as the result of the peoples’ will, but rather because of a combination of internal and external circumstances, and of political momentum and tactics.

The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was ratified in France in 1951 despite the opposition of the communists, the Gaullists and the employers, but with less enthusiasm than in any of the other five signatory states.

Between 1951-1952, projects derived from the ECSC relating to transport, agriculture and health all failed because of the opposition of the French Parliament. In 1952, France initiated a project for a European Defence Community (EDC). However, because of the easing of international tension – after the end of the Korea war, the death of Stalin and France’s defeat in Indochina – the Treaty was eventually defeated in the French National Assembly.

The Treaties of Rome might have met with the same fate in 1957 if it hadn’t been for the Soviet crackdown on the Budapest uprising and, above all, the humiliation of Suez in 1956.

Europe was not built as the result of the peoples’ will.

Without the near collapse of France’s economy in the aftermath of the socialist led policy of economic stimulation and its political consequences, the Single European Act wouldn’t have been ratified by the French in 1986. The Maastricht Treaty wouldn’t have been signed in 1992 if it weren’t for the collapse of the Soviet Union and Germany’s reunification, and both the European Stability Mechanism and the Banking Union could not have been established in 2012 and 2014 respectively without the strong pressure of financial markets.

With such internal or external circumstances, and when political will and strategy are missing, failure is guaranteed. Just look at the examples of the Treaties of Amsterdam in 1997, of Nice in 2001 or of Lisbon in 2007.

TPE You write that “Europe’s dictatorship is nowhere stronger than in France.” What do you mean by this?

JG Most European states have organised themselves to confront the lack of democracy at the EU level. In Germany for instance, a special commission of the Bundestag [the legislative assembly] follows the work of the EP and regularly receives the ministers. Even more, before every European Council meeting, the Chancellor requests an indicative mandate from the deputies, and then reports on the decisions of the Council.

There is no such organisation in France.

Since the advent of the Fifth Republic, European policy is decided upon at the Elysée Palace [the French Presidential residence] without the involvement of the Prime minister, the Foreign Affairs minister or the European Affairs minister, nor of the French Parliament or citizens, notwithstanding a couple of referenda.

All directions are determined by a small group of men working closely with the President (the General secretary, Diplomatic counsellor, and European Affairs counsellor). As a matter of fact, in France, European policy is part of the exclusive domain of the President. Such a confiscation of democracy has no equivalent in Europe, at a time when the EU institutions deal with more and more areas once regarded as pertaining to national sovereignty.

The issue is that the European Council is accountable to no one.

TPE You say that if the EU is not democratic, it is because the states don’t want it to be. What do you mean?

JQ The limitations of the institutions don’t reflect any conspiracy against democracy, but merely the will of the states to keep the Union under control. The European Council – composed of Heads of Government each duly elected in his or her country – is the instrument of such a will, and retains more legitimacy than the European Parliament or any other European body.

The issue is that it is accountable to no one, not even to the its electorate: seldom a government falls because of the policy it pursues within the European institutions. Should such a rare event occur, it wouldn’t result from a collective decision, but from a local one, according to national interests. The Council’s unaccountability wouldn’t be such an issue if the EU provided the adequate checks and balances. But there are none.

The Council of ministers, whose powers are very extensive both in the executive and legislative domains, is no more accountable than the European Council, and also works behind closed doors. The Permanent Representatives of the states also play a crucial role in the decision process. They are accountable to the states and report usually directly to the heads of state or government.

Actually, the Eurozone’s political power is opaque, unidentifiable and unaccountable. The Commission remains a technocratic body that derives its legitimacy from the sole states. Even more worryingly, the vagaries of referenda and the subsequent decisions have led to a representation imbalance, to the detriment of the bigger countries, which abandoned the second commissioner position to which they had been entitled so far.

President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, with his wife Małgorzata Sochacka
President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, with his wife Małgorzata Sochacka

TPE You’re adamant that the Commission has become technocratic and disconnected over time. Why?

JQ Both the role and the reputation of the Commission have declined since Jacques Delors left the presidency. Reasons for that decline include the constant nomination of political heavyweights with poor technical knowledge as Presidents and Commissioners. The strength of the Commission was, thanks to its technical and legal competencies, to identify and propose common ground to the states in order to advance European integration.

Rather than a proper government, the Commission used to be a “business provider.” Following the nomination of these heavyweights to the presidency, the states started designating politicians with no technical or legal skills as Commissioners. Within an institution whose role is to produce norms, such incompetence leads the Commissioners to be subjected to the powerful General Directions of the Commission. To make matters worse, President Prodi entrusted an administrative reform to Neil Kinnock, which lead to a serious brain drain.

Until 1999, the General Directors were recruited for their technical knowledge, and stayed in their positions for a long time, which meant they were capable of making up for the possible incompetence of the Commissioners. Since the reform was implemented, these General Directors change every four or five years.

The consequence is that power has gone down a level in the organisation. The Commission suffered further damage from the administrative reform as a result of the change in recruitment criteria and the shift from French to Anglo-Saxon requirements, the result of which is an increased reliance on Anglo-Saxon external consultancy services.

Under the Kinnock reforms, the recruitment of experienced professionals was phased out, plain and simple. The enlargement from 2004 didn’t help either, as the Commission had to recruit large numbers of new civil servants of questionable competence and little dedication.

The composition of the Commissioners’ cabinets is another issue, as seconded civil servants want to win favour of their next employer, the Commission. But the major weakness lies with the European states’ indecision regarding its mission. Is it a mere secretary, a referee or a government? The Commission actually seeks technical solutions to political problems.

TPE You say that Europe’s degree of meddling depends on your perspective. What do you mean?

JQ Actually, the appreciation of the role of Europe and whether or not it encroaches into states’ remits depends on the nature of the state that makes the judgement. In centralised states like France and the UK, Europe is seen as meddling too much. It is not so much the case in federal states like Germany, Belgium, Spain or Italy, where people are used to superimposing political structures.

Another issue is that the EU seems to be everywhere while it is nowhere. Its institutions are organised similarly the model of those of a sovereign state, while the related jurisdictions are retained by the states. The result is that the institutions are bloated, and the EU fails to deliver the results it should.

TPE How would you define a bastard?

JQ Somebody who deliberately acts against the best interests of Europe and the European public.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who spent 25 years turning his country into a tax haven, is a bastard of Europe.

TPE Who are the bastards of Europe, then?

Jean-Claude Juncker, who spent 25 years turning his country into a tax haven, and his predecessor José Manuel Durão Barroso, who now works for Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s much unscrupulous banks.

Then there’s Neelie Kroes, the Commissioner for Competition who has a long history of malpractice, and close relationship with the business community that was pro-Uber, Edith Cresson, who gave out fictitious jobs, and Miguel Arias Cañete, the Commissioner who mixed private and public interest.

All fit well with the provocative title of this book. However, a lot of others hide behind these famous names – be it Commissioners, civil servants or MEPs – because of their conflict of interests, their incompetence or their absenteeism.

TPE What are your proposals to relaunch Europe?

JQ There is no alternative but to reform the existing EU. We can use an existing federal state as inspiration.

We should elect a Convention by universal suffrage. The final constitution would be put to a cross-European referendum and adopted by a supermajority. The Union would be given specific and exclusive remits: foreign policy, defence, access to the European territory, cross-border criminality, the social safety net, monetary policy, public works policy and agricultural policy. No more shared jurisdictions.

The states would be forbidden to interfere with the designated areas governed by the EU, and the European budget would be funded by both direct and indirect taxes. The European Parliament would hold the right of initiative, the election method would be more in line with the one-man-one-vote principle, and the President of the Commission would be elected by both chambers of the European Parliament, or by universal suffrage. No more European council.

This would be the United States of Europe, composed of all Eurozone members. Alongside it would be a European economic area for those not wanting to be part of the inner circle.

United States of Europe

Of course, this ideal is not the feasible, and I am well aware of that.

So let’s start by guiding the European Council back to its original guiding role, while making sure that it renounces the secrecy of its meetings. Let’s refocus the Commission on its designated role, which would mean its partial dismantlement, and a drastic reduction in the number of Commissioners, as well as the creation of independent agencies for budgetary surveillance or competition policy. Last but not least, let’s review the disproportionate distribution of members of Parliament among the states.

French President Emmanuel Macron

France: a third of Macron’s En Marche parliamentary candidates are political novices

34% of the candidates French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche party is putting forward for France’s parliamentary elections are political rookies, said Le Monde.
French President Emmanuel Macron en marche
French President Emmanuel Macron

France goes to the polls again on Sunday for the first round of the legislative elections, and if newly elected President Emmanuel Macron and his movement En Marche have any hope of uniting and rebuilding France, he will need a majority in parliament. Recent polls show that may be exactly what he’s going to get.

‘The first election Emmanuel Macron ever fought – to become President of the 5th French Republic – was hardly minor.’ Like him, the party claim, 281 candidates from his movement-turned-party ‘La République en Marche’ – The Republic on the Move – hope to become elected without ever having previously held office.

‘Half politicians, half new faces’ was En Marche’s campaign promise regarding the party’s parliamentary candidates. Le Monde has gone through each of the 525 candidates records, and it seems that many of the new candidates aren’t as new to politics as first thought.

Not the first campaign.
In fact, 30 of the 281 supposed ‘new faces’ have already fought an election campaign. They just didn’t win.

And 20 of the new candidates have already held office as representatives of other – primarily left and centrist – parties.

‘Parapoliticians.’
As Emmanuel Macron knows, ‘elections aren’t the only way to step into the political universe.’ After all, he was able to rise to the rank of Minister of the Economy without ever having a popular mandate.

Emmanuel Macron as Minister of the Economy, Las Vegas, 2015. en marche Robyn Beck/AFP
Emmanuel Macron as Minister of the Economy, Las Vegas, 2015. Robyn Beck/AFP

‘At least 14 candidates have collaborated in ministerial cabinets (10 on the left, 4 on the right) and 8 others have worked in ministries.’

There are also 12 parliamentary assistants – of MPs or senators – up for election, and 15 candidates who have worked with elected regional officials.

In total, at least 70 of La République en Marche’s ‘new faces’ have ‘held parapolitical positions during their careers; they are unlikely to get lost in the corridors of power.’

Politics. A family affair.
Several of the candidates running for office for the first time have family in politics.

Barbara Bessot Ballot – up for election in Haute-Sâone – is married to the mayor of Marnay in the same region, and Hugues Renson – running in Paris’ 13th arrondissement – can count on advice form his mother, who is on the capital’s city council.

One third of real novices.
‘Taking onto account those that have participated in electoral campaigns, worked in ministerial offices, or have close family members already working in politics,’ 178 of the 525 La République en Marche candidates are complete political novices.