ECONOMY

French greens take moderate path in pitch for presidency

Good morning and welcome to Europe Express.

While the German Greens are busy negotiating with their possible government partners, the eco-party in France has just elected Yannick Jadot as its candidate in the presidential election next spring. We’ll take a look at what the choice says about the state of the green movement in the EU’s second-biggest economy.

In other French matters, President Emmanuel Macron sold some ships (frigates, not submarines) to Greece to the tune of €3bn but still voiced criticism at the US after Washington cut France out of a €30bn deal with Australia. And after lengthy objections, French diplomats yesterday finally agreed to the content of trade and technology discussions taking place today in Pittsburgh between senior EU officials and the Biden administration.

Over to the east, in the Russian seaside resort of Sochi, President Vladimir Putin is set to receive Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan today. We’ll look at what they are expected to discuss and how the wars in Syria, Azerbaijan and Ukraine have complicated their relationship even more.

Also in the Black Sea region, but within the EU, we look at Romania’s latest political crisis that could topple the government — in place for less than a year — casting doubts over how the country will manage the billions of euros from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund.

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A moderate shade of Green

France’s Greens narrowly opted for the moderate European parliamentarian Yannick Jadot as their candidate to run in the country’s presidential election next year, write Victor Mallet and Anna Gross in Paris.

The vote saw Jadot beat the self-described “ecological radical” Sandrine Rousseau in the second round of the party’s primary yesterday. Jadot won 51.03 per cent of the 104,000 votes in the Europe Écologie-Les Verts (EELV) primary, against 48.97 per cent for Rousseau.

The outcome was a sign of how deeply the environmental movement in France is split between pragmatists, who want to work with government and business to green the economy, and those who insist on unashamedly radical and leftist environmentalism.

“Thanks to you I will be the president for the climate. Our presidency will be one that acts immediately, and we will link every public policy and every euro to the climate,” Jadot told supporters after his victory.

Although he briefly became France’s most popular politician after leading the EELV to third place among the country’s parties in the 2019 European elections, Jadot is unlikely to make it past the first round of the presidential election in April next year.

Incumbent Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen are currently predicted by opinion polls to be the two who will qualify for the second round. Support for leftwing and environmental candidates is split among several different contenders, including those of the Socialist and Communist parties and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the far-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party.

Macron, meanwhile, has alienated many on the left by promoting pro-business reforms and adopting a hard line on immigration, but he has also been courting green voters with commitments to spending more on climate-friendly policies such as insulating buildings, developing a hydrogen industry and investing in technology for electric vehicles.

France’s Greens do not have the political heft of their counterparts in Germany, who won nearly 15 per cent of the vote in last Sunday’s election and are likely to be part of a coalition government, but they have been growing stronger in recent years.

In local elections last year, the French Greens crushed Macron’s governing party and triumphed in major cities such as Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux.

Awkward frenemies

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has laid the ground for a trip to see Vladimir Putin today by bad-mouthing Joe Biden and flirting with the idea of buying more Russian missiles, write Max Seddon in Moscow and Laura Pitel in Ankara.

Moscow, by contrast, has stepped up its bombing of Turkish-backed rebels in the Syrian province of Idlib and warned that Erdogan’s full-throated opposition to its annexation of Crimea had left an “unpleasant trace” ahead of the meeting.

Erdogan and Putin, both strongmen leaders with a deep mistrust of the west, have worked increasingly closely in recent years but their relationship is an awkward one: they have long backed opposing sides in conflicts in Libya and Syria, while Turkey’s open intervention on Azerbaijan’s side in the Nagorno-Karabakh war with Armenia last year threatened Russia’s longstanding hegemony in the Caucasus.

Top of the agenda for their meeting at the Black Sea resort of Sochi is Syria, where Ankara and Moscow accuse each other of failing to uphold the terms of a precarious ceasefire agreement in opposition-held Idlib.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia, wants to reclaim “every inch” of his nation, including Idlib. Turkey, which is already home to 3.6m Syrian refugees, is anxious to dial down a spike in violence in the province that could send more people fleeing towards its southern border. It has deployed thousands of troops to the region.

Holding the meeting just days after the first anniversary of the start of the Nagorno-Karabakh war gives it added poignancy. Turkey’s state-of-the-art Bayraktar drones were crucial in helping mostly Muslim Azerbaijan wrest control of the mountainous territory from Armenia after a nearly 30-year stalemate.

Letting Turkey interfere in Moscow’s backyard has created a dangerous precedent for Russia, Ruslan Pukhov of defence think-tank Cast argues in a new book about the war.

He points to Ukraine’s recent purchase of the Bayraktar drones from Turkey, which he argues shows Kyiv’s hopes it could reconquer Russia-backed separatist regions in the east in a similar aerial blitzkrieg.

But Russia has not been afraid to use its leverage over Turkey, which is dependent on Russian visitors to power its tourism industry, a crucial source of foreign currency for the Turkish economy.

In April, it abruptly banned Russians from travelling to Turkey over rising Covid-19 cases there — though it was lost on few observers that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky had just visited Ankara to seal a deal for the drones.

Ankara is also reliant on Russian gas and is in the midst of renegotiating contracts with Gazprom that expire at the end of this year.

The topic is particularly awkward amid soaring gas prices that western officials have blamed on the Russian gas monopoly for not ramping up supplies. Russia has warned that countries taking their chances on the open market, particularly in Europe, risk getting burnt if they avoid sealing new pipeline deals with Moscow at lower rates.

Chart du jour: Impossible (price) burger

Plant-based meat companies that rely heavily on peas in their manufacturing processes are being hit by soaring crop prices, mainly due to a severe drought in Canada this year. French company Roquette, which processes the legume and counts Beyond Meat as one of its customers, said this week that the price increases would “inevitably lead to costs being transferred to customers”. (More here)

Romanian brink, reloaded

Romanian premier Florin Citu is facing a set of confidence motions just as the European Commission approved his cabinet’s recovery plans and unlocks billions of euros from the bloc’s post-pandemic fund, writes the FT’s south-east Europe correspondent, Marton Dunai.

Citu came under fire earlier in September from a liberal coalition partner (as we wrote here) after he sacked his justice minister over what he called slow justice system reform and the blocking of a municipal development plan.

The junior coalition party (USR-PLUS), which had provided the justice minister, said it would pull out of the government unless Citu stepped down. But Citu consolidated his position after being re-elected over the weekend as party chair.

USR-PLUS dug in its heels, however, filing a no-confidence motion that was supported by an anti-vaxxer, ultranationalist newcomer party. The country’s top court yesterday ruled the motion was valid and could be voted on in the parliament.

The Social-Democrats (PSD), the largest opposition party, yesterday filed its own no-confidence motion and said it wanted to force snap elections, less than a year from the last parliamentary vote — an unprecedented situation even in Romania, which has had more than a dozen governments since 2000, the most among all European countries.

The turmoil reignited just a day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was in Bucharest, freeing up the country’s €29.2bn share of the EU package. The first payment is expected to be about €3.6bn.

“In some ways, the hard work begins now, because now it is about implementing and delivering the plan,” von der Leyen said.

Given that Citu’s current government does not have a majority in the parliament without USR-PLUS, it remains to be seen which government will get to spend all those billions and whether they will meet the good governance milestones attached to each disbursement.

What to watch today

  1. EU-US inaugural Trade and Technology Council takes place in Pittsburgh

  2. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi

Notable, Quotable

  • ECB holds steady: Christine Lagarde has distanced the European Central Bank from the move towards tighter monetary policy by many other central banks. The ECB president said green policies could fuel further price pressures, but saw “no signs that this increase in inflation is becoming broad-based”.

  • Spanish rift: Businesses in Spain are at odds with the Socialist-led government at a time when they need to work together to tap the €140bn of grants and loans the country is set to receive from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund.

  • LGBTI+ win: Three Polish regions have repealed resolutions against “LGBT ideology” following threats from the EU to block funding over the declarations. The decision follows a similar move by another region last week.

Post-election Germany, unpacked

Join the Europe Express team on October 4 for a subscriber-only webinar on the outcome of Germany’s election and its implications for the country and the rest of the world. Register free at ft.com/germanwebinar

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Today’s Europe Express team: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]. Follow us on Twitter: @VJMallet, @annasophiegross, @maxseddon, @laurapitel, @mdunai, @valentinapop.


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