Paris attacks: a recap / Paris, 13 novembre : un résumé

(En français ci-dessous)

128 confirmed dead and 200 injured. These are the current result estimates of terrorist attacks that happened yesterday, Friday the 13th of November, between 9.30pm and 00.25am, in two areas east and north of Paris. ISIS claimed responsibility for these attacks Saturday morning.
Police say eight attackers have died, seven of whom detonated themselves in a suicide attack. It is still unknown whether other persons participated to the attacks or would have escaped the French police, which managed the situation quickly.

What happened

The exact scenario and modus operandi of the attacks are still not clear, as information is still being collected by journalists and the police. As at today evening, here follows what we are sure of.
Several attacks happened simultaneously across the capital: one suicide-bombing attack near the Stade de France, hosting the France-Germany football game, and other attacks in the east of Paris (tenth and eleventh quarters). The latter attacks consisted in several attackers shooting at terraces of restaurants and bars with AK-47s. Another one – the deadliest one, with an estimated 80 dead – was led in the Bataclan, a famous concert hall that was hosting the Eagles of Death Metal on Friday night – a place ISIS described in a communiqué as a « party of perversity ».

Early measures taken

Saturday morning, French president François Hollande announced a series of measures having immediate effect.
First, state of emergency was declared, in line with article 16 of the French constitution. This unique provision, already used during the 2005 banlieues riots, provides the police and administrative authorities with extended powers notably as regards free movement of people, the opening of public places and search&seizure operations. Such état d’urgence is declared for an initial period of 12 days that can be prolonged only with express legislative consent of the Parliament.
Second, border controls are temporarily reestablished, as provided for in the Schengen safeguard clause (art 2(2) of the Schengen Convention). This means the police can now stop and control anybody crossing France’s borders, may it be by land, maritime or air.
Third, a lot of public places were closed this Saturday : schools, museums, libraries, sports facilities. Some big Parisian shops (e.g. Printemps) and theme parks were also closed.
A three-day national mourning was declared. A Congress (the gathering of the French Assembly and Senate) will be held on Monday 16 November in Versailles, during which François Hollande will give a speech to the nation.

French political context and perspective

The French president has been very active and present in the media, immediately after the announcement of the first attacks. Himself had to be exfiltraded from the Stade de France, where he was attending the football game. Calling the attacks « an act of war » this Saturday morning, Hollande was answered by former president and opposition leader Sarkozy who asked for « major changes » in French security policy. Despite these early critics, national union is the motto right now in the country, where people are still under shock.
France, whose military intervention in Iraq and Syria against Daech looks to be a failure, now faces a difficult dilemma : either to continue with the air strikes currently going on in the Middle-East, and keep its official hostile position towards Bachar El-Assad, or to operate a 360° turn in its international policy in order to lead operations on the ground. Such operations would necessarily involve a collaboration with Damascus’ regime.
On a domestic plan, yesterday’s attacks show that despite the adoption of a law on intelligence having conferred strong powers to the police and intelligence services, notably powers of surveilance on the internet, France is still vulnerable to attacks coming from – most probably – the inside. It is of course too soon to engage in a political debate about what should be done in order to avoid such attacks again – always more security ? – but no doubt that the vivid print of the Charlie and of 13/11 attacks will have a strong influence on the future 2017 presidential elections.

Plusieurs fusillades et attentats-suicides ont eu lieu hier soir, vendredi 13 novembre, entre 21h30 et 00h25, dans les 10e et 11e arrondissements de Paris ainsi qu’autour du Stade de France (Saint-Denis). Le bilan est actuellement de 128 morts confirmées et d’environ 200 blessés, dont 90 en « état d’urgence ». Les attentats ont été revendiqués par Daech samedi 14, peu avant midi.
Huit auteurs de ces attentats sont morts, sept s’étant fait exploser, le dernier ayant été abattu par les forces de police. Il est encore impossible de savoir à ce jour si d’autres assaillants existent et auraient échappé aux forces de police qui sont arrivées sur les lieux très rapidement.

Les faits

Le déroulement concret des événements n’est pas connu de manière exhaustive. Pour l’instant, les informations certaines sont les suivantes.
Trois explosions retentissent d’abord, à 21h23, autour du Stade de France dans lequel se déroule le match amical France-Allemagne, en présence de François Hollande, rapidement exfiltré. Ces explosions font quatre morts, dont au moins deux assaillants. Dans le même temps, deux bars-restaurants du 10e arrondissement sont frappés par des hommes en voiture mitraillant les passants et les personnes en terrasse. 4 hommes entrent parallèlement au Bataclan, et tirent à vue sur la foule venue assister au concert des Eagles of Death Metal, un groupe de rock américain. C’est ici que les victimes sont les plus nombreuses, avec environ 80 morts. Après une prise d’otage, trois de ces assaillants se feront exploser lors de l’intervention de la Brigade de Recherche et d’Intervention (BRI), un sera abattu. En parallèle, d’autres assaillants tirent en plein air sur des passants et une terrasse de café.


source: lemonde.fr

Mesures de court-terme

Lors d’une allocution télévisée à 10h50, ce matin, François Hollande a annoncé une série de mesures.
La déclaration de l’état d’urgence, tout d’abord, prévu à l’article 16 de la Constitution, lequel avait déjà été utilisé lors des émeutes urbaines de 2005. Cet état d’urgence confère aux autorités civiles, dans l’aire géographique à laquelle il s’applique, des pouvoirs de police exceptionnels portant sur la réglementation de la circulation et du séjour des personnes, sur la fermeture des lieux ouverts au public et sur la réquisition des armes. Un décret pris en Conseil des ministres institue l’état d’urgence, qui peut prévoir un renforcement des pouvoirs de police en matière de perquisition et de contrôle des moyens d’information. Au-delà de douze jours, la prorogation de l’état d’urgence ne peut être autorisée que par le Parlement.
Des contrôles renforcés aux frontières terrestres, maritimes et aériennes, ensuite, comme le prévoit la clause de sauvegarde intégrée à l’article 2.2 de la convention de Schengen, qui avait en fait été actionnée dès hier en prévision de la COP21, fin novembre, à Paris.
Enfin, certains lieux publics (établissements scolaires, musées, bibliothèques, équipements sportifs) ainsi que des grandes enseignes et les parcs d’attraction sont aujourd’hui fermés à Paris.
De manière plus symbolique, un deuil national de 3 jours a été déclaré et François Hollande s’adressera lundi devant le Congrès (réunion de l’Assemblée et du Sénat), à Versailles.

Contexte et perspective

Deux interventions médiatiques hier soir, d’abord devant le Bataclan, puis depuis l’Elysée, suivies de l’annonce de mesures ce matin, après la réunion d’un Conseil des ministres exceptionnel: François Hollande, faisant référence à un « acte de guerre », a semble-t-il pris la mesure de la situation. Et ce malgré la réclamation du président du parti Les Républicains, Nicolas Sarkozy, à prendre des « inflexions majeures » en matière de sécurité. Une critique qui n’entame pas l’union nationale, symbolisée par les drapeaux désormais en berne, mais qui pourrait être source d’un clivage gauche/droite peu commun en matière de politique internationale.
La France, en constat d’échec devant l’intervention en Irak et en Syrie contre Daech, est face à un dilemme : soit elle conserve un mode opératoire actuel défaillant (intervention aérienne uniquement) en restant fidèle à son refus de coopérer avec le régime de Bachar Al-Assad, soit elle initie une intervention plus poussée contre Daech, qui serait faite « en concertation avec ses alliés », selon François Hollande. Cette dernière hypothèse pourrait donner deux options à ce dernier : mener une coalition armée au sol, au titre de la légitime défense – nonobstant les débats sur la justification juridique d’opérations menée contre un acteur non-étatique sur ce fondement – ou bien faire appel à Damas et rompre ainsi avec la position diplomatique officielle française selon laquelle le président syrien a vocation à quitter le pouvoir.
Sur le plan intérieur, la loi sur le renseignement adoptée à la suite des attentats Charlie a d’ores et déjà considérablement renforcé l’arsenal juridique à la disposition des autorités, notamment concernant les outils de surveillance. Difficile d’imaginer une loi créant des instruments nouveaux et plus efficaces. Si les français savent déjà que « le risque zéro n’existe pas », la probabilité est grande que les politiques ne se contentent pas d’une telle situation après un événement si dramatique.
Il est donc à prévoir que le débat politique français, après la classique période d’union nationale, se portera, une fois de plus, sur les enjeux sécuritaires. Voire européens, avec une remise en cause de Schengen de la part des partis d’extrême-droite. Il sera intéressant de veiller aux glissements sémantiques d’une droite toujours plus sécuritaire et d’une gauche devenue plus « responsable » grâce à l’exercice du pouvoir.

Publicités
Paris attacks: a recap / Paris, 13 novembre : un résumé

Réalités françaises

Hier j’ai voté. Par procuration, j’ai voté, dans ma circonscription du Centre, depuis Amsterdam où j’ai suivi les résultats des élections européennes, pays par pays, mais aussi région française par région française.

FN (Front National) 25% UMP&DVD (EPP) 20% PS (Socialists) 14% UDI (Liberal Democrats) 10%
FN (Front National) 25% UMP&DVD (EPP) 20% PS (Socialists) 14% UDI (Liberal Democrats) 10%

Aujourd’hui je suis choqué. Par le résultat du Front National dans mon pays, tout d’abord, mais aussi par le désintérêt constant que l’UE – que j’appellerai ici l’Europe – suscite chez les électeurs, et surtout, chez mes amis, pourtant eux aussi faisant partie de cette fameuse génération Erasmus. Cette génération, qui n’a pas vécu autre chose qu’une Europe unie, est la même qui, dans le même temps, n’a jamais connu autre chose qu’une croissance économique faible ou nulle. Celle qui se fait rabâcher jour et nuit le contexte de crise dans lequel elle se voit forcée de vivre, et dans lequel elle ne se voit plus, comme en Espagne ou en Grèce, vivre un avenir certain. Celle qui est la plus pessimiste au monde, bien aidée par des aînés animés par le doute et par l’art constant de la critique. Combien de mes amis sont convaincus que le vote est inutile ? Comment pourrais-je leur donner tort de penser que leur situation personnelle ne se résoudra que s’ils travaillent dur? De penser que le salut passe d’abord par le travail, et non par l’attente passive d’un politique distant dont les frontières intellectuelles sont fermées depuis les années 80 ? Combien de mes amis se sentent profondément européens, mais sont profondément apolitiques ? Et combien sont si las qu’ils en viennent à quotidiennement dénigrer leur propre pays, si riche et plein d’avenir ?

Alors, aussi choqué que je puisse être, je ne suis également ni surpris, ni en colère ; car si le résultat d’hier découle de multiples facteurs, il y en a un que l’on peut d’ores et déjà souligner. Ce facteur principal, c’est la peur qui envahit les esprits, qui les rend apathiques, qui empêche toute réflexion, contrecarre l’initiative et l’ouverture sur les autres.

Première réalité: le personnel politique français n’est pas à la hauteur des enjeux européens. Les journalistes n’ont pas le recul nécessaire. S’entraînant mutuellement dans un savoureux mélange d’ignorance teintée de goût pour la polémique nationale, ces deux professions se livrent un débat de qualité médiocre sur les plateaux télé et radio. Il ne faut pas se surprendre alors qu’un débat médiocre engendre un résultat médiocre. Si la campagne des européennes avait fait l’objet de plus d’attention et de rigueur de la part des partis politiques français, si les journalistes ne confondaient pas le Traité de Rome avec le Traité de Lisbonne (entendu hier soir sur iTélé!), et si l’on expliquait mieux le fonctionnement des institutions européennes, pourtant pas plus compliquées que celles de la Ve République, dans les collèges et lycées… Si toutes ces conditions avaient été réunies, alors un réel débat aurait pu émerger. L’on aurait débattu d’une vraie redéfinition de la place de la France en Europe, sur son rôle et les solutions qu’elle peut apporter contre la léthargie économique à laquelle l’Europe, dans sa globalité, est confrontée. Les différents partis auraient été obligés d’avoir de réels argumentaires, en lieu et place des grosses ficelles utilisées de part et d’autre.

Deuxième réalité: les Français, menés par des dirigeants âgés, court-termistes et ayant une vision étroite du monde qui les entoure, n’ont plus confiance en eux-mêmes et cherchent un refuge chez des personnages leur chantant la fabuleuse ritournelle du protectionnisme de gauche, et maintenant d’extrême droite.

La France qui rayonne, la France dont la culture est enviée partout dans le monde, la France qui a tant d’atouts géographiques et économiques, la France qui devrait constituer avec l’Allemagne le cœur battant de l’Europe, la France qui a tant de potentiel ! Cette France-là ne réalise pas qu’en s’ouvrant au dialogue, à la coopération, en construisant avec ses partenaires des politiques intelligentes, elle ne pourrait que se renforcer elle-même, et renforcerait par la même occasion l’Europe toute entière. C’est pourtant ce qu’attendent nos partenaires de nous.

Une France confiante, sûre de ses nombreux atouts, avenante et qui à la fois est porteuse des valeurs européennes que sont la démocratie, la liberté, l’égalité et la fraternité entre les peuples… Cette France-là semble endormie, ou bien ne croit plus en la capacité du politique pour la faire avancer.

Troisième réalité: l’Europe n’a pas vocation à se substituer aux Nations. L’Europe est faite par les Nations. L’Europe respecte et défend les traditions locales, la diversité culturelle ; l’Europe, c’est le fait même de pouvoir librement être différent de l’autre. Comment pourrait-elle, avec un tel ADN idéologique, représenter une menace hégémonique signifiant la disparition des identités nationales, dont la protection est inscrite même dans les Traités,[1] protection maintes fois affirmée par la Cour de Justice Européenne ?[2]

Comment tant de mensonges et d’idées reçues peuvent-elles recevoir tant de crédit au sein du débat politique français ?

Le retour à la confiance est la seule issue. La confiance implique trois pré-requis : l’honnêteté politique, la compétence technique, et enfin la responsabilité démocratique. La France a désespérément besoin d’honnêteté. Elle est lasse du mensonge, du double discours et des polémiques inutiles lancées lors de débats politiques vides de sens et au contenu misérable, déconnecté de toute réalité. Faire face aux réalités, c’est s’écarter de toute opposition partisane ou idéologique pour rechercher les solutions qui fonctionnent. Ces solutions doivent avoir une composante technique, c’est-à-dire être susceptibles de fonctionner, et une composante morale, autrement dit elles doivent susciter l’enthousiasme, en définissant clairement la feuille de route, le but à atteindre et le pourquoi. Sans ces deux dimensions, la solution n’en est pas une ; c’est un faux-semblant dans lequel on essaie de se consoler : une certitude du passé, qui n’appartient plus qu’au passé. La zone de confort de la politique.

Sortons de notre zone de confort française et partons à l’assaut de l’Europe ! Les Français ne sont-ils pas un peuple de séductrices et de séducteurs, après tout ? Les Français ne sont-ils pas un peuple rationnel, intelligent ? Les Français ne sont-ils pas un peuple capable du pire, comme du meilleur ? Les Français ne sont-ils pas un peuple armé d’audace, de courage et d’ambition ? Les Français ne sont-ils pas capables de convaincre leurs partenaires pour construire un projet à la hauteur de leur talent ?

Je ne veux pas croire que les Français soient conformes à l’image qu’ils ont donnée d’eux-mêmes à leurs partenaires européens, hier. Aussi permettez-moi de le dire : Dear Europe, we are sorry. Now we will get our shit together and work hard to fix everything.

 

[1] Article 4§2 Traité sur l’Union Européenne: « L’Union respecte l’égalité des États membres devant les traités ainsi que leur identité nationale, inhérente à leurs structures fondamentales politiques et constitutionnelles, y compris en ce qui concerne l’autonomie locale et régionale. Elle respecte les fonctions essentielles de l’État, notamment celles qui ont pour objet d’assurer son intégrité territoriale, de maintenir l’ordre public et de sauvegarder la sécurité nationale. En particulier, la sécurité nationale reste de la seule responsabilité de chaque État membre. »
[2] Voir, notamment, les arrêts de la CJUE C-112/00 Schmidberger [2003] ECR I-05659; C-36/02 Omega [2004] ECR I-09609; C-208/09 Sayn-Wittgenstein [2010] ECR I-13693.

Réalités françaises

Protectionism versus free movement of capital: the Alstom case

Arnaud Montebourg cannot be stopped. A preacher of economic protectionism, he is widely supported among the left wing of the Parti Socialiste, and some say he was promoted Minister of the Economy, Finances and Industry by François Hollande in order for the latter to tame his electorate.

On Thursday the 15th of May, in reaction to the recent context of a possible takeover of Alstom by General Electrics, the Ministry enacted a decree extending the list of “strategic” sectors in which any foreign investor is subject to prior authorization by the French authorities.

Montebourg, not aware of the negotiations between the two firms, saw red after the announcement of a possible takeover, arguing that Alstom’s leaders lacked “civisme” (public spirit), pointing out the fact that Alstom makes nuclear turbines for EDF’s powerplants.

Deterring investment, you say?
Deterring investment, you say?

The original legislation is a decree of 30 December 2005 that establishes an authorization procedure only in cases precisely described in the decree for foreign investments in certain sectors of activities that can affect public policy, public security or national defense. Those sectors were, until last Thursday, limited to “activities concerning equipment for intercepting communications or eavesdropping; services for evaluation of security of computer systems; some specific dual-use (civil and military) technologies; cryptology; activities of firms that are repositories of defense secrets; research, production or trade in arms, munitions, explosives or other military equipment; or other industries engaged into contracts for supplying the defense ministry with goods or services described above”.[1]

This legislation was ultimately justified by public security and national defense; the link between the sectors protected and the objectives being pretty obvious and straightforward. It notably derived from a similar legislation adopted in the USA after 9/11 where the Committee on Foreign Investment was enabled to block a higher number of foreign takeovers on the grounds of a wider (understand: blurry) definition of “national security”, most probably encompassing purely economic interests.[2]

In our case, the French decree advances the need to “fight tax avoidance and tax fraud”[3] to extend the protected sectors to:

All other activities relating to material, products or services – including the ones concerning security and the good functioning of infrastructure and equipment – that are essential to the safeguard of the country’s interests relating to public order, public security or national defense, listed below:

(a)    Integrity, security and continuity of supplying in electricity, gas, hydrocarbons or any other energy resource;

(b)   Integrity, security and continuity of supplying in water within the respect of public health regulations;

(c)    Integrity, security and continuity of exploitation of transport networks and services;

(d)   Integrity, security and continuity of exploitation of electronic communications networks and services;

(e)    Integrity, security and continuity of an établissement or installation of vital importance relating to national defense;

(f)    Protection of public health”[4]

Two observations:

(1) It is a discriminatory legislation: EU investors are only subject to prior authorization when their goal is to “take control” of a strategic company or to “take control of all or part of the [strategic] sector of activity” of the French company concerned,[5] whereas third countries investors are subject to more stringent rules: any acquisition of more than 33,33% of the French company’s capital or voting rights comes with the need to get an authorization. Moreover, the list of strategic sectors is more limited for EU companies than for third country companies.

(2) The “Montebourg extension” covers many areas of economic activity, including the field of energy where Alstom is particularly active. The decree seems to be adopted on the basis of a mere hostility towards a third country company, General Electrics, whose intention to acquire Alstom was announced one week before.

Such legislation is a blatant restriction on the free movement of capital, one of the four EU economic freedoms. Is it yet illegal, or contrary to the « ultra-liberalism that Brussels imposes us every day » ?  Let us see.

  1. Free movement of capital: the applicable framework

Free movement of capital essentially covers the investment of funds. « Direct investment in a company by means of shareholding with the view to effectively participating in the management and control of a company » constitutes a capital movement.[6] As takeovers represent an effective shift of control of a company, they fall within the scope of free movement of capital as covered by article 63(1) TFEU. They also fall under the free movement of services (article 49 TFEU). However, there is a difference between those two provisions as to their territorial scope of application.

Indeed, article 49 TFEU only applies when the situation is intra-EU, whereas the scope of article 63(1) TFEU is extended to “all restrictions on the movement of capital between Member States and Member States and third countries shall be prohibited”. This scope of application is unique, with comparison to the three other freedoms[7], as capital movement both from non-EU members to the EU and from the EU to non-EU members is covered by this provision.

Unlike 49 TFEU, 63(1) is thus applicable to the Alstom takeover case. It has direct effect,[9] at least a vertical one.[10] Any legal person can therefore rely on the rights conferred by it before national courts, to challenge national legislation. In Skatteverket v. A, the ECJ confirmed that the “third country” dimension of Article 63 has the same material scope as for intra-EU investments, notwithstanding the possibility of special safeguard measures under Articles 64,[11] 65,[12] 66[13] and 75[14] TFEU.[15]

  1. Discriminatory nature of the French legislation

Among other types of measures, article 63(1) prohibits national legislation that operates a discrimination on grounds of nationality, place of residence or place where capital is invested.

Hence, the French legislation is a blatant restriction on the free movement of capital as it directly discriminates between investors as regards their origin,[16] notably by differentiating EU investors from third country investors. This is apparent both from the text and from Montebourg’s public speeches. The measure contrasts with the non-discriminatory nature of a Portuguese rule which imposed potential shareholders to seek prior authorization from the Portugese authorities to hold more than a specified number of shares in certain Portuguese companies, which, still, was qualified as a restriction by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).[18]

In addition to the Portuguese case, the ECJ said in Church of Scientology that “a provision of national law which makes a foreign investment subject to prior authorization constitutes a restriction on the movement of capital”.[19]

A restriction is not, however, illegal per se. It still can be justified on certain grounds. When a measure is a directly discriminatory (e.g. on grounds of nationality) restriction on free movement of capital, a State can justify it by the express derogations found in article 65(1) TFEU. In order to be legal, a discriminatory measure must respect four conditions:

– The goal advanced by the measure must fit the express derogations’ objectives (namely: fight against tax avoidance and tax fraud, public policy, or public security);

– The measure taken must be suitable in order to achieve that goal (that means, it must be efficient);

– The measure taken must be necessary in order to achieve that goal (it must be the least restrictive measure possible);[20]

– The measure must be in conformity with the principle of legal certainty.[21]

If, and only if one of these criteria is not fulfilled, the measure will be deemed contrary to EU law. It is important to know that the ECJ qualifies a lot of national measures as restrictions but is somewhat eager to leave some freedom to the Member States within the context of free movement of capital.[22]

Sadly for the French government, the discriminatory nature of the decree limits the potential lines of justification to the ones found in the express derogations provided by article 65(1)(b) TFEU. This leaves three grounds for a justification:

– Fight against tax avoidance and tax fraud;

– Public policy;

– Public security.

Yet, the Government was a bit careful when adopting this legislation. Next to the classic “public policy – public security” justification used in 2005 now figures a objective of “fighting tax avoidance and tax fraud”. At first I thought it was a joke, but no, no, this is just a new French Government justification of colbertisme.

  1. Analysis of possible justifications

a. Fight against tax avoidance and tax fraud

In Eurobond, the ECJ said that “a general presumption of tax evasion or tax fraud cannot justify a fiscal measure”.[23]

If General Electrics were to challenge the French decree, the ECJ would have to answer the following question: “can a general presumption of tax evasion or tax fraud be suitable and necessary to justify a system of prior authorization discriminating towards foreign investors only?

Please do think about it, try your best, and if you get a “Yes”, e-mail me. I am looking for fairytales to tell my niece.

b. Public policy and public security

The ECJ case law on public policy and public security leaves few space to the States for justifications. While States remain, in principle, free to define what constitutes public policy and public security, these grounds of justification are to be interpreted strictly, i.e. they can be relied on only if there is a “genuine and sufficiently serious threat to a fundamental interest of society”.[24]

It will be needed to assess to which extent all the sectors introduced by the Montebourg decree fit within this strict framework, as justifications provided by the decree are not at all explained. Moreover, for any future significant foreign investment in the fields mentioned by the decree, it will have to be established whether such a genuine and sufficiently serious threat exists.

Moreover, in the French case Church of Scientology, also concerning a rule making direct foreign investment subject to prior authorization, such rule was in breach with legal certainty because of its lack of justification and precision.

Here is the main issue: the approach retained by the ECJ is to operate a thorough analysis of proportionality (suitability – necessity), while such a need for precision and detail in motivating a system of prior authorization to takeovers in “strategic” sectors was recently condemned by the Commission for European Affairs of the Assemblée Nationale, which, on the same line of reasoning as Mr. Montebourg, thinks that “in the field of national security, the Raison d’Etat applies, hence the impossibility to publish the true motivation of a decision”.[25]

It seems however that Mr. Montebourg has publicly stated its support for a takeover from Siemens, a German company, for, notably, the reason that Europeans should be able to defend themselves against foreign invasion, just like Chinese or Americans do.

To what extent is the decree is the only and least restrictive way to protect public policy or public security or to what extent is it a « means of arbitrary discrimination » prohibited by article 65(3) TFEU? This, a Court would have to answer, if ever asked to decide.

4. My own political arbitrary interpretation of the Alstom case

Montebourg’s move is, politically speaking, intelligent: it will reassure the left electorate of François Hollande before the European elections; the Commission has not yet reacted, probably by fear of a massive rise of nationalist votes in one week; it could trigger a debate on the harmonization at the EU level of the strategic sectors for the European economy, in which some protection against foreign investment could be useful (here I think about telecommunications, in which European operators are subject to takeovers by foreign firms with critical size).

Yet, as intelligent the move can be considered to be, it will be difficult to hide the amateurism of the government in the Alstom case. Difficult to hide the real motivation behind the decree: purely economic reasons (or may I see purely political reasons?). Difficult to hide the fact that the French Minister of Economy, instead of cleverly using his knowledge, influence and networks, working hand-in-hand with French and foreign companies to get a good deal, had to use his last weapon, legislation, in order for national interests to be taken into account.

Such deterrence for investment, if not condemned by the ECJ in a few years, can have, as of today, dramatic consequences on the attractiveness of France.

Footnotes

[1] Former article R153-2 Code Économique et Financier (CMF) http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCode.do;jsessionid=D59547CAB3F231110F3BDF9E577274D9.tpdjo06v_1?idSectionTA=LEGISCTA000006170957&cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006072026&dateTexte=20140518

[2] http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/europe/rapdifnet/ri1602.pdf, p. 20.

[3] http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000028933611&dateTexte=&categorieLien=id

[4] New article R153-2 CMF http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCode.do;jsessionid=D59547CAB3F231110F3BDF9E577274D9.tpdjo06v_1?idSectionTA=LEGISCTA000006170957&cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006072026&dateTexte=20140518

[5] Article R153-3 CMF.

[6] Case C-367/98 Commission v. Portugal (Golden Share) [2002] ECR I-4731, para.38.

[7] Goods, services, persons.

[8] Barnard, The Substantive Law of the EU, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, p. 584.

[9] Case C-101/05 Skatteverket v. A [2007] ECR I-11531, para. 21.

[10] For a controversy on the horizontal effect of 63(1) TFEU, see the Volkswagen case.

[11] (1) Temporal exclusions of measures adopted before 31 December 1993 (2) Possibility of adopting harmonization measures (3) Possibility for the Council to adopt “step backwards” measures as regards liberalization.

[12] Express derogations justified by 95(1)(a) Taxation systems 95(1)(b) fight against tax avoidance, public policy or public security.

[13] Necessity to preserve the balance of payments (exceptional measures).

[14] Framework for administrative measures concerning capital or payments in order to prevent and combat terrorism or related activities. See the Kadi case.

[15] Case C-101/05 Skatteverket v. A [2007] ECR I-11531, para. 38.

[16] The definition of an « investment » changes whether it is made by a company registered under French law but under foreign control (R153-5-1 Code Monétaire et Financier), a company registered under the law of another EU Member State (R153-3 CMF) or a company registered under the law of a third country (R153-1 CMF). Under article L151-3 CMF, all these companies are subject to a prior authorization system if they want to significantly invest in a French company operating in certain sectors of the economy.

[17] Good. You are actually reading the footnotes and noticed one was missing.

[18] Case C-367/98 Commission v. Portugal [2002] ECR I-4731, para. 46.

[19] Case C-54/99 Association Eglise de Scientologie de Paris v. The Prime Minister [2000] ECR I-1335, para. 14.

[20] Case C-367/98 Commission v. Portugal [2002] ECR I-4731.

[21] This requirement is specific to the free movement of capital. See Case C-54/99 Eglise de Scientologie [2000] ECR I-1335, para. 22.

[22] As underlined in Case C-446/04 FII [2006] ECR I-11753, para. 121.

[23] Case C-478/98 Commission v. Belgium (Eurobond) [2000] ECR I-7587, para. 38.

[24] Case C-348/96 Calfa [1999] ECR I-11, para. 11.

[25] http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/europe/rapdifnet/ri1602.pdf, p. 26.

Protectionism versus free movement of capital: the Alstom case

Exercising as a lawyer in Europe – a practical overview

As an EU law student mostly interested in becoming a lawyer and in travelling, I suddenly asked myself: how will I be able to exercise my future job in other European countries? It also makes sense for my future European colleagues, which will be led to provide legal services all around the globe – yes, I am pretty sure you will, my learned colleagues. Here’s some answers to questions which I’m sure will arise in your professional life, sooner or later. Non-lawyers, beware: this article might not be of interest for you – at all.

I’m already a lawyer in my home country and I want to provide legal services in France another EU Member State. Do I need to pass this State’s bar examination to exercise law there?

Nay, although it comes with some restrictions.

Applicable law to the provision of services as a lawyer: Directive 77/249/CEE.

As a service provider, and either as a private or salaried lawyer, you can carry on your activity wherever you want with the professional title acquired in your Member State of origin (your ‘home Member State’). After registering with the competent authorities of the Member State you want to exercise in (your ‘host Member State’), you can exercise law in whatever field you want: the law of your home or host Member State, EU law or international law.

Of course the work of a lawyer is intrinsically linked to good administration of justice, which is an element of public order in most European countries. As a consequence, there are limitations to the extent to which you can practice the law while drinking milkshakes on the Calanques of Cassis in your new country:

Some countries – such as the one of Molière and Gérard Depardieu – make a distinction between lawyers and notaries. You won’t be able to exercise as a notary unless you obtain the specific status – that means quitting your job as a lawyer and starting a whole new career. Sorry for this weird civilist distinction, American friends.

Another limitation concerns the right to represent a client in legal proceedings or before public authorities. This right can be limited by the host State, which can require you to pursue such activities “in conjunction with” a local lawyer or with an “avoué”. The function of such a person will be “to provide [you] with the support necessary to enable [you] to act within a judicial system different from that to which [you were] accustomed and to assure the judicial authority concerned that [you] actually had that support and [were] thus in a position fully to comply with the procedural and ethical rules that applied”.[1]

If you plan on exercising in the UK, you will have to comply with specific rules for solicitors and barristers. Sorry for this weird common law distinction, Continental friends.

Fully practicing law in another EU Member State, just like you could in your home country, is therefore not possible within the framework of freedom to provide services. Most of the time you’ll have to associate with a local lawyer. There will also be reputation issues at stake. When merely providing legal services – that means, on a temporary basis (that has to be determined in the light of the duration, regularity, periodicity and continuity of your activity[2]).

Those restrictions are giving me a hard time, plus I’m starting to like this country – do I necessarily have to pass the bar here to be recognized as a local lawyer?

Nope, but you should get to work right now.

Applicable law to the establishment of lawyers in another Member State: Directive 98/5/EC.

You need to effectively practice the law of the host State[3] during at least three years in the host Member State in order to obtain the title of Lawyer from this country (art 10.1). To this effect you have to bring the proof of such activity to the competent authority, which will examine the case, possibly ask you some questions about your activity and then issue a positive or negative decision.

Only the duration of your regular and effective practice of the law of the host State – and EU law – will be taken into account. The competent authorities can examine to what extent you’ve developed knowledge and skills on the local law in order to determine if you fulfill the three-years requirement. In order to do this they can consider a various set of factors, such as the cases you’ve worked on, the seminars you’ve attended, etc… Of course, they need to assess your situation with respect to the sacrosanct EU principle of proportionality.

In any case you may challenge the authorities’ decision before a court – let them see how good a lawyer you are.[4]

Only then you’ll be able to use the local title (“Avocat”, “Avvocato”, “Rechstanwalt”…) and will be free from the limitations faced in the context of provision of services.

 What if I don’t want to wait three years to obtain the local title?

Then you gotta work. Faster.

Applicable law: Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications.

If you’re already recognized as a lawyer in your home State, you can ask for mutual recognition of your diploma, although the host Member State can require you to follow a traineeship of no more than three years or to pass an examination, in three situations: the duration of your law education is insufficient, you haven’t followed enough courses in the home State law, or the profession as defined in the host Member State comprises one or more regulated professional activities that do not exist in your home Member State (e.g. notaries). In most European countries an examination system is put into place. The content of this examination varies, of course, among Member States.

One last hypothetical situation, maybe?

Alright. Let’s say you’re a law student holding a Master in Swedish law and you want to pass the Slovenian Bar, because you really can’t choose between skiing and windsurfing. I am sorry for you but there is no intervention of EU law in this situation. You will have to comply with local rules concerning access to the Bar examination: holding a Master’s degree and having completed three years of practical experience in Slovenian-related law.

Only then will you be able to windsurf. Like a Lawyer.

Ain't that the most relevant picture to this article?
Ain’t that the most relevant picture to this article?

 

[1] Case C-294/89 Commission v. France [1991] I-03591, para. 30.
[2] Case C-55/94 Gebhard [1995] I-04165, para. 27.
[3] Which, interestingly enough, the Directive does not differentiate from EU law, as part of the national legal order! Would this implicitly mean that I hold a degree in all 28 European national laws?
[4] I strongly advise the use of words such as « non-discrimination », « necessity », « suitability » and « less restrictive alternative ».

Exercising as a lawyer in Europe – a practical overview

Numericable’s acquisition of SFR – between State control and European perspectives for telecoms

It’s done. The second biggest telecom operator in France, SFR, was acquired yesterday by Numericable, after two months of intensive negotiations and suspense arising from the French government’s involvement in the deal.

Credit photo: Eric Piermont, AFP
Credit photo: Eric Piermont, AFP

 

SFR is held by the Vivendi group, while Numericable, the only cable operator on the French market, is held by Altice, a Luxemburg-based holding led by the Franco-Israeli billonnaire Patrick Drahi.

Although an initial exclusive negotiation agreement had been reached between Vivendi and Altice, several alternative offers were made by the third French mobile operator, Bouygues. These offers had the effect to increase the eventual acquisition price for Altice, which amounted to €13,5 billion in cash, a €750 million earnout and a 20% participation of Vivendi into the capital of the new structure. They also created suspense as to the identity of the final acquirer, as the government also pushed towards an acquisition by Bouygues and showed strong reluctance to Mr. Drahi’s offer. In the end Numericable drove Bouygues out of the table, even though Vivendi’s supervisory board was still undecided on Friday night.

The outcome of these negotiations, which had lasted for about two months, lead us to make two significant observations. First, despite all the efforts of the French State to support Bouygues’ offer, it is in the end a multinational group led by a cosmopolitan self-made man who won the bid – a that’s good news for the consumers. Second, competition issues seem to have had a great influence on the choice between Bouygues and Altice. It is interesting to note that the French telecoms market will stay as a 4-operators structure, while in the meantime the European Commission pushes for fewer but larger operators on the EU market through the Connected Continent package that has been adopted by the European Parliament this week.

How an outdated attempt for State intervention failed

Do not misinterpret me here. States have economic interests, and they are sometimes legitimate, especially in strategic fields such as telecommunications – a competent State should be concerned about the quality of its network and of technological innovation on its territory. The USA have understood this a long time ago, and developed an approach which some qualify as an entrepreneurial State. This approach consists in first supporting research, projects and innovation, then second letting the market decide on the outcoming products, and consequently on the creation of jobs, tax revenues, and economic growth.

But that’s precisely where the French State got it wrong in the SFR case. Through the mobilization of the traditional politico-financial French establishment (Bouygues being in the top-20 of the largest French companies, with a yearly €33bn turnover), the Minister for « Industrial Recovery » – recently nominated as the Minister of Economy under the new government – Arnaud Montebourg acted as if a French firm only would keep jobs. As a puppet, Bouygues would submit to the government and preserve jobs within SFR, regardless of the bad economic perspectives the sector faces. In a surprisingly chauvinistic declaration, Mr. Montebourg went so far as to state that Swiss-resident Drahi would have to come back to France if he was to acquire SFR. A declaration that shed some light on Mr. Montebourg’s views on the free movement of capital, one of the four European economic freedoms, which also applies when it comes to Switzerland.*

Arnaud Montebourg, the new French Minister of Economy and a fierce advocate of the "Made in France"
Arnaud Montebourg, the new French Minister of Economy and a fierce advocate of the « Made in France »

Tensions were thus palpable between on the one side State-supported Bouygues and Mr Drahi, the epitomy of the cosmopolitan self-made man. This scenario benefited Vivendi which probably took advantage of the activism of Bouygues to ask Altice more. If  prices for takeovers are often over the acquired company’s real value, this time the French government indirectly helped to confirm this pattern.

Maintaining four operators on the French market – when competition clashes with the European agenda

The French telecommunications market will accordingly welcome Numericable-SFR, an entity that will represent the second biggest force on the French market for mobile communication (around 30% of market share, after Orange’s 37%) and for fixed telephony (around 20% of market share). Aside from economic benefits the new entity can derive from the complementarity between its cable infrastructures and its mobile network, one should observe that the French market for mobile telephony will, at least for now, stay a 4-actors game, contrary to the hypothesis where Bouygues would have bought SFR. In 2011, a fourth operator entered the French mobile market: named Free, its agressive strategy with very low prices (2€ for unlimited texting + 2hours of call a month) led to huge savings for French consumers, who were 8 millions to switch from their former operator to Free (12% of market share!).

In early 2013 discussions happened between SFR and Free to consider a merger between them, as SFR was already facing difficulties. The Autorité de la Concurrence (the French Competition Authority) expressed at the time its disapproval of such an operation which would have the effect of going back to an oligopolistic market, with two « giants ». Since then the official stand of the Autorité de la Concurrence and of the ARCEP (the French Telecoms Regulatory Authority), which work together for the enforcement of competition in the sector, has been clear: going back to a 3-operators market is unacceptable.

Merger reviewal by competition authorities takes about six to nine months. If the final decision is negative, remedies have to be found by the merging parties, or a deal can also just be blocked if it is considered anti-competitive per se. The highly probable possibility for Vivendi to see the deal annulled by public powers on grounds of competition law must have been considered by them too great of a risk to accept Bouygues’ proposal. Selling SFR to a firm absent from the mobile sector represented the certainty of an effective merger within the coming year, even if guarantees concerning innovation concerning optical fiber and ultra-speed broadband will have to be shown by Mr. Drahi, alongside with guarantees on jobs preservation – a verbal promise to avoid job cuts during 36 months already worries trade unions which want a written commitment on 48 months. The French government does not abandon that easily its claims for control.

One question remains, however. The EU, through its recently adopted Connected Continent package (which also includes a provision protecting net neutrality), and through the voice of European Commissionner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, is right now advocating for a Single Telecoms market. The Commission has notably taken into account the desperate claims of big European operators such as Orange or Deutsche Telekom for a more unified European market with less actors (around 150 operators are now present on the 28 Member States) and more capacity to invest in infrastructures as well as in innovation.

Fewer, but bigger actors, in order for the European market to keep innovation on track and to resist international competition? It seems that for both national competition authorities and for consumers, the solution is far from obvious.

Numericable’s acquisition of SFR – between State control and European perspectives for telecoms

Towards a systemic change of the European political process?

Today I could write books about the municipal elections in France, with chapters dedicated to the rise of the extreme-right, the disillusion towards French politics leading to a never-reached 40% level of abstention in local elections supposed to be the heart of democracy, or again why changing the government as a consequence of this electoral defeat for the French Socialist Party isn’t going to bring anything in terms of jobs, growth or political benefits for the socialists.

To read this book, my fellow readers would need more than one glass of bourbon, though. So I will leave this issue for the moment, inviting to contact me if ever you happen to get a bottle of Jack – I’ll bring the rocks, be certain of it.
Still, I will talk about elections in Europe. About the new Slovak president, Andrej Kiska? I am not qualified enough.

Neither am I to comment on the Dutch municipal elections that took place ten days ago; after 8 months in Amsterdam I am still unable to speak a word of this curious language – a fact inconceivable in France where if you start speaking a word of Nigel Farage’s language without showing an extraordinary feeling of guilt and remorse, anybody will answer you: “qu’est-ce que putain?

Image

I will then talk about the European elections which are to come on the 25th of May. Only one round, fellas, proportional representation. Which means, yes, more voting weight for people who actually go to vote. And who will mobilized like never? I will let you guess. I do not want to take position; instead let’s see a bit how the 2014 elections will work and what they could bring to European democracy. Because this year something changes – and it can be of great importance.

Until now, and from the establishment of European Parliament elections in 1979, we were all voting for our European representatives – so-called “MEPs”. The president of the Commission – the executive branch of the EU – was then designed by the European Council (all 28 Member States chiefs of executive), the only democratic requirement as to this designation being stated in article 17§7 of the Treaty on the European Union:

Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members.
If he does not obtain the required majority,
the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.

You see that our beloved leaders have to “take into account” the result of the elections to the European Parliament, the latter being able to approve or refuse the proposed candidate. If a refusal happens, only the Council can propose a new candidate. Accordingly, in theory the European Parliament can refuse all candidates the Council proposes until it is happy with somebody.

Political reality and legitimacy leaves less opportunity for the EP. In fact, the Council is the real master of the process, European leaders willing not to give the job to somebody too high-profile – and too popular. You can look at the list of former Commission presidents to be convinced.

This whole system leads to a justified criticism of the Commission: it is not democratic enough. How much percentage of the European population know and care about their Commissioners, after all? What is their political agenda? The College of Commissioners seems indeed like a distant institution which only widely press released actions are perceived as negative in public opinion.

This year, this system is supposed to change. European parties within the Parliament have decided to each designate one head-of-lists (“têtes de liste”, or Spitzenkandidaten) whom they will support for the Commission’s presidency. European citizens will thus vote for lists on the top of which figures a face and a name. If their list wins, this face will have to be president of the European executive who will be accorded more legitimacy. The Council will have to “take into account” that vote. This way, the European parties made a bet: that the 28 chiefs of executive will respect direct democracy and will not go counter the will of their own citizens. It makes no doubt that to do otherwise will be politically unsustainable from a democratic point of view.

Yet doubts subsist as to the attitude the Council will adopt. One of the two designated candidates to the Commission’s presidency, EPP Jean-Claude Juncker, is said to have another goal in mind: the presidency of the Council itself, currently held by the bleak Herman van Rompuy. A deal seems to have been concluded between him and Mrs. Merkel, who preferred Mr. Juncker over his French rival Mr. Barnier as the EPP candidate for the Commission’s presidency. Some say Mrs. Merkel supported Mr. Juncker so that, in the case the EPP wins the next elections – an uncertain perspective as polls change regularly – Juncker would withdraw from the game to get the Council’s Presidency. This would leave the hands free to the Council to designate a candidate of its choice. How would such a way to circumvent democracy be justified by our leaders before the public opinion? I will leave this to their imagination – or to the inexistence of a wide and active European public opinion.

 

But my optimism about this new system will not be altered so easily by behind-the-stage rumours. By taking advantage of a somewhat blurry provision of the TEU, European parties are actually pushing towards something everybody thought would need an impossible reform of the treaties: a real parliamentary system within the EU. The Commission is already politically responsible before the EP and can be censured by a two-thirds majority (article 234 TFEU). This tool has been used once, against the Santer Commission, but seems like a very exceptional power of control of the EP. By effectively requiring MEPs to reach a simple majority when approving the head-of-list elected by European citizens, one of the big two parties will have to make an alliance and, in consequence, to define more accurately their position on important European topics such as energy strategy, competition policy, net neutrality, external relations, etc.
Let’s hope citizens will feel more concerned about these issues as the debate in the European Parliament will be more vivid (at least, if it gets more confrontational, it will be more interesting to cover for French media).

 

Let’s also hope that sometime soon this ever-increasing influence of the European Parliament in the adoption of European law will be recognized to the extent that it will be able to propose its own legislation. But until then a lot of local and national elections in Europe will happen. Until then, such elections have a greater impact on the shaping of European democracy.

 

Towards a systemic change of the European political process?

The Crimean crisis, an opportunity for a renewed European energy strategy

At the time I am writing, Russian troops have gathered close to the now Ukrainian Eastern border with Crimea. One can wonder where Mr. Putin wants to go. No doubt that he played his cards at the right time, taking advantage of divided Europeans unable to swiftly react from a single and strong voice to the arrival of Russian troops in Crimea. It is now time for Europe to solve its systemic flaws a strong political leader can play with easily.

While the EU seemed to have learned from its divisions during the Georgian crisis in 2008 when a French-German-Polish delegation went to Kiev following the repression of political opponents by Yanukovich’s administration, it eventually went back to good ol’ national politics when having to face Russia. On the East side of Europe, there are direct concerns – let’s say by analogy – arising from Russia’s claim over a former USSR territory, and advocacy for a strong response to Crimea’s annexation. What is the point of having NATO in such situations if there is no action? On the West side of Europe, economic concerns prevail: would clear-cut economic and financial sanctions against Poutine’s regime, with which these growth-desperate countries have close economic ties, be really worth it? If such measures are directed towards second-rank Russian officials, sure they are not.

Either dependent on Gazprom or on Russian investors, European countries seem blocked by Putin’s strategy. Mrs. Merkel said that Germany is not dependent on Russian gas, but one should not forget the thousands of German businesses involved on the Russian market. And, most importantly, the facts themselves about gas dependence:

EU Member States' dependence on Russian gas
EU Member States’ dependence on Russian gas

And it’s not all about the gas – there is now a debate in France about the opportunity of cancelling the delivery to Russia of two war ships worth €1,1billion. Such a measure would of course constitute a sanction towards Russia’s developing army. On the other hand, it would kill jobs in Saint-Nazaire, Nantes’ historical shipyard. Probably this is why France’s Minister of foreign affairs, Laurent Fabius, conditioned such a cancellation to « a handful of measures at the European level« …

Mr. Putin knows all of this, and takes advantage from European divisions. But his poker game raises doubts about the sustainability of such a strategy.

Of course, if the situation in Crimea does not evolve into a civil war, the result will be that Russia acquired a militarily strategic position, helpful a long-term basis. It will also have shown to EU and US leaders that you should always keep in mind the importance of Russia in international relations. Isolating a country which has a veto power at the Security Council might not, to this extent, be the best strategy for international law and practice to keep solving issues that, so far, and despite all the criticisms towards the UN, are usually managed through dialogue.

On the other hand, the Crimean crisis leads the EU – and its neighbors – to question the sustainability of their economic relationship with Putin’s Russia. Excluded from the G8, isolated at the UN Security Council, where China did not join Russia’s veto on a resolution condemning the Crimean referendum, Russia also faces a greater isolation in its traditional area of influence, as after Ukraine finally signed an association agreement with the EU on Friday, the EU aims at doing the same with Moldova and Georgia, not later than June.   The response of the EU, to this day, has been the following one: try to integrate more neighbors to the European economic area through these now famous associations agreements and, more importantly, ask the Commission to develop an agenda for European energy independence. If we take as a starting point for European sovereignty and independence the need to be self-sufficient, the Crimean crisis can be considered as a good precedent for the EU – and its Member States – to wake up and take action.

It is no debate that Europeans have to reach energy independence. The main problem lies in the EU’s capacity to overcome its internal differences to define a common strategy. When it comes to energy, Member States indeed remain free to define their own policy: a clear example of this is how French and Germans differ in this area. While the French, since de Gaulle, have opted for nuclear energy – which roughly represents 75% of their electricity production – the Germans plan to shut down all their nuclear plants by 2022, counting more on renewable energy, but also coal.

The same observation can be made when it comes to perspectives on gas. Environmental concerns about the use of shale gas have arised in many Member States; concerns not entirely shared by the UK or Poland, which see their shale gas reserves as an opportunity for growth. The European Commission, well aware of these differences, therefore issued « guidelines » on shale gas in January. Translation: « European elections are coming. Let’s leave the hot potato to the States ».

In any case, shale gas alone cannot be a solution. In order to meet the ambitious EU’s 20/20/20 targets by 2020 (greenhouse gas emissions 20% lower than in 1990, 20% of European energy coming from renewables, 20% increase in energy efficiency), Europe also has to rely on more renewable energy and imports. Diversifying the sources of imports is therefore a necessity: ensuring gas supplying from Azerbaijan through the Trans-Adriatic-Pipeline by 2019 (with which Gazprom competes with its « South Stream » pipeline project passing through the Black Sea…) and importing shale gas from the USA are, to this extent, indispensable solutions right now.

On a long-term basis, what is more indispensable for Europe’s credibility is to be able to rely on itself first, and then on its partners. This needs solidarity, imagination and concessions from Member States. But the other way around leads, inevitably, to internal conflicts and divergences. To a weak Europe that lets Russian troops invade Crimea without a say.

The Crimean crisis, an opportunity for a renewed European energy strategy