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Expect a Financial Crisis in Europe With France at the Epicenter

The EU never enforced its Growth and Stability Pact or Maastricht Treaty rules. The crisis is coming to a head with France and Italy in the spotlight. The first casualty will be Green policy.

Image composite by Mish from the European Commission Compliance Tracker

Compliance Rules

  1. Deficit rule: a country is compliant if (i) the budget balance of general government is equal or larger than -3% of GDP or, (ii) in case the -3% of GDP threshold is breached, the deviation remains small (max 0.5% of GDP) and limited to one year.
  2. Debt rule: a country is compliant if the general government debt-to-GDP ratio is below 60% of GDP or if the excess above 60% of GDP has been declining by 1/20 on average over the past three years.
  3. Structural balance rule: a country is compliant if (i) the structural budget balance of general government is at or above the medium-term objective (MTO) or, (ii) in case the MTO has not been reached yet, the annual improvement of the structural balance is equal or higher than 0.5% of GDP, or the remaining distance to the MTO is smaller than 0.5% of GDP.
  4. Expenditure rule: a country is complaint if the annual rate of growth of primary government expenditure, net of discretionary revenue measures and one-offs, is at or below the 10-year average of the nominal rate of potential output growth minus the convergence margin necessary to ensure an adjustment of the structural budget deficit in line with the structural balance rule.

Deficit Disaster Zones

France and Italy are major disasters right now on the budget deficit rule. France has a budget deficit of 7 percent and Italy 5 percent.

France needs to reduce its deficit by a whopping 4 percent of GDP!

Neither Italy nor Greece should have been allowed in the EMU (European Monetary Union – Eurozone) in the first place.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Are France & The UK Plotting A Ukrainian Power Play Right Under Germany’s Nose?

Are France & The UK Plotting A Ukrainian Power Play Right Under Germany’s Nose?

There are indeed plans for a conventional Western intervention in Ukraine despite their leaders’ denials over the past two weeks, but they’ve yet to fully form and their execution can’t be taken for granted, but they also can’t be ruled out either.

The debate that French President Macron provoked over whether NATO should conventionally intervene in Ukraine exposed the existence of two distinct schools of thought on this issue inside of Europe. France, the Baltic States, and Poland appear to be in favor of “non-combat deployments” there for demining and training missions, which could be carried out through a “coalition of the willing”, while the rest of the bloc supports Germany’s stance that this shouldn’t happen under any circumstances.

Scholz’s Slip Of The Tongue Spilled The Beans On Ukraine’s Worst-Kept Secret”, however, since he inadvertently revealed that there are already British and French troops there helping Ukraine with “target control”. The subsequently leaked Bundeswehr recording about bombing the Crimean Bridge confirmed that the Americans are there too. Nevertheless, what’s being proposed by Paris is a formalization of these deployments along with their gradual expansion in a “non-combat” capacity.

Nobody should be fooled into thinking that France and the other four that appear to be in favor of this scenario are solely interested in demining and training missions. Rather, their intent seems to be to prepare these on-the-ground forces for surging eastward in the event that the worst-case scenario from Kiev’s perspective materializes whereby the frontline collapses and Russia starts steamrolling westward. These NATO members would then try to draw a red line in the sand as far as possible to save Ukraine.

Germany’s approach is altogether different in that it prefers to formally stay out of the fray in order to focus on building “Fortress Europe”…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

France Caves To Farmers As Ireland ‘Solidarity’ Protests Kick Off

France Caves To Farmers As Ireland ‘Solidarity’ Protests Kick Off

Two of France’s main farming unions on Thursday agreed to suspend protests and lift road blockades across the country after the government announced measures the deemed “tangible progress” in the ongoing revolt against EU ‘climate-driven’ initiatives designed to wean society off of evil, non-bug-based, carbon-emitting food while China, India, and the rest of the world laughs.

In addition to France, protests have been held in Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Germany and elsewhere. Last week, tensions came to a head in Brussels when farmers threw eggs and stones at the European Parliament building, demanding that European leaders stop punishing them with more taxes and rising costs to finance the so-called ‘green agenda.’

After French farmers stepped up protests earlier in the week, the government promised on Thursday to extend protections – including better controlling imports and giving farmers additional aid, Reuters reports.

“Everywhere in Europe the same question arises: how do we continue to produce more but better? How can we continue to tackle climate change? How can we avoid unfair competition from foreign countries?,” said Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, announcing the new measures.

In response, France’s main farmers union, FNSEA, announced that it was time to lift the blockades and “go home.” Arnaud Gaillot of the Young Farmers’ union echoed the message, however both unions warned that other types of protests would continue, and they’d be back if the government doesn’t make good on their promises.

Meanwhile in Ireland, farmers began protesting Thursday evening.

“There’s a general dissatisfaction with the level of environmental regulation that is being heaped on farmers, the low margins, and (the) resulting low income the farmers have been suffering from for a very long time now,” said Cathal MacCarthy, media director for the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, adding…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The French Pension War

The French Pension War

When a million people protest on the streets of Paris and most major French cities, you know there is a serious problem in French society…

The protests, which had been going on for four days, culminated on Feb. 11 in Paris, where reportedly half a million people participated. The vitriol directed at the president during these protests was uncivilised and contemptuous of government reform proposals.

Reminiscent of the Yellow Vest Revolution in 2018, which was initially directed at a hike in the price of fuel, it soon morphed into a demand to raise the minimum net wage in France, which is now around €1,679 (US$1,800) per month.

The recent proposal, which earned the wrath of the protestors, concerns President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the pension age from 62 to 64. It is a response to the dire situation of the French pension system.

In France, retirees might be paid 50 per cent of their income, with a maximum of €41,136 annually. The state scheme is financed by “social security contributions”—a payroll tax that burdens French businesses.

It could be argued that the French president’s proposal constitutes a justifiable attempt at containing the burgeoning cost of the pension scheme, which otherwise would become unsustainable.

That the pension scheme is economically untenable is an unavoidable consequence of changes in French demographics.

A protester holds a placard reading “Macron pensions, it’s no!” during a demonstration on the fourth day of nationwide rallies organised since the start of the year against a deeply unpopular pensions overhaul, in Paris, on Feb. 11, 2023. (Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images)

In 1910, when the first pension law came into effect, life expectancy was 51.3 years, whereas now it is 82.4 years. Also, the population has increased exponentially since 1910 and now stands at around 65 million, compared to around 39 million in 1910.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Macron Says Russia Cannot Win Against Ukraine

Macron Says Russia Cannot Win Against Ukraine

After a surprise UK visit, Ukraine’s President Zelensky went to Paris immediately afterward in a whirlwind European tour to meet with Western leaders. In Paris he held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

Macron asserted during the visit that Russia cannot win the war against Ukraine. “Ukraine can count on France, its European partners and allies to win the war. Russia cannot and must not win,” Macron said before a working dinner among the three leaders at the Elysee Palace.

Via Reuters

Just ahead of the meeting, Zelensky in an interview with Le Figaro hailed a change of heart in Macron. “I think he has changed, and changed for real this time,” Zelensky said. “After all, it is he who paved the way for the delivery of tanks. And he has also supported Ukraine’s membership to the EU. I think that was a real signal.”

Macron had angered Kiev when in June he said the West must not “humiliate Russia, so that when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means.” 

Macron has also come under fire for being among the only Western leaders to hold frequent phone conversations with President Vladimir Putin, in order to attempt a diplomatic breakthrough towards ending the war. But Ukrainian leaders have suggested such diplomatic efforts are a form of ‘capitulation’.

As for Macron’s slow pivot away from pursuing a diplomatic offramp, the Associated Press now describes:

Macron has said France hasn’t ruled out sending fighter jets but set conditions, including not leading to an escalation of tensions or using the aircraft “to touch Russian soil,” and not resulting in weakening “the capacities of the French army.”

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Farm Convoy Of Tractors Hit Paris Streets To Protest Pesticide Ban

Farm Convoy Of Tractors Hit Paris Streets To Protest Pesticide Ban

Adding to the days of strikes and mass street demonstrations about French President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular plan to raise the retirement age, farmers have flooded the streets of Paris for an entirely different reason.

French farmers drove hundreds of tractors, if not more, into Paris on Wednesday to protest against a ban on pesticide use.

Ag website Agriland said the protest comes after a recent EU court ruling overturned a French rule that allowed sugar beet growers to use neonicotinoids, an insecticide. Farmers were livid by the EU courts because neonicotinoids are critical for sugar beet production. Agriland said at least 800 large farm tractors flooded Paris streets around Les Invalides.

“The protest has the backing of the country’s leading farm organization, the FNSEA, as well as organizations representing the sugar beet producing sector,” Agriland said.

Well before the EU court ruling, French sugar-beet yields were expected to slide by 5-7% for the next growing season, according to Bloomberg, citing Francois Thaury, an analyst at Paris-based adviser Agritel. Thaury said losses could not top 10%.

Meanwhile, in separate mass protests, hundreds of thousands of people nationwide took to the streets against Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age.

Protests come as Macron’s popularity has hit its lowest level. Spring is ahead, and that could mean additional protests as temperatures rise.

France Hit By Strikes, Protests Amid Outrage At Hiking Retirement Age To 64

France Hit By Strikes, Protests Amid Outrage At Hiking Retirement Age To 64

French labor unions have been holding several days of mass strikes and protests against raising the retirement age, in a test of the momentum driving defiance to Emmanuel Macron’s signature economic reform… which is hardly surprising: France is one of the biggest “western” bastions of socialism.

As Bloomberg reports, the country’s rail operator, SNCF, said only one-third of high-speed TGVs were running and urged people to work from home. Subway and commuter trains serving the capital were severely disrupted, with limited service on most lines. Many schools were also closed.

Protesters also blocked three oil refineries operated by TotalEnergies SE and strikes by Electricite de France SA’s workforce took more than 3 gigawatts of nuclear-reactor capacity offline. Air France-KLM’s French arm said it had scrapped 10% of short-haul flights.

Macron, already very unpopular, has faced the biggest protests yet of his time as president on Jan. 19 when the country’s usually fragmented unions united to bring more than 1.1 million people onto the streets. Polls carried out since suggest opposition is growing: a Feb 1 poll carried out by BVA for RTL which surveyed 1,001 people showed that 60% of participants oppose pension reform, up 2 points.

Speaking to French television channels at the start of the Paris March on Tuesday, CGT union head Philippe Martinez said there were more people in the streets than Jan. 19.

“The president and the government must hear the discontent and change their plan,” Martinez said, and perhaps he is right: after all, why work when the ECB can just print and make everyone super wealthy.

According to a government count mid-way through the day, fewer public sector workers went on strike than Jan. 19. Martinez said many chose not to this time in order to preserve their wages, while a bigger turnout of white collar, private sector workers made up the numbers.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

French And German Power Prices Soar As Cold Sweeps Europe

French And German Power Prices Soar As Cold Sweeps Europe

After a mild start to the year, cold weather sweeping across western Germany, France, and the UK led to a surge in electricity prices on Tuesday.

French day-ahead power prices jumped to 135 euros a megawatt-hour, a 42% increase versus the rolling two-week average. The cause of the price spike is a surge in heating demand and delays in restarting nuclear plants.

Day-ahead prices in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, increased as much as 16% Tuesday.

“Cold is expected to grip areas from the mid-continent to west, including in western Germany, France and the UK where average departures from normal range anywhere between 2-6 degrees Celsius below normal,” Matthew Dross, a meteorologist at Maxar Technologies, told Bloomberg.

Dross said the cold spell “will increase heating demand for those regions to above normal levels.”

Despite colder weather and increasing heating demand, Dutch front-month natural gas futures, Europe’s benchmark, slid as much as 7.3% after rising 4.6%. Prices have clawed back some losses after tagging 16-month lows.

Mild temperatures are expected to return next week, denting demand once more. Morgan Stanley recently wrote that Europe’s NatGas consumption in the year to October could be as low as 16% below the five-year average.

“Even if it makes gas-fired power plants increasingly competitive with coal-fired power plants, it does not lead to an increase in gas demand for power generation because” other cheaper power generation sources will be used first, Engie SA’s EnergyScan wrote in a note.

*   *   *

Record warmth spread across Europe in the first half of January. Temperatures in the energy-stricken continent felt more like spring as several metropolitan areas recorded the warmest temperatures on record. Now a pattern shift is underway as parts of northwest Europe brace for a cold snap starting Monday.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

‘A gentle calm’: France’s streets once again echo to sound of working horses

Dispar, a Breton draft horse, pulls refuse collectors in Hennebont, Brittany.
Dispar, a Breton draft horse, pulls refuse collectors in Hennebont, Brittany. Photograph: Thomas Louapre/The Guardian

Towns say they are not driven by nostalgia as they opt for horsepowered bin collections and school runs

The clip-clop of hooves marked the start of the morning rubbish collection in the Brittany town of Hennebont, as Dispar, a Breton draft horse, pulled a small cart towards the waste bins on a central street.

“This job is so much nicer with an animal,” said Julien, 38, who usually worked emptying bins on to a motorised rubbish-truck in another town but was training in horse-drawn techniques. “People see you differently, they say hello instead of beeping. This is the future, it saves on pollution, petrol and noise. And it makes people smile. Normally, I’d be constantly breathing in exhaust fumes behind my lorry, so this feels much healthier.”

Faced with climate breakdown, the energy crisis, and modern stress levels, there is a growing movement in French towns to bring back the horse and cart as an alternative to fossil fuels and a way to slow down urban life.

Florence, an estate agent in Hennebont, always stepped out of her office to watch the horse-drawn bin cart pass. “When I hear the sound of the hooves it’s just total happiness to me,” she said. “It brings a kind of gentle calm in these frantic times. It brings a bit of poetry into daily life, a reminder that things can be more simple. If I could live in a world without cars, I would.”

Since the first trials to reintroduce draft horses for municipal tasks in the mid-1990s, the number of French towns and urban areas using them has multiplied by almost 20 and continues to rise

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The French Energy Sobriety Plan

The French Energy Sobriety Plan

Preface.  Below is the announcement of the French Energy Sobriety Plan by Prime Minister Borne. The energy crisis is coming to all nations, and we should all be implementing their action plan (and family planning, birth control, abortion, limited immigration).

It’s hard for me to imagine a U.S. politician delivering this speech, though it will have to happen when fracked oil declines at 80% a year within 5-10 years. Though if fascist republicans are in power, they are more likely to “ration” by price, blame the Middle east, and start a war. Or blame Democrats and start a civil war.  If that sounds extreme, please read some of the books here.  Democrats are more likely to give a similar speech, very reluctantly, since Jimmy Carter wasn’t re-elected partly due to a similar one, known as his “malaise” speech (here).

After the speech I summarize the 50 pages of the French energy sobriety plan. What a great title. A good one for Richard Heinberg if he writes a sequel to “The Party’s Over”.


French energy sobriety announcement by Mrs Élisabeth Borne, French Prime Minister, on the goal of reducing energy consumption by 10% in two years on October 6, 2022. 

Seven months ago, by brutally attacking Ukraine, Russia changed the world order. The strategic upheavals are superimposed by an energy crisis. Russia has chosen to blackmail its gas, provoking, in Europe, the risk of a shortage for this winter and a surge in energy prices. Faced with this, some are proposing to submit to Russia, accept its terms and abandon Ukraine. To listen to them would be to turn your back on a member of the European family and deny our values. It’s not an option. We will continue to support Ukraine. Continue to pressure Russia. Take action and give us the means to get through this winter in the best conditions.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

French Gas Rationing Begins As Refinery Strikes Worsen After Government Calls Back Essential Workers

French Gas Rationing Begins As Refinery Strikes Worsen After Government Calls Back Essential Workers

France said on Tuesday that it would “requisition” (i.e. force) essential workers to staff Exxon’s French oil depot, and threatened to do the same for Total’s French refineries if talks failed to progress. But workers at Total’s Donges refinery decided on Tuesday to strike beginning on Wednesday, the militant French union CGT said according to Reuters.

As OilPrice notes, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Tuesday that the government would start the callback process for ExxonMobil’s staff at its oil depots in the country after talks between the oil company and two unions, CGT and FO, stalled. The CFDT union, however, managed on Monday to reach an agreement with Exxon.

“Today some unions, despite the deal, wants to continue the strike action and blockades, we cannot accept that,” Borne told the lower house , according to Reuters, adding that she wants “this situation to change fast,”  adding the government was prepared to take further action if needed.

“I have therefore asked the prefects, as permitted by law, to requisition the personnel needed for the functioning of the company’s depots,” she said, referring to Esso France.

“The orders are ready”, a source at the energy ministry said, adding that requisitions would only take place if the situation at the depots does not improve.

Those comments followed weekend comments by the country’s energy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher that the government was “doing its utmost to restore the situation to normal as soon as possible.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

With A Third Of French Gas Stations Experiencing “Supply Shortages”, Energy Giant Seeks Urgent Wage Talks

With A Third Of French Gas Stations Experiencing “Supply Shortages”, Energy Giant Seeks Urgent Wage Talks

Just days after we reported that France had tapped its strategic fuel reserves to resupply a growing number of gas stations that had run dry due to a nearly two-week long strike of refinery workers, with Government spokesman Olivier Veran urging consumers not to panic-buy only to achieve the opposite results, on Sunday the French Energy ministry announced that almost a third of French petrol (that’s gasoline for US readers) stations were experiencing “supply difficulties” with at least one fuel product (up from 21% on Saturday), as French energy giant TotalEnergies offered to bring forward wage talks, in response to union demands, as it sought to end the strike that has pushed French to the bring of a historic energy crisis.

“Provided the blockades will end and all labor representatives agree, the company proposes to advance to October the start of mandatory annual wage talks,” it said in a statement. The talks were initially scheduled to start in mid-November.

In response, Union representatives earlier told Reuters the strikes staged by the CGT, historically one of France’s more militant unions, would continue even as unions said they are willing to begin negotiations next week.

They have disrupted operations at two ExxonMobil sites as well as at two TotalEnergies sites, sending French gasoline inventories sliding. Over roughly two weeks of industrial action, France’s domestic fuel output has fallen by more than 60%, straining nerves across the country, as waiting lines grow and supplies have run dry.

Car drivers queue to fill their fuel tanks at gasoline pumps at Auchan gas station in Petite-Foret, France, October 6, 2022

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“Please Don’t Panic Buy”: France Taps Strategic Reserve After Gas Stations Run Out Of Fuel

“Please Don’t Panic Buy”: France Taps Strategic Reserve After Gas Stations Run Out Of Fuel

There are “emergency” reasons to drain one’s petroleum reserve – like, for example, approaching midterm elections that give you absolutely no right to drain a country’s strategic reserve but you do it anyway in hope of picking up some votes from idiots who don’t realize that gas will soar to record highs right after the elections – and then there are emergency reasons.

The Biden administration, of course, is dealing with a the quote-unquote emergency…

… while France is about to get hit with a bad case of the real deal.

Several days after we learned that gas stations in France have run out of gasoline due to long-running oil refinery strikes, today the French government said that France has tapped its strategic fuel reserves to resupply petrol stations that have run dry, amid ongoing strikes by workers that have stunted refining production and blocked gasoline deliveries.

Government spokesman Olivier Veran acknowledged “tensions” but said there was no shortage of fuel stocks on a national level. He urged consumers not to panic-buy, which of course is the surest way to encourage panic buying, long lines, rationing and all the ugly scenes from those black and white photos of the 1970s.

In the hardest-hit Hauts-de-France region, authorities didn’t even bother with rationing and banned outright the sale of petrol and diesel in jerry cans and other portable containers.

“We are obviously monitoring very, very closely the situation together with the operators and, here and there, when it was necessary, we have used our strategic stocks to enable the stations to be supplied,” Veran told reporters.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Nothing Left In Pipes”: French Towns Rely on Water Truck Deliveries For Survival

“Nothing Left In Pipes”: French Towns Rely on Water Truck Deliveries For Survival

Severe drought conditions affect about 60% of the EU, and in France, dozens of municipalities have run out of water and relied on a fleet of trucks hauling fresh water for survival.

At least 100 towns and villages have run out of fresh water. The French government has stepped in to support these drought-stricken areas.

French environment minister Christophe Bechu said in dozens of municipalities, “there is nothing left in the pipes,” referring to freshwater systems that have run completely dry. He said the ‘historic’ crisis has resulted in the deployment of a fleet of trucks delivering water to areas in need.

Besides France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands are all facing water shortages and falling water levels on inland waterways (the situation on the River Rhine is one to follow). Drought conditions across 60% of the EU could have severe economic consequences, affecting energy production, agriculture, and river transportation.

Record heat across Europe has fueled “increased fire danger due to the lack of rain and the resulting dry vegetation, combined with high temperatures,” the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service noted.

In southwest France, a massive wildfire has scorched 14,000 hectares in just a few weeks, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.

We’ve pointed out that French utility Electricite de France SA had to “reduce or halt nuclear output” because record-breaking heat on the Rhone and Garonne rivers made the water too hot to circulate through condensers and discharge back into waterways.

Meanwhile, French power prices are at a new record of over 600 euros per megawatt hour amid grid strains thanks to the lack of nuclear power generation amid heightened demand during heatwave.

The bad news is the persistent heat wave is forecasted to continue in parts of western and central Europe through the second half of August.

France Sees Nuclear Energy Output Plummet At The Worst Possible Moment

France Sees Nuclear Energy Output Plummet At The Worst Possible Moment

  • France, the European Union’s leader in nuclear energy, is seeing a massive decline in output.
  • Though it has been relatively unfazed by the bloc’s ongoing energy crisis, declining nuclear production could pose a significant problem in the coming months.
  • The collapse of French nuclear power generation and Putin’s retaliatory cutback on energy exports to Europe could be disastrous for the continent.

France has long been one of the world’s greatest champions of nuclear energy. France leads the European Union in nuclear production, with the most productive reactors in the bloc, and relies on nuclear power for a larger share of its energy mix than any other country in the world. It makes sense that France should lead the charge for nuclear energy development as they have long been the global poster child for safe and reliable nuclear energy – until now.

A recent flurry of unexpected issues at the Électricité de France (EDF), the state nuclear power operator representing the largest nuclear fleet in Europe, has caused French nuclear energy output to tumble to its lowest levels in 30 years. Around half of the EDF’s massive nuclear fleet has been taken offline, delivering a massive blow to the EU’s energy independence and security in the midst of a worldwide energy crisis.

France has become increasingly reliant on nuclear power in recent years. French President Emmanuel Macron has given nuclear energy an even bigger boost in his time in office. Indeed, in February, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he announced a  €52 billion plan to revitalize the country’s “nuclear adventure.” He has also fought for the inclusion of the emissions-free power source as a “green investment” in the nomenclature of the European Union as the continent moves toward establishing its green energy budget for the coming years.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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