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Economy

Have Investors In Europe Usurped National Sovereignty From The People?

Silvio Berlusconi's departure in Italy, and the arrival of the economic technocrat Mario Monti, is just the latest sign that market forces may weigh even more than popular will on who is governing in Europe.

Mario Monti (friendsofeurope)
Mario Monti (friendsofeurope)
François Vidal

LES ÉCHOS/Worldcrunch

PARIS - In Europe, investors are running the show. They have the ability to steer a country's conduct of economic affairs and to make or unmake governments. What used to be the purview of the sovereign people of a nation have now passed into the hands of a few who trade on global markets.

The most recent example is the successful financial coup in Italy. In spite of countless attempts, neither prosecutors nor Italian public opinion had managed to get Silvio Berlusconi to leave office. All the financial markets needed was a few days of heavy pressure on the rates of the Italian debt. Now trusted former European Union Commissioner Mario Monti has stepped into Berlusconi's spot, in large part in the hopes that it will calm investor worries.

The scalp of the Italian executive was added to those of the heads of the Greek, Irish and Portuguese governments. And a new austerity plan is soon going to expand a growing list. Like it or not, politics in Europe are now taking place in the trash heap of the economic crisis.

How did it get so bad? Without coercion or conspiracy, governments gradually abandoned the reins of power to Europe's creditors. The turning point happened in March 2005, when instead of going on a diet, France and Germany put pressure on the EU Council to relax the rules of the European Stability and Growth Pact, which they deemed too inflexible and ultimately unenforceable.

A door was thus opened to allow public finances across the euro zone to start sliding. Since then, deficits and debts have continued to grow, greatly increased by the crisis of 2008-2009. As a result, the House of Europe has changed hands. And its new owner is worried about paying the rent. Such anxiety can be seen as blown out of proportion.

However, some European members are so desperate that they have no choice but to give guarantees to their creditors. For Europe, decision time has come. It can no longer walk the path it has followed so far, simply transferring pressure from its investors onto its most indebted member states, just in order to keep up appearances.

The situation in Italy struck a blow in the heart of Europe. And as things stand, the vortex could soon sweep away Belgium, or even France, judging by the evolution of their interest rates. Regaining control means moving towards federalism as soon as possible. This too will obviously involve a significant loss in terms of sovereignty. But the sacrifice is actually not that great, because that same sovereignty has now become virtual -- and subject to the will of investors.

Read the original article in French

Photo – friends of Europe

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Society

A Closer Look At "The French Roe" And The State Of Abortion Rights In France

In 1972, Marie-Claire Chevalier's trial paved the way for the legalization of abortion in France, much like Roe v. Wade did in the U.S. soon after. But as the Supreme Court overturned this landmark decision on the other side of the Atlantic, where do abortion rights now stand in France?

Lawyer Gisèle Halimi accompanies Marie-Claire Chevalier at the Bobigny trial in 1972.

Lila Paulou

PARIS — When Marie-Claire Chevalier died in January, French newspapers described her role in the struggle for abortion rights as an important part of what’s become the rather distant past. Yet since the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, Chevalier’s story has returned to the present tense.

A high school student in 1971, Chevalier was raped by a classmate, and faced an unwanted pregnancy. With the help of her mother and three other women, the 16-year-old obtained an abortion, which was illegal in France. With all five women facing arrest, Marie-Claire’s mother Michèle decided to contact French-Tunisian lawyer Gisèle Halimi who had defended an Algerian activist raped and tortured by French soldiers in a high-profile case.

Marie-Claire bravely agreed to turn her trial into a platform for all women prosecuted for seeking an abortion. Major social figures testified on her behalf, from feminist activist Simone de Beauvoir to acclaimed poet Aimé Césaire. The prominent Catholic doctor Paul Milliez, said, “I do not see why us, Catholics, should impose our moral to all French people.”

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