Your Weekly Recap for 20 - 24 March.

Here's 5 things you should know about at the end of this week:

  • France in turmoil over Macron's contentious pension reform
  • Luxembourg City plans to ban begging
  • EU summit overshadowed by Germany's last-minute landmark deal blockade
  • There are new developments in the municipal elections
  • The banking turmoil continues to affect European banks



1. France in turmoil over Macron's contentious pension reform

  • Last week President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne rammed the controversial pension reform through parliament without a vote, which sparked angry protests in Paris and other cities.

  • As a result, the French government was faced with a vote of no-confidence, held on Monday, which it survived, much to the dismay of the French people because it simultaneously meant that the reform will be implemented.

  • On Wednesday Macron, who rarely spoke out on the reform, went live on television to defend and answer questions by journalists from broadcasters TF1 and France 2. The interview was watched by 10 million people.

In short - Retirement age will be raised from 62 to 64, still below European average. Additionally, the minimum number of years people must pay into the system to receive a full pension was increased to 43 from the current 42.

You want more details or want to refresh your memory on the situation? - Read our extensive explainer: From announcement to a vote of no-confidence, a timeline of Macron's pension reform

Lower than expected - While the government was expected to survive the votes, they did so by a margin of just nine votes, much narrower than expected.

Accepting unpopularity - "Given a choice between opinion polls in the short term and the general interest of the country, I choose the general interest of the country," Macron said.

French strikes continue - A total of 457 people were arrested and 441 security forces were injured on Thursday during nationwide protests against French President Emmanuel Macron's pensions reform, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Speaking to the CNews channel on Friday morning, Darmanin also said that there had been 903 fires lit in the streets of Paris during by far the most violent day of protests since they began in January.



Read also: Le Pen warns France at risk of 'social explosion' over pension reform


© Unsplash

2. Luxembourg City plans to ban begging

Who enforces the ban? -   It has already been decided that only the police will have the authority to check whether someone is begging for money. If that is the case, officers may ask for identification and issue a fine.

Is the ban targeting the right people? - The local officials stated that the begging ban is not aimed at the affected individuals, but rather at the act itself. The ban is meant to "crack down on a form of human trafficking," in which "people are brought to Luxembourg City specifically to beg others for money."

Organised organisations - The begging ban is "a first attempt at doing something against these organised gangs," but local officials noted that similar measures could be implemented "at the national level." The question still remains why the municipality is targeting everyone if the goal is to fight organised begging.

In other Luxembourg City news: Private security guards are to monitor three neighbourhoods in the municipality, namely the centre, Gare, and Bonnevoie. Since 15 March, twelve guards from a private security company have been carrying out "a mission to monitor property and infrastructure". The mission was approved by the Ministry of Justice.

Read also:  'Prostitution easier than begging' - Two women discuss living in the streets of the capital



3. EU summit overshadowed by Germany's last-minute landmark deal blockade

  • On Thursday and Friday, the first regular EU summit for this year is taking place in Brussels.

  • On the agenda of the 26 heads of state and government, including Xavier Bettel, is support for Ukraine, an exchange with the UN on the world climate report, and the competitiveness of the European economy.

  • But a row erupted between two of the European Union's biggest economies after Berlin upset some of its partners, notably France, by blocking -- at the last minute -- a landmark deal to prohibit new sales of fossil fuel cars from 2035.

Why ban fuel cars? - The ban is key to Brussels' ambitious plan to become a "climate neutral" economy by 2050, with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Not a good look- In an unprecedented action earlier this month, Germany intervened after the car ban had already been approved under the EU legislative process. It demanded that Brussels provide assurances the law would allow the sales of new cars with combustion engines that run on synthetic fuels.

Mutual irritation -  While the last-minute block frustrated France, Paris has in turn irked Berlin by insisting on giving nuclear energy greater prominence in EU proposals to produce more green technology in Europe. Paris and Berlin have traditionally worked together to push forward the EU agenda.

What's next?- According to German media on Friday, German minister of transport Volker Wissing submitted a proposal for a solution after close consultation with the EU Commission.

Domestic German issue..- Germany boasts one of the world's biggest car manufacturing industries. "It is above all a German affair and an internal debate in German politics that has reached Europe," a senior EU diplomat complained.

..vs. French nuclear affair- Another bone of contention they will have to thrash out is France's push for EU recognition that nuclear power has a role to play in Europe's green future.

In other EU summit news: EU leaders have approved a plan to send Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition over the next 12 months to help the country repel Russian invading forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the leaders in a video call.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told the press on the sidelines of the summit that he would like to see the American and Chinese presidents sit down and work out a plan for peace negotiations together. Bettel believes that Russia is more willing to accept a proposal supported by China. He will present the proposal to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who is also attending the EU summit of heads of state and government.


© Envato / Belyaa

4. There are new developments in the municipal elections

  • On Tuesday afternoon, the Chamber of Deputies passed another amendment to the election law. A majority of MPs agreed that the change from July 2022 did not go far enough. The previous amendment repealed the residence requirement, allowing non-Luxembourgish nationals to vote in municipal elections even if they have not lived in Luxembourg for five years. This change was reportedly insufficient. 

  • As of Monday, registered voters who will not be able to vote in person in the upcoming municipal elections, can apply for postal voting.

  • The year 2023 will be a watershed moment in Luxembourg election history, as proportional representation will be used in more municipalities than first-past-the-post voting. Ten communes are using the new system for the first time.

What changed?- Officials working for the European institutions or agents of international organisations based in third countries were still unable to vote. This is because they have a "legitimation permit" (carte de légitimation) rather than a residence permit (carte de séjour). This has now changed.

Attention!- This change only applies to the municipal elections, not the legislative elections.

Still enough time - Non-Luxembourgish nationals must register to vote in the municipal elections by 17 April.

Not an easy transition to the new system - Finding candidates willing to run on a list proves especially challenging in towns transitioning from first-past-the-post to proportional representation in 2023.

Voters are not happy - "We found that the same remarks were coming up," Emile Eicher, president of the Association of Luxembourg Cities and Municipalities, said. "People said they didn't want proportional representation and would like to stick with first-past-the-post voting."

Helperknapp municipality- Only one of the transitioning parties is currently sure to have more than one pure party list.

Uncertainty in Hosingen- There is no guarantee that an election will even be held in Parc Hosingen, a municipality of 4,000 people. To date, there is only one cross-party list called "Är Ekipp Parc Housen," with nine of the eleven candidates being members of the outgoing municipal council. It's uncertain whether there will be a rival list against it.



5. The banking turmoil continues to affect European banks

  • Recent financial turbulence could add to "downside risks" in the eurozone, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde warned Wednesday, while insisting policymakers remained focused on taming sky-high inflation.

  • The collapse of three regional US lenders and the enforced UBS buyout of Swiss rival Credit Suisse plunged global markets into turmoil and triggered fears of a snowballing banking sector crisis.
  • The latest ECB forecasts -- which lowered inflation projections and raised the growth outlook for this year -- did not take into account the recent upheaval.

Banking crisis - The market turmoil has left central bankers walking a tightrope between pushing on with their efforts to bring down stubbornly high costs and seeking to ensure they do not worsen the upheaval.

Curbing inflation - Switzerland and Norway hiked interest rates Thursday to tackle inflation despite banking-sector turmoil, with the UK's central bank next in line after the US Federal Reserve also lifted borrowing costs.

Especially food prices-British inflation unexpectedly accelerated in February, data showed Wednesday, deepening a cost-of-living crisis and pressuring the Bank of England to hike interest rates despite global markets turmoil.

After borrowing 50 billion Swiss francs - UBS is set to take over its troubled Swiss rival Credit Suisse for $3.25 billion following weekend crunch talks aimed at preventing a wider international banking crisis.

'Too big to fail'- UBS and Credit Suisse are both banks deemed 'too big to fail' and will now create the biggest bank Switzerland has ever seen. Some are wondering if the superbank might be too big for its own good.

'Not concerned'- Experts in the Grand Duchy are not concerned about a domino effect, since a drop in the share price "basically tells you nothing about the solvency of these banks."



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