Several weeks have passed since the Yellow Vests staged violent protests in France. Numerous reasons have been expressed by experts for the unrests but evidence suggests that these events will have implications for the country and even its neighbors in various domestic and international dimensions.
Also, weakening the foundations of Europe has always been considered one of the long-term goals of Washington in the direction of strategic confrontation between the United States and the Green Continent. With the continuation of the unrest in one of the most influential countries in Europe, Washington seems to be getting closer to its goal. But the main question here is that how would the weakening of France affect Iran from a strategic perspective?
To find an answer to this question and a number of others, we interviewed Dr. Pirooz Izadi, an expert in French political affairs.
Q: What are the causes of the French protests and how could this affect France internally?
Economic problems are one of the most important causes of the recent protests in France, and especially in macroeconomic policies such as increasing taxes to reduce the country’s budget deficit, downsizing the government, reducing public spending, and motivating investors and employers. Of course, by adopting these policies, the French president is pursuing more investment, more workforce, lower unemployment and, ultimately, economic prosperity, because unemployment has been a chronic problem in France in all periods so that no government from either of the two political factions has been able to solve it.
The problem of France today is rooted in its economic structure. But on the other hand, the solution provided by Macron and his neoliberal policies have put pressure on the people in the first place. The French president’s argument is that they should first boost the economy through the implementation of these policies and once the economy has flourished the lower classes could enjoy the benefits as well. But the fact is that at the very first stage considering that his policies were based on reducing public spending, this resulted in reduced welfare benefits and increased pressure on the lower classes, which ended in public rage and dissatisfaction.
Q: What would be the international repercussions of the unrest for France?
People’s disappointment with Macron is one of the consequences of the protests. Considering that in the last few years the people’s trust in the political elite (right and left parties) had vanished, Macron immediately entered the political arena with trans-factional slogans, and the people became hopeful about the improvement of the situation by the person who claimed to be from outside the establishment. But eventually, they were disappointed. Under this situation, due to the declining popularity of Macron the extremist groups can exploit this situation.
When a government fails in advancing its economic policies and loses its popularity, it would hardly have a strong resolve to take important and crucial decisions. This can affect the government in the trend of its activities in the field of foreign policy, especially in relation to the European Union. For example, in the matter of the European Union, Macron wanted to strengthen his country’s economic strength and elevate its status equal to Germany as a partner so that Paris too would play a more effective role in leading the EU.
Q: What would be the consequences for other countries in the regional and international arenas?
Today, the economic problems arising from the European Union’s imposed policies have become a common challenge in most of the Green Continent. For example, the EU argues in the context of the budget deficit that the deficit should not exceed 3% of the GDP. This in return has forced governments to offset their budget deficits by cutting public spending and raising taxes. But the fact is that these very measures cause double pressures on the people and reduce their welfare benefits. People blame the bureaucracy ruling the EU and their lack of attention to their livelihood as the root cause of the problems they have to face. They believe that these measures would ultimately end in their detriment. That’s why in other European countries, including Belgium, there are similar problems like France, and we have been witnessing protests in that country over the past weeks.
The European Union’s neoliberal policies, by putting more pressure on economically weak countries, create many challenges for their economies. Eventually, these countries are prone to grievances and street protests by their people because of economic problems.
Q: Does American neoliberalism aim at undermining Europe?
After coming to power, Donald Trump has always said Europe is an economic competitor, and since his first priority is flourishing the economy of the United States, he has somehow adopted economic nationalism, which is why, in his view, a weak Europe will ultimately benefit Washington. Russia too will welcome a weaker Europe because the EU has imposed sanctions against Moscow over the Crimean dispute.
Q: How would the weakening of France as an influential member of the international community affect Iran from a strategic point of view?
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (also known as Iran Nuclear Agreement) is important for Europeans for security reasons and they are working to keep Iran in the deal. They seek to motivate Tehran by granting concessions such as the financial mechanism (SPV), but the fact is, given the recent developments inside France the Macron administration will not quit the JCPOA and Paris will continue to be present in the landmark deal.
On the other hand, it must be noted that the volume of financial and trade transactions of France and other European states with Iran is not at a level to affect the future of relations between the two sides.
Under these conditions, Iran should always keep the windows of dialogue open with European parties. Like the previous round of the sanctions, there is no consensus on Iran, and this is because today there are disagreements between Europe and the United States. This Transatlantic divide between the US and Europe would eventually be to Iran’s advantage.