The Brief: The decline and fall of Manuel Valls

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

The political career of former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls continued its murky descent into obscurity this week.

After losing the Socialists’ presidential primary to Benoît Hamon, Valls now has to compete with popular singer Francis Lalanne to keep his seat as an MP in the Essonne department.

Well-known for some of France’s best-selling popular music, including “Pense à moi comme je t’aime” and “Fais moi l’amour pas la guerre”, Lalanne is running as the deputy of Jacques Borie and both men will be hoping to remove Valls from a seat he has held since 2002.

The duel with Lalanne, who is fronting the campaign despite not being the actual candidate, is another trial for Valls, who quit as prime minister in December, after François Hollande decided not to run for re-election.

This marked the start of a long political decline. Then came the loss to Hamon. A disappointed Valls could not even find the heart to support his party’s official candidate during the campaign.

After Macron’s victory, he finally broke cover and backed the new president, hoping to gain the En Marche!  stamp of approval for the legislative elections.

But again, he failed. En Marche! said Valls didn’t share the movement’s values and refused to let him into the fold. The Socialists are still pondering how to deal with his treason.

Without a political party supporting him in this next race, Valls will have to face the popular French-Uruguayan singer-songwriter alone.

On social networks, many French citizens say they hope Lalanne will hammer the final nail into the coffin of Valls’ career. In a small opinion poll, 80% of voters said they were secretly praying for a Lalanne victory.

It’s not the first time the singer has run for office. In 2007, he stood as an independent ecologist and obtained 3.5% of the vote. He also tried his luck in the 2009 European elections, again without success.

Realistically, the chances of Lalanne beating Valls seem quite low, as the former prime minister still enjoys support in Évry, the commune where the contest will take place.

But seeing as only 2% of French voters rated Valls’ time as prime minister as ‘very positive’, according to one recent poll, anything could happen.

The Roundup

MEPs are so concerned about the rule of law and democracy in Hungary that they voted to trigger Article 7 and suspend Budapest’s Council voting rights. The EP’s justice committee will now draw up a resolution that the Parliament will be asked to vote on again.

To make matters worse, the Commission opened an infringement procedure against Hungary over its Asylum law.

Martin Schulz’s German Socialists have promised a harder line on domestic security if elected in September. The party hopes the election campaign will focus on the issue. Germany’s economy is booming in no small part thanks to immigration.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced new EU state aid rules aimed at boosting investment. Member states can now invest in ports, airports, culture and the outermost regions, under certain conditions, without the EU executive’s prior approval.

The European Commission insisted a proposed 10-year extension of weed killer glyphosate’s licence is just a “starting point” for the debate. Brussels started legal action against Italy for failing to respond to allegations carmaker Fiat was cheating emissions tests.

Emmanuel Macron announced his new government after a 24hr delay. He stuck to his pledge to have gender parity and his cabinet represents the left, centre and right. You can follow some of the new ministers on Twitter.

EU citizens want Brexit negotiations to focus on safeguarding the remaining 27 countries, not securing privileges for the UK. Irish authorities warn there could be a ten-fold increase in customs declarations after the UK leaves.

NATO’s new ‘modern Pentagon’ HQ opens its doors next week but sources say the Alliance is already being a bad neighbour. Donald Trump’s upcoming visit has “freaked out” NATO and they’ve told EUROCONTROL it won’t be able to use its entrance while he’s in the building.

Nestlé has failed in its bid to register the shape of its Kit Kat chocolate bar in the UK. A court ruled the sugary treat’s shape is “not distinctive enough” to warrant a trademark.

Better luck for Wales though after the EU gave laverbread, a seaweed-based delicacy, protected status. Diolch, Brwsel!

Sam Morgan contributed to this Brief.

Look out for…

At tomorrow’s Foreign Affairs Council, defence ministers will look at how the EU’s Global Strategy has been implemented so far.

Views are the author’s.

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