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A stranded traveler in Castelnaudary. Photo: ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images

A showdown with rail workers is shaping up as a make-or-break moment for French president Emmanuel Macron, with “another wave of crippling transport stoppages” hitting France yesterday, per France 24. Rolling strikes are due to continue through June.

The backdrop: Macron is targeting France's state-owned railway company, citing job-for-life guarantees, automatic pay increases and early retirement as the sorts of “privileges” for economic insiders that need to be trimmed.

  • Why it matters: Because his proposal would only affect new hires, this particular fight is “more about symbols than substance for both sides,” the FT’s Anne-Sylvaine Chassany writes. But failure could scuttle Macron’s wider economic agenda, as a similar fight doomed Prime Minister Alain Juppé in the mid-1990s.
  • Where things stand: Public opinion on the strikes is narrowly in Macron’s favor. And while his popularity has slumped below 50%, Macron still commands a large parliamentary majority. As the Guardian notes, “the strikers believe momentum is on their side.”

Go deeper: Macron on how AI will shape the future, and threaten democracy.

Go deeper

4 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

4 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.