Posts Tagged ‘France’

6 May Election Day

IN the year with highest number of elections, today 6 may is the polling day of the year. There are elections in France, Greece, Armenia and 2 votes in Serbia. There are regional elections in Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, which will test the strength of the incumbent chancellor Merkel to win elections before the federal ones next year.

6 May is an important day for Europe as it will show to what extend the family of the European People’s Party  will retain its dominance across the 27 member states. This is paramount for the political set up in Europe and the difficult decisions that are still to be taken to solve the euro crisis. For now, the France-German axis was the engine of the decisions and not least this rested on the centre-right parties that are in power in the big two. Or were.

The odds are high that Nicolas Sarkozy will out of office after today’s vote. Perhaps the French will never forgive him for the extravagant behavior in the first half of his term. Even though he changed his communication and wrote several books over the last year, he still does not behave presidential, i.e. a little like a monarch in l’Elysee.

More importantly however, Sarkozy did not have the winning strategy for the election. He was convincing, he had great speeches and mobilized totally the UMP vote. But he made a major mistake when he hardened his discourse on Europe and adopted anti-immigrant stance that rather made him look too radical for many French voters. It was natural that the current president tries to snatch abig chunk of the vote of Front National (Marine Le Pen won 18% on the first round) However his team of advisors did not realize that the people who voted for the french far-right id so not because of the policies articulated by Le Pen, but out of disappointment with the current political elite. Thus by turning to the far right rethoric Sarkozy alienated the centrist voters. This became evident when a few days ago Francois Bayrou. And will determine the result, expected in about an hour from now.

Francois Holland seems to me a very pragmatic man and I hope his presidency will not be like his campaign. The socialists do not have a great (if any ) economic program. In the debate last Wednesday with Sarkozy the former socialist senator and leader of PS mumbled about his plans how to reduce the deficit and the debt of France. Instead, Holland insisted on creating 60 000 new jobs in the state administration and imposing a 75% tax on the rich. The tax by the way, according to Holland himself is total nonsense fiscally (see interviews from January 2011).

Instead, what the next French president should focus on is primarily creating economic policies, solving the long-term fiscal problems and making labour market as well as budgetary reforms in order to give a boost to the French economy. The state should not be an employer of last resort.

So far Holland seems to me like an old school spend-a-lot socialist and behaves rather like a populist when it comes to the real issues of France- he is compassionate with the worries of the French, bit does not seem well-armed to solve the problems from which they stem. He fails to articulate clear policies except his call for a growth pact (and socialists of his party understand growth mainly as public spending).

But Mr. Holland is a witty man. He has managed to keep away from far-fetching promises. He also succeeded in turning the whole presidential campaign into a referendum for Sarkozy’s tenure. Indeed, the incumbent president was alone against 9 other candidates and was the challenger throughout the whole process with Holland clearly considered more likely to win from the outset.

I hope when elected Mr. Holland gets as pragmatic in his policies as he was during the campaign. He should under no circumstances use his (likely) parliamentary majority – legislative elections are in June- to block the referendum of the Fiscal Compact. This is paramount for the Future of Europe!

France holds a key position between the fiscally rigorous north and the lax on spending south. IF France drops the policies aimed at solving the euro crisis may bring yet another disaster to the EU and its member states.


Libya in Blood, Italy unmoved

February 22, 2011 1 comment

Libya is in blood. Gadaffi is killing his own people. The wave of Arab Democratic Revolutions will be one daystudied in history books and their transition in political science. And so will be studied the response of the democracies. One of them shines so bright at this moment – Italy saw nothing wrong in the mass killings on squares in Bengazi and Tripoli.

The response of Italy, the closest Europeanneighbour of Libya was: let Gadaffi do good and he will make constitutional reforms. In the words of Italy’s foreign minsiter and (oh, such a shame) EU’s former deputy president of the Comission Franco Frattini:

“Italy as you know is the closest neighbour of both Tunisia and Libya so we are extremely concerned about the repercussions on the migratory situation in the southern Mediterranean,”

Appealing. This is all I can say.

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Egypt – what the West did not do

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

“We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections,” – this is what the three biggest EU foreign policy players  France, Germany and UK said about the protests and violent clashes in Egypt. At the same time EU institutions issued 3 different statements focusing on political detentions, restoring communication services. Once again, an international crisis with likely grave consequences for global trade and regional security shows the EU how disintegrated its foreign policy is.

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Ashton’s Foreign Policy: Introduction*

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

They call her ‘a person without experience’ and ‘the lowest common denominator’. But she is not. Catherine Ashton is a very ambitious professional politician. She is the hope of Europe for a stronger engagement with the world and more efficient European Foreign Policy. She is the one who ought to have vision for a new set up of EU’s external relations. But does ‘ought to’ mean ‘can’ in this case. Can she have such a vision, or will this be the one of 1-2 national capitals or a closed circle, which has been thinking of the new European External Action Service for years before the job was handed to Ashton in November 2009?

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Inconvenient resolution on Armenian genocide stirs US Congress

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Who judges superpowers?

Last Week US Congress commission on Foreign Policy voted a resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide in Turkey during the First World War. It is not big news, given that a number of countries have done it and that this has happened before in the US Senate. This time however, the narrow vote (23:22) in the commission headed by former democrat presidential candidate John Kerry comes in a particularly inconvenient moment.

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EU Reflections on Bulgaria

June 4, 2009 1 comment

Two interesting pieces of ‘discourse ‘ provoked me to write this post. It i not so much about the image of Bulgaria in the

The reason for the economic crisis in Western Europe - Polish Plumbers and the Eastern European Scourge

The reason for the economic crisis in Western Europe - Polish Plumbers and the Eastern European Scourge

EU – we all know how bad it is, thanks to the war on Europe that the current government is rigorously fighting. I was agitated by a further step by West European Politicians – the use of East European Images in their campaign. The EU may may be often seen as a unity in diversity and not as a ‘melting pot’ but when the political stakes are high, then a lot of well hidden arguments about intolerable differences emerge at the surface. Below are two recent examples posted in EUobserver and Daily Mail.

After the invention of the Polish Plumber far-right French politician Pilippe de Villiers has coined a new pro-unity campaign this time featuring ‘The (infamous) Bulgarian Truck Driver’ . I hoped it is a joke, but as EUobserve reports … it is quite serious:

Tremble France! Bulgarian chofers are coming to steal what you have justly taken from your african colonies
Viva la France ! Now afraid of Bulgarian drivers

“The French politician who created the stereotype of the “Polish plumber” has coined a new “Bulgarian truck driver” cliché for his EU election campaign. But voters are finding the event a turn-off despite scandals involving topless girls, hunger strikes and the Taliban. , who launched the catchy plumber idea during his fight against the EU constitution in a referendum in 2005, is now promoting the notion that cheap Bulgarian truckers are coming to steal French jobs. The Bulgarian trucker – coming to a stereotype near you. A Bulgarian driver costs €700 a month instead of €3,700, survives on just four hours of sleep a night and eats just twice a week, the myth-making politician is saying. Poland joined the EU in 2004 and Bulgaria in 2007, with their workers still legally barred from some EU states.”

I can’t help recalling another politician , a current MEP from Denmark Mogens Camre who  spoke on RFI about a month ago calling Bulgarians and Romanians stupid. Less intelligent , to use his own words. Maybe he wanted to justify why Denmark should have more seats in the EP. Maybe he just got carried away by the French political discourse about Eastern Europeans, which features the images of Economic Threat to the regular citizens. Maybe he is a smart guy. But he is a shame for Denmark. In fact, if a proud nation like the French are afraid of Bulgarian Truck Drivers and Intelligent MEPS from Denmark fear their colleagues from Bulgaria and Romania… well, I do not know what to say, maybe we need more political strength to stand for the ideas that we use for our slogans in the EU – tolerance, diversity, solidarity, and so on.

But we should not be surprised – all opinions should be expressed so that we cna created societies and political systems based on ‘justice as fairness’ in the words of John Rawls. We should fight for the right of every person to express freely his/her opinion even though we disagree. Even though the person is as economically dangerous as a Polish Plumber, stupid as a Romanian or Bulgarian or arrogant and cynical as Mr Camre and Mr. de Villiers.

But I would rather be more careful before saying that the EU treats equally its new Member States from the poor East – in terms of agenda setting, cut subsidies, mobility restrictions and so on.