Friday, January 23, 2009

FP on the Radio

I have advance word that French Politics is mentioned in the France Culture program Le Rendez-vous des politiques that will air tomorrow between 11 AM and noon, Paris time. Here's the link. Readers not in France can listen via the Internet. The guest is Benoît Hamon.

Spectacular, If He Does Say So Himself

On nonfiction.fr, an interview with Guillaume Klossa, who was an advisor to Jean-Pierre Jouyet during the French presidency of the EU, reflects on that experience. The interview, conducted by Mathias Mégy, a member of EuroNova, of which Klossa is president and founder, is a pure exercise in self-puffery and would hardly be worth your attention if it weren't such a perfect specimen of the way in which the French presidency has been inflated to some sort of world-historical achievement that not only could not have been done without Sarkozy but also points the way to the future of the EU.

By Klossa's reckoning, France's performance was nothing less than "spectacular." Thank heaven, he seems to say, for the two crises that demonstrated the indispensability of an energetic executive. Of course not a word is uttered about the failure to address long-term issues plaguing the EU, issues that had been at the heart of the French agenda before Sarko's six-month term began. Agricultural imports? The Common Agricultural Policy? Rebalancing of structural funds? Democratic deficit? European defense capabilities? A strategy for the long term regarding aspirant nations to the east (Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey)? None of these things matter, we are asked to believe, because Sarko shuttled between Moscow and Tbilissi and between Berlin and Washington. This is nonsense on stilts, and it wouldn't alarm me if I thought Klossa were merely behaving as a publicity flack, but I think he might actually believe what he says, and that others in France might believe it as well.

That is not to say that the French presidency was a bust. Sarkozy did effectively demonstrate that an energetic president can galvanize the intergovernmental process. The problem is that the process needs to embrace an entire agenda, not just the issues that happen to command headlines during a single president's tenure. Europe's real problems are long-term and structural. (See today's earlier post about the propagation of the economic crisis for what it reveals about structural economic difficulties in Europe.) France was entitled to drink a New Year's toast to its reasonably successful EU presidency. But it's now time to empty the champagne glasses, sober up, and face the problems that were not dealt with between July and January. The Czech Republic isn't going to do it. Jouyet's resignation as soon as the party ended suggests that France isn't going to do it either. Klossa's backslapping is a sad reminder of what was left undone.

Dati, Fuite en Avant?

Charles Bremner takes the news that Rachida Dati will accept the no. 2 spot on the UMP Ile-de-France ticket for the European Parliament as proof that she is on her way out as justice minister. He's probably right. The only real question is why she's lasted this long. Perhaps it's true that her mission of reorganizing the justice system was one that would have brought down the wrath of the establishment on anyone who attempted it. Perhaps, for all the Sturm und Drang, she succeeded more fully than is evident to an outsider. Perhaps it was simply that Sarkozy thought he owed her something, or doesn't like to admit mistakes.

The fact remains that her tenure was singularly tempestuous. If it is true that Sarko is now pushing her into a political career--if running for the European Parliament and accepting some kind of consolation prize from the UMP really constitute an entry into politics rather than a fuite en avant--it is hard to see her thriving there. She did well enough as a party attack dog during the campaign, but her subsequent performance as minister ensures that she will be remembered for her fangs rather than her pettable coat(s) of fur. She rose by attaching herself to a series of powerful male patrons, and she has wrapped herself in the trappings of wealth and glitz with the instincts of a true vulgarian for alienating not only those without money but also those who have had it for a long time (resentful of the parvenue) as well as those as new to the manor as she is (who think that even for a parvenue she lays it on too thick). At Justice her tenure has been marked by a zeal for punishment and indifference to liberties.

The symbolism of her appointment--a Muslim woman in a regalian ministry--raised expectations that she has been unable to meet. But even if she is now on her way out and headed for the political backwater of the European Parliament, I don't expect her to disappear. She knows how to work the media, and her ambition undoubtedly remains intact. The only question is where she will next set her sights and what route she will choose to get there. Strasbourg is certainly only a temporary detour.

The EC and the EU

On the propagation of the Economic crisis from west to east in the European Union.