Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Über alles unter den Linden

Evidently Sarkozy's men didn't consult the Germanist Bruno Le Maire, minister of agriculture, who could have told them that "Deutschland über alles" has been politically incorrect in Germany for some time. Otherwise they could have avoided a major gaffe:

... le chœur de l’armée française interprètera, sous l’Arc de Triomphe, « l’hymne allemand : « Deutschland über alles » »…qui n’est plus chanté par les Allemands depuis 1991.

The Fissure in the Right

The rift over the taxe professionnelle is more than an incidental flaw in the otherwise seamless government of the Right. Balladur, Juppé, and Raffarin have all spoken out against it. As PS deputy Jean-Pierre Balligand (Aisne) remarks in the cited piece, the tax-cutting ideology of Sarkozy has here run up against the vital interests of local officials. Sarko wants to reduce taxes on business and expects the localities financed by those taxes to accept whatever substitute he decides to offer them. There is more at stake here than meets the eye. There aren't enough neoliberal internationalists to win elections for any party. The UMP needs to retain its local bastions and its sociological base. Neuilly may have given Sarko his start, but he had to conquer la France profonde in order to be elected. The question is whether he can hang on to it. For the time being, that won't be very difficult. The opposition isn't showing many signs of life. But in the long run it may prove as difficult for the Right to resolve its internal contradictions as it has for the Left.

Note, by the way, that Balladur, Juppé, and Raffarin are not just any voices: they are 3 of the 4 prime ministers of the Chiraquien Old Guard. By contrast, Jean-François Copé, the paladin of the New Guard and ambitious to be Sarko's successor, has thrown in his lot on this issue with Sarko, as one might expect of a man who moonlights as a corporate lawyer.

A Complex Game In the Middle East

Philippe Marini has submitted a report on France's Middle East diplomacy to Nicolas Sarkozy. Marini argues that a cordon sanitaire can no longer be maintained around Hamas and that, at the appropriate time, France should offer to end the diplomatic isolation of Hamas in the interest of achieving an intra-Palestinian reconciliation and moving the peace process, or what is left of it, forward.

Judah Grunstein sees one winner in this: Syria's Assad. Haaretz, coming at the problem from the Israeli side, sees a loser, Netanyahu, whose intransigence on settlements and stonewalling of Obama are likely to provoke a U.S. reaction.

The question, then, is whether the U.S. reaction will take advantage of France's seeming willingness to take the lead in exploring a new direction. Earlier in Sarkozy's administration, it had seemed to me that he was offering himself as a useful adjunct to U.S. Mideast policy: France can take risks that the U.S. can't, and Sarkozy is willing to take some heat for taking a tougher line on Israel, which is less politically dangerous at home than a comparable move by a U.S. president. But various signs suggest that Obama, or the people around him, haven't been keen on coordinating U.S. policy with European allies. The Marini report offers a new opportunity, especially when coupled with deteriorating U.S.-Israel relations, the threatened resignation of Abbas, and the stalled talks with Iran. Sarkozy's next moves should be interesting.

UPDATE: Israel's relations with Turkey are also suffering.

"The Plural of Anecdote Is Data"

That's from Paul Krugman. In the slightly less anecdotal, more substantial "data" category, we have this from Les Echos: French industrial production up 2.9% in the third quarter.

More on Economic Mysteries

Re yesterday's post "Economic Mysteries," the OECD report on which the Economist article is based can be found here (h/t Eloi Laurent). I appreciate Leo's comment that the explanation of Germany's good performance lies in the Kurzarbeit program, but, as the report makes clear, other countries are also subsidizing job retention with shortened working hours and assorted training programs. And there remains the equally interesting mystery of why British and French unemployment have increased by roughly the same amount in the crisis, even though the negative shock to UK GDP was about twice as large as the shock to French GDP.

"The language of Europe is translation."

The quote, from Umberto Eco, appears in Leyla Dakhli's very interesting review of François Ost's Traduire: Défense et illustration du multilinguisme."