Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Laurent on Nuclear

Éloi Laurent in L'Express:


En France, le PS réagit sur le nucléaire davantage comme l'UMP que comme les Verts. L'alliance entre le social et l'écologie ne s'arrête-t-elle pas dès qu'est abordée cette question cruciale, rendant dès lors illusoire l'idée d'un nouveau programme commun entre Verts et socialistes?
Je crois que tous seront d'accord pour un débat démocratique surle nucléaire, désormais inévitable. Mais il faut en préciser la teneur. A mon sens, il faudrait au moins poser deux questions, dans des forums publics réunissant experts et citoyens: les risques pour la santé et les scénarios énergétiques, en particulier le coût économique d'une éventuelle sortie du nucléaire. Il faudra ensuite faire de douloureux arbitrages et prévoir notamment des compensations financières pour les plus modestes. Il y a largement de quoi "changer la vie"! 

Sur le fond

Henri Weber gives a substantive response to the FN's economic program:

Après neuf années de gouvernement de droite, la France souffre d'un déficit annuel de sa balance commerciale de 53 milliards d'euros, et d'une dette publique de 1 500 milliards, détenue à 69 % par l'épargne étrangère. Fin 2012, elle sera de 2 000 milliards d'euros, soit 90 % de notre produit intérieur brut (PIB). Cette dette est libellée en euros, nos échanges commerciaux s'effectuent en euros et en dollars. Une dévaluation de 25 % de notre monnaie nationale alourdirait d'autant le niveau de notre endettement et celui de notre déficit commercial. Notre taux d'emprunt, aujourd'hui historiquement bas (3,5 %, contre 6 % pour l'Espagne et 12 % pour la Grèce), s'alignerait sur celui des pays qui présentent un risque de défaut de remboursement. Le service de la dette atteindrait un niveau himalayen et contraindrait l'Etat à prélever un emprunt obligatoire.
It's about time, and the PS needs to hit hard on these themes if it wants to make headway in regions where voters have been fleeing to the FN.

"The Dis-Integration of Europe"

By Justin Vaïsse and Jonathan Laurence, here.

Pécresse at Harvard

French minister for higher ed Valérie Pécresse will be at Harvard on April 11. Any questions you'd like me to ask her?

Ivory Coast

With French forces occupied in Libya, they are unlikely to intervene in the Ivory Coast, where another civil war is about to erupt. In humanitarian terms, however, the two situations are quite similar. Not so long ago, France was making overtures to Laurent Gbagbo. Then Ouattara won the election, Gbagbo refused to accept the result, and Sarkozy strongly supported Ouattara. The country divided, a stalemate ensued, and now civil war looms, with the possibility of tremendous carnage. But neither France nor "the international community" seems greatly engaged by the problem. Yet it would be hard to distinguish in either political or humanitarian terms between the desire for democratic reform in the Ivory Coast and the desire in Libya.

At One Another's Throats

The UMP is tearing itself apart:

Cette sortie de leur ancien président de groupe, qui était pourtant apprécié, a fortement déplu chez les parlementaires de l'UMP. "Copé, il pète un câble ; on n'a pas besoin d'un deuxième Sarkozy à l'UMP, il faut qu'il se calme vite", s'agace un élu dans son bureau du Palais-Bourbon. "Plus ça va, plus on est dans l'invective, voire la vulgarité. Les électeurs se détournent", dit-il, citant en exemple la défaite dimanche soir aux cantonales de la très sarkozyste Isabelle Balkany dans le non moins sarkozyste département des Hauts-de-Seine.
This would be a greater pleasure to watch if the Front National were not waiting in the wings.

Sarko to Japan

Nuclear power has often been linked to President Sarkozy's travels. There was a point in his presidency where he seemed to have a reactor to sell at every stop. Then came Fukushima. Sarkozy is now headed for Japan to show "solidarity" with the suffering Japanese. More ominously, experts from Areva and the CEA will also be going to Japan, traveling separately, unlike in the past, when Areva execs often traveled with the president, contracts in hand.

Fukushima puts France in a bind. 80% of its electricity comes from nuclear power. New power plants are scheduled for construction. The partially state-owned firm Areva is a major player in the nuclear power field and is hoping to earn a positive return on its massive investment in a new generation of reactor, the EPR, which has been touted as a "safer" alternative to earlier reactors. But public opposition to nuclear power is strong and growing rapidly, as Sunday's election results in Baden-Württemberg suggest. So Sarkozy has a very tricky role to play.

France is strangely schizoid on the subject of radiation. The country has seen a fairly large movement in opposition to cell-phone towers, accused of being sources of dangerous radiation, yet it has lived for generations with relatively muted opposition to nuclear power. Fukushima, which has revived memories of Chernobyl, may change that.

Obstacles for the PS

Laurent Bouvet warns that the PS faces four obstacles to winning the presidential election, despite its modest success in the cantonals and other recent elections. First, the high abstention rate indicates that although Sarkozy has been rejected, voters still do not adhere to the PS program. Second, Europe Ecology-Greens competes for the same demographic (urban, educated, mid- to upper-status professions) and may, as the Greens in Germany did, attract new voters in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan. Third, the Front de Gauche has made significant progress under Mélenchon, and this could eat into the PS first-round vote (but will not matter if the PS candidate makes it to the second round, because these votes will not go to either Sarkozy or Le Pen). And fourth, if Marine Le Pen survives to the second round, she will claim some of the UMP's voters, who no longer refuse to cross the line to vote for the FN.