Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pas de Deux Miliband-Sarkozy

David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, has proposed beefing up Europe's conventional defense forces and suggested the possibility of bringing North Africa and the Middle East into the EU single market by 2030. The first proposal is in some respects a response to Sarkozy's hints that France is ready to contemplate a role in a joint European military structure. The second would seem to be a counter or challenge to Sarkozy's idea of a Mediterranean Union separate from the EU. It will be interesting to see the French response.

The Extreme Right No Longer Exists

Well, the news isn't quite as good as the headline might make it appear, but the group "Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty" in the European Parliament ceased to exist when 5 Romanian members resigned, reducing the membership below the level of 20 required to maintain a designated parliamentary group. Bruno Gollnisch of the French Front National had been the group's leader.

Police Action at Nanterre

Video of yesterday's clearing of demonstrators at Nanterre by riot police:

Strike Participation Down at SNCF

Only 61.5 percent of SNCF employees are striking today, compared with 73.5 percent in October.

Last Ditch Ain't What It Used to Be

They shall not pass ... er, make that, They shall not pass without slowing down just a bit.

François Hollande said today that "they should end the strike tonight." If it continues, "users will have their lives disrupted. So I hope, and now I'm even demanding, that they start this morning on a round of negotiations firm-by-firm," as the CGT has insisted.

So much for the last-ditch stand. Anne-Marie Idrac, the head of the SNCF, says she wants firm-level negotiations. The CGT says it wants firm-level negotiations. The government says it wants firm-level negotiations. François Hollande "demands" firm-level negotiations. Faces have been saved. Now the concerned parties can get on with dotting the i's, which was probably completed weeks ago, long before the curtain went up on this street theater à l'ancienne. As Laurence Parisot said with inimitable tactlessness, "I can't stop thinking about all the people who love France and who are looking at us today and saying, 'What is it with all this outdated rigamarole (ringardisme)?'" Ma chère Laurence, one is allowed to think such thoughts but not to say them out loud. You need a counselor in public relations. Why not hire one from the Élysée, where they know how these things are done? Claude Guéant flattered Bernard Thibault by crediting him with "taking a step to resolve the crisis on the first day of conflict." When the enemy is about to surrender, the time is ripe to tell him how valiantly he fought.

Prediction: by Monday it will all be over, and we will know how much the government paid in concessions in order to rack up a victory on the principle, whatever the principle turns out to be. Because in the end it will all seem a little muddy: yes, everyone should work more, and the rules should be the same for all, except when they can't be, or aren't, or it isn't worth fighting over ...