Monday, January 14, 2008

Lisbon Treaty Scorecard

In case you need a scorecard to keep track of which Socialists are doing what in regard to the Lisbon Treaty.

Law and Order Newspeak

The plain-talking presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy seems suddenly to have been afflicted with a peculiar sort of aphasia. We have the fixed-duration contract that is in fact of variable duration (see previous post), and we also have the unités territoriales de quartier that are not--absolutely not--the police de proximité that then-interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy dismantled 6 years ago to great fanfare. To be sure, the police de proximité suffered from the immense drawback of having been introduced by the left, whereas the unités territoriales de quartier are a centerpiece of the new security policy of Michèle Alliot-Marie and therefore securely of the right. In addition, we are told that the new neighborhood police won't be playing rugby and soccer with the members of youth gangs; instead they'll be enforcing the law. There will be no "ambiguity" in their role.

Je ferai ce que j'ai dit, et j'ai dit ce que je ferai, Nicolas Sarkozy likes to say. But when it's a question of undoing what he did, he won't say, and rather leaves the announcement--une fois n'est pas coutume--to his minister, who had to invent a new bottle into which to pour old wine, or at any rate a new word for an old thing.

Labor Market Newspeak

I said the other day that the labor market talks had ended without an agreement, but I was premature. FO and CFTC announced today that they would sign the pact that was outlined last week. The CFE-CGC will announce its decision tomorrow and the CFDT on Thursday. François Chérèque described the terms as "balanced and modest," so it sounds as if his union will sign. The CGT has already said it will not. To muddy the waters further, there will not be a single labor contract but a "CDD à terme incertain." Since CDD stands for contrat à durée déterminée, or fixed-duration contract, this seems to be a bit of an oxymoron. It would seem to enshrine the idea of a dual labor market. Low-status workers will be covered by the new CDD, which will allow them to be kept on indefinitely with limited protection in case of layoff. The new CDI, conversely, will be of "indefinite duration" but subject to "friendly termination" at any time.

Is that clear? Pity the poor French language. Fixed-duration contracts that can be extended forever, and indefinite-duration contracts that can be ended at any time--I think George Orwell might have raised an eyebrow or two.

CORRECTION: Reader Charles (see comments) points out that the new CDD is intended for middle managers and engineers to work on specific projects. I shouldn't have assumed that it was meant for "low-status" workers. I will try to learn more about this new contract, which is described here. In any case, it seems that the new CDD cannot be extended beyond 36 months, contrary to my statement above.

Le Style Sarko Debated

A debate on the new style of the Sarkozy presidency can be viewed here. A bearded Pierre Moscovici engages in several testy passe d'armes with presidential speechwriter Henri Guaino, while Christine Ockrent looks on with uncharacteristic helplessness. Historical clips attempt to relativize Sarko's innovations: we see de Gaulle bantering with the press, Pompidou quoting Éluard, and Giscard showering after a soccer match. Nicolas Sarkozy is not the first president the French have seen in shorts or bathed in sweat.

Cities, not Cités

Housing minister Christine Boutin denies that she has a problem with her subordinate Fadela Amara, but she seems to have gone out of her way to create one. Boutin complains that Amara simply wants to pour more resources into troubled banlieues, which she claims have already received a good deal of the state's largesse. For her the problem is one of integration of suburbs in turmoil into larger urban systems. Yet if she has a plan, it takes the form of empty bromides: "We have to change the relationship between the police and young people and re-establish it on a basis of mutual respect." It's easy to imagine how that homily would be received in police stations and on streetcorners.