Sunday, June 8, 2008

Power Couple

Le Monde has a decidedly downbeat piece on the Sarkozy-Merkel relationship. The sourcing of this article is pretty sketchy, so it's difficult to know how the chilliness of Franco-German relations has been measured. At the end, though, we're told that Sarko's wish to name a "strong personality of the left" such as Tony Blair as president of the European Council was a continuation of Chirac's wish to strengthen the council, which Merkel opposes. She allegedly wants a "less flamboyant" personality to head the EC, preferably a member of the European People's Party, the transnational party of the right that she believes can become the nucleus of a majority in the European Parliament that will be aligned with her interests. Which are not necessarily the same as Germany's interests: see the remark on the exclusion of Steinmeier (a potential Merkel rival for chancellor) from the meeting with Sarko (who similarly left out Kouchner and Jouyet, presumably for different reasons).


It's no wonder the unions are upset about the Right's mixed signals concerning the 35-hour week. Devedjian wants to get rid of it. Copé tentatively backed him after he was rebuked by Xavier Bertrand, backed by Sarkozy. Fillon, who has said on various occasions that the ultimate goal is to eliminate the 35-hour week, now seems to be backing a proposal to introduce "flexibility" on the work week by allowing overtime bonus pay to be negotiated firm-by-firm. Instead of the 25 percent bonus for all overtime sanctioned by the TEPA, bonuses could range from 10 to 25 percent under the new proposal. There is lack of clarity about the real goal of all this maneuvering. Is it part of a "flexicurity" plan? Is it intended to reduce labor costs? Is its ultimate intention to change the legal work week, despite Sarkozy's denials? It's hard to build trust without a clear statement of purpose, and the divisions within the majority, whether real or feigned, do not help matters.

Further evidence of confusion on the issue.