Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Copé Takes It on the Chin

Last night marked the end of advertising on French public TV networks. The question of how to finance these stations is now real. Jean-François Copé promised not long ago that there would be no increase of the broadcast tax during his lifetime. His colleagues in the UMP evidently don't wish him well: they voted to increase the tax.

The End Is Nigh

Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, who is said in passing to have "arrived at the Parti Socialiste with Das Kapital in one hand and a crowbar in the other," has written a book, Le Génie du Socialisme. The reviewer feels the need to remind us in a footnote that the title is "probably" borrowed from Chateaubriand's Le Génie du Christianisme. If la culture générale has withered to the point where readers need to be reminded of the title of Chateaubriand's opus, it is probably worth reminding these same readers that the work heralded the death, agonizing and slow to be sure yet ultimately irrevocable, of Christianity in France. To claim that Cambadélis' work will do the same for socialism is not only premature but no doubt gives Camba too much stature by treating his calque of Chateaubriand's title as something more than a joke. Still, ça donne à penser ....

Sarko Storms the Holy Land

Nicolas Sarkozy was all over the Middle East yesterday, "occupying the terrain," according to L'Express (a role that a more realistic analyst might have thought reserved for the Israeli Defense Force) and speaking truth to anyone who would listen. It was as though he were still president of the European Union, much to the annoyance of Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, who said that "when everyone conducts his own mission, it weakens the strategic position [of Europe]."

Judah Grunstein offers a robust defense of Sarkozy's zeal for the role of mediator here.

Reform by Definite Article

A major reform of the French system of justice is in the works: le juge d'instruction will be replaced by le juge de l'instruction. Beyond that, Le Monde, in its wisdom, chooses to tell us nothing about the proposed reform except that "Sarkozy envisage de supprimer le juge d'instruction pour confier l'ensemble des enquêtes judiciaires au parquet, sous le contrôle d'un magistrat du siège, appelé juge de l'instruction." I, for one, am not enlightened. I hope that Maître Eolas will see fit to explain the change with his usual acumen. In the meantime, I note that this reform is uncharacteristically discreet for Sarko: instead of the usual esbroufe, we have reform by definite article.

Slightly more information here. Still more here (am I the only one who thinks that Rue89 may well be the best "newspaper" in France, even though it exists only on the Web?).

Lamy Will Stay at WTO

Pascal Lamy will stay on as head of the World Trade Organization, according to the Financial Times. Two explanations are offered:

“Lamy is the best head that the WTO has had in terms of understanding the detail of the negotiations and recognising the disparate views of all parties concerned,” said Ngaire Woods, professor of international political economy at Oxford University.

“But the fact that no one is standing against him is a depressing sign. If countries thought that the organisation really mattered, someone else would stand.”

Sarkozy won't be happy. Although Lamy isn't quite as much of a bête noire of the French president as former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, he's not Sarko's favorite international bureaucrat. Yet it seems as though agricultural trade policy, which was to have been a focal point of the French EU presidency, somehow fell through the cracks, what with the flareup in Georgia and the collapse of the global economy. Haggling over imports of wheat and frozen fish got lost in the shuffle. So the latent tensions with Lamy never came to a boil.