Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eurozone Divergence

Wolfgang Munchau fears that the diverging economic philosophies of France and Germany will prove problematic in the future.

Lellouche, Turkey, Israel, and Europe

Political life is complicated. As I've noted before, Pierre Lellouche, whom Sarko has just put in charge of European affairs, strongly favors the admission of Turkey to the EU, which Sarko opposes. Now, Egemen Bagis, Lellouche's Turkish counterpart, expresses his pleasure at the appointment, which he believes may send a signal about a change in France's position regarding Turkey.

It should also be noted that Lellouche is a strong supporter of Israel, and Israel's relations with Turkey have been deteriorating over the past year. Of course Bagis is a Turkish liberal, who may find himself out of step with his home government, just as Lellouche, who has been called a "neoconservative à la française," sometimes finds himself out of step with his government.

In international relations, however, networks of transactional actors sometimes exert influence disproportionate to their strength within their own parties, governing coalitions, or national polities. Lellouche at last has a portfolio that he has coveted for a good long time, and it would be surprising if he didn't try to make a good deal of his opportunity while he has it. And Sarkozy must have had his own good reason for moving Bruno Le Maire out of the European affairs post, which he had occupied for only six months, during which brief tenure he drew generally good reviews, in particular for his efforts to patch up the Franco-German "special relationship," for which task his training as a Germanist no doubt prepared him well. But now he has been shifted to agriculture, and Lellouche, whose priorities and background are utterly different, has been given his chance. It will be interesting to see what he makes of it.

Valls Shocks Teachers' Unions

Manuel Valls, Socialist presidential hopeful, participated in a debate organized by two leaders of the right, Raffarin and Copé, and proposed school reforms that the unions aren't happy about: no additional funding for schools but extra pay for teachers in "difficult" schools, assignment of experienced teachers to underperforming schools, and a complete transformation of teacher training to deal with today's "social realities."