Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quake, Sarko!

Now Sarkozy really has something to worry about: a Brigitte Bardot presidential candidacy. What's her position on expelling Roma? (h/t PVF)

European Foreign Policy

There is now something called the European External Action Service, sort of a foreign service of the European Union. Does it matter? Maybe:

Justin Vaïsse, a Brookings Institution expert and French national, has allowed that American diplomats are “more likely to feel the change [brought by the EEAS] when they are sent abroad,” especially outside the European sphere. He also observes that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has shown consistent favor toward the EEAS, which could smooth its first dealings with the United States. 

But Vaïsse hastens to note that the effectiveness of the new service hinges not on its own capacity, but the respect it is given by foreign governments. Nowhere is this truer than in Washington.

Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, recently came to Harvard and made the same point: relations with Hillary Clinton are good. But I wonder if underscoring good relations with America's Secretary of State isn't a way of sidestepping questions about lack of interest in other quarters of the US government (president, NSC, Dept. of Defense). In any case, a comment to the blog post linked to above draws attention to the persistence of an old problem. The commenter writes:

Thanks for publicising this and bringing greater attention to the issue. Just one issue, the EEAS is not a branch of the Commission. It will be independent and separate from (and yet somewhat answerable to) the Commission and Council (which represents Member States). THe official legal status is as a "sui generis" institution with its own section in the EU budget. You can see more informaiton here: http://euobserver.com/9/28878

 Just listen to that phraseology: "independent and separate from (and yet somewhat answerable to)." Oy, oy, oy. The art of government is difficult enough without making a theological mystery of it. Discussing the EU is like discussing the Trinity. There are emanations and separations and consubstantiations enough to keep the learned commentators busy for all time. What is needed is somebody to give all these ectoplasms a little backbone.

By the way, when Ashton lectured at Harvard, I didn't attend. Perhaps my agenda priorities mirror those of the US government, toutes proportions gardées.

Europe v. France

The score is 1-1. The Cour de Cassation has ruled that French garde à vue rules allowing detainees to be questioned without a lawyer present are contrary to European law, but Brussels meanwhile has decided to accept French assurances that the expulsions of Roma will henceforth conform to European law and will not pursue France further.


The Revolution begat Napoleon, 1848 begat Napoleon le Petit. First time tragedy, second time farce, said Karl Marx. Then May '68--a psychodrama rather than a revolution, according to Raymond Aron--drove de Gaulle to a refuge in Germany for a brief moment before restoring him to power and even glory when sobriety set in. And now we have the great bras de fer of 2010, pitting Napoleon le Minuscule against le Peuple.

The film seems to have been sped up a bit, even compared with the mini-événements of 1995 (which dragged on for about 3 weeks) and 2005 (which lasted a little over 2). The bonhomie of the initial moments begins to give way to exasperation as trains don't run and gas runs short. The adrenaline rush of mixing it up with the cops brings some youths into the street but causes (some of) their elders to stay home and fret about where all this is leading. Some who enjoyed thumbing their nose at the arrogance of power for the first few days begin to ask whether this is any way to run a country. Small groups of workers (how many people do the oil refineries employ?) are electrified by their discovery of their power to bring the system to a halt and begin to wonder if their union leaders haven't been too timid all these years. Opposition politicians ask whether this is a wave they can ride or one that will eventually crush them or sweep them away.

Even normally sober commentators allow the excess of the moment to creep into their language: this is a reform that nobody wants, say some, while others begin to see parallels with the tragedies and farces of bygone times. The tendency, bred in the bone of all children of the Revolution, to confuse la rue with le Peuple waxes briefly. Perhaps the Senate vote tomorrow will be salt in this newly opened wound in the body politic, or perhaps it will be a signal that the current sequence has reached its climax. I expect the latter but would not be utterly surprised by the former. In any case, in the aftermath we can expect two narratives to emerge: one in which Sarkozy tries to rebuild his image by portraying himself as the first leader of the Right in recent memory to stand up to la foule and press ahead with needed reform, and another in which the opposition paints the president as an autocrat who stops his ears against the cries of an oppressed People. Ainsi va la France. Tragedy, farce, psychodrama, reality TV. It's depressing, really.

Another Priceless Parapraxis

After Rachida Dati's famous slip of the tongue concerning "le taux de fellation," now we have Brice Hortefeux remarking on "les empreintes génitales." (h/t TexExile) A randy lot at the UMP, eh?

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