Sunday, March 11, 2012

From Saving the Euro to Sinking Europe

In the early stages of the presidential campaign, it looked as though Sarkozy's theme was going to be "I saved the euro." Merkel appeared at his side and gave him her nihil obstat. Here was a genuine European, a statesman, above the sturm und drang of party politics and prepared to make the decisions that only a "tough" and "seasoned" leader could make. The contrast with Hollande, "le mou," was supposed to be stark and to need no explanation.

The only problem is that it didn't work. Sarkozy had saved the euro, but in doing so he had associated himself ever more closely with the European Union, which is less popular now in France than it was in 2005, when the treaty referendum was defeated. And he had thrown in his lot with Germany, whose contempt for "lazy southerners" may have been directed first at Greece but also resounded in the ears of the French who had been exhorted to "travailler plus pour gagner plus" yet find themselves worse off than they were before.

So the president and his men have evidently decided to change tack. At Villepinte today, he called for "protection" if not protectionism. He threatened to renege on the Schengen agreement while announcing that Europe should cease to "threaten" French workers and instead become their "protector." The result is total and complete incoherence. Having accepted a nonsensical "golden rule" for the sake of European unity, having extolled Europe as the sole means to secure France's future both economically and militarily, he now retreats behind the walls of "conservatism in one nation" already erected by Marine Le Pen. Sarkozy's Europeanism had been one of his better traits, but now he's shed his skin like a snake and donned another, at least for the length of the campaign.

The danger, of course, is that this sham anti-Europeanism will prove more effective than the real thing, dispiriting Europe's true supporters while inviting nothing but mockery from Europe's enemies. It was pleasant to think that even if the euro failed, Europe would survive, but anti-European sentiment is chipping away at the foundations of the faith in the core countries. More and more Germans see Europe as an invalid whose care will be their burden to bear for decades to come, while more and more French see it as camouflage behind which the Germans are coming yet again. The climate deteriorates by the day, and Sarkozy, who in 2007 had seemed to model himself on Bush, now seems to have become as chameleon-like as Romney. Quelle mascarade!


bernard said...

This is, I think, the final gamble of the Sarkozy campaign: they hope that Le Pen will not get her 500 signatures to run.

They are therefore shifting his campaign to the extreme right with the ridiculous hallal affair,racist comments, nationalistic declarations, in short everything a sinking scoundrel will attempt. Their hope is to get for themselves the electors the fascist candidate would have had in the first round.

I remain amused by the seriousness with which almost everyone treated this scoundrel. As if a man who did the Grenoble speech could be anything but profoundly unprincipled. Having met him many years ago when he thought perhaps he could recruit me, I remain fortunate to have judged him correctly at that time, and to have remained principled.

As for the 500 signatures, we will see this week, and will therefore be able to tell if the scoundrel's campaign is over.

Anonymous said...

Marine Le Pen announced she only needs 15 more sponsors. That's 3 sponsors a day. I think that's it, for Sarkozy. Where will his votes go, though? Le Pen? Villepin? Bayrou?

A hint from Europe1 (a station that's usually favorable to Sarkozy): Their 10 o'clock topic was "for a politician, is it better to be supported by passé artists or by none at all?" Exhibit 1: Sarkozy's meeting yesterday, where Depardieu spoke.


Anonymous said...

excellent analysis

Robert said...

To build on Bernard's comments: A Socialist Party official said a couple of weeks ago that Sarko is running a one-new-idea-a-day campaign. That's simplifying things a bit, since commentators said Sunday the President had spoken of renegotiating Schengen back in 2008.

Still, watching this campaign or at least media reporting of the same, you do get the sense Sarko is using a whopper-of-the-day strategy so he can win the daily news cycle at all costs. Of course, that raises questions about self-contradictions, as pointed out by others.

Also, what about focus and follow-through? Will we still be talking about Schengen a week from now? Or will this latest proposal end up sadly forgotten, just like his offer of a share of proportional vote in parliamentary elections?