Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Jouyet Named Secretary General of the Elysée

Sarkozy's Mr. Europe is now François Hollande's right-hand man. He is an old friend of Hollande's, who previously served in such delicate roles as telling Valérie Trierweiler that she was history. Most recently he headed the Caisse des Dépôts. He is an "old Europe hand," having worked with Jacques Delors and Lionel Jospin before Sarkozy. The move is seen as a step toward centralizing control of relations with the EU in the Elysée, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Already, however, the Jouyet nomination is drawing fire, not least for lending credence to Marine Le Pen's charge that the "UMPS" is actually a conspiracy of center-right and center-left to surrender France to neoliberal Europe. As absurd as the charge is, it will nevertheless be exploited by the FN. A more serious criticism, as always with Hollande, is that one has no idea what stance toward Europe he wants Jouyet to take. What is needed right now, in my view, is the toughness to insist that budget deficits in excess of Maastricht limits must be tolerated for some years to come. Even if Brussels cannot be persuaded, the fight needs to be made vigorously and public for domestic political reasons. And depending on how things evolve, France may need to accept the consequences of defying the Commission's edict. If Jouyet has been brought in simply to smooth things over and continue bumbling along, the result will not be pretty.

1 comment:

Mitch Guthman said...


I don’t think MLP is implying that there is a SPECTRE-like organization that has meetings with Tony Blair at the head of the table, feeding goldfish to his Persian cat as he listens to François Hollande reporting on how the conspiracy to deliver a helpless France into the clutches of Davos Man and his faceless eurocrat minions is going. Nevertheless, it does seem to be true that neoliberalism’s iron grip on the most of the European political class is growing stronger even as an increasing percentage of Europeans themselves rebel against it. I believe that this alienation of the political class from the people is giving rise to the dangerous populist movements about which Arun has an excellent post on which site.

At the same time, it’s worth thinking about two other themes we’ve been discussing here. If one is thinking about how to rebuild the PS, why not look at the reasons why the base of the party stayed home? They didn’t stay home or defect to other parties because they were ecstatic with the way that Hollande maintained consistency with Sarkozy’s approach to the economy and to Europe. The PS voters stayed home because they think Hollande is steering France on to the rocks. Which leads me to suggest that rebuilding the party might profitably begin with better aligning the Hollande government’s policies with the desires of its left/center-left base.

This brings up the other theme, namely, “whether the problem is not with the structure of the political system itself: a president with too much nominal power but not enough real power owing to France’s insertion in a supranational organization, the EU”. I think you’ve formulated the problem perfectly. It seems to me that the answer is whether the president is simply a provincial governor running an administrative subdivision of the European Union or whether he has obligations to do what is best for France. This isn’t an entirely rhetorical question because, as with nearly everything to do with the EU, the question of what kind of creature the EU is hasn’t been well thought out.

Obviously, if the president of France is basically a functionary of the EU, then it is probably quite true to say that the conflict between the president’s grandiose but entirely useless powers might create unreasonable expectations. But, if the president of France would feel the need to oppose certain requirements or policies of the EU or the Troika, then surely the 5th republic is constructed perfectly to maximize the president’s ability to do exactly the things you’ve suggested in this post—particularly at a moment of great peril for France. The dissonance arises only when a president refuses to use those powers to deal with an external power such as the EU in the way in which the French people hope and expect. In other words, the dissonance comes from not the expectation that the new president can accomplish everything when in fact he is so constrained by the EU that he unquestionably cannot but rather from the expectation that the incoming president will use his powers to implement the things he campaigned on—« le changement c’est maintenant ». Indeed, he might want to use his powers right now to promote France’s interest against the EU’s wishes so that he can pursue exactly the policies you suggest in your post.

Let me suggest that the problem lies more with the way in which the corruption of Blairism and the neoliberal orthodoxy have reshaped the political class of France into a New Versailles populated by a debauched gang of chancers, grifters and ineffectual clowns.