Tag Archive: Sarkozy


So here it is-the day before the most important day of Europe’s 2012 calendar (and possibly the most important of the next 5 or so years). Forget the Euros and the Olympics folks, tomorrow is what really matters. I am of course talking about the French Presidential run off.

I conceived of writing this blog post as an open letter to any passing Frenchman (or woman 😀 ) who may come upon it between now and the time polls close tomorrow. And the message of the letter is this-if you haven’t already made up your mind, please for the sake of Europe and France-vote Hollande.

The usual health warnings apply. I am neither French nor living in France. I am keenly aware that I know nothing of the internal French situation nor do I pretend to. As an outsider however, all I can see is the big picture and the long game and they make for startling viewing. Since the economic crisis hit, Europe has lurched to the right. The majority of EU leaders come from right wing parties and the dominant grouping in the EU parliament is the EPP-also right wing. Most EU Commissioners are also right wing. How has it come to this? There are many reasons. In times of crisis voters often go right due to a combination of perceived competence and the fact that right wing parties are usually shamelessly populist. Unfortunately, European citizens have not until now clocked on to the fact that the answer to a crisis borne of neo-liberal economics cannot be more rabid neo-liberal economics.

These times are now changing. The public is beginning to see through the wafer thin lies and incompetence of the neo-liberal mantra. Not just in Greece, where elections should bring in left wing alternatives but in Italy too, the unelected junta of Mario Monti is soon facing the chop (http://blogs.euobserver.com/irvin/2012/04/28/can-holande-walk-the-walk/). As an aside, the above blog (in several different posts) explains why austerity measures undertaken by most EU governments are unsound economics and self-defeating-so you can all assure yourselves my criticism is well founded. Having researched the crisis thoroughly as part of my dissertation it appears that there are hardly any experts who advocate the full on austerity peddled by the likes of Merkozy-even the IMF under Christine Lagarde (hardly an emminent left winger) has spoken out against it.

The left’s fightback is gathering momentum. Yesterday’s UK local elections saw Labour crush the Coalition parties, making gains of over 820 councillors. This indicates that even in a traditionally conservative country such as the UK people have just about had enough. Cameron and Osbourne’s brand of arrogant Thatcherism has landed the UK back in recession-proof as if more proof were needed that full on austerity simply doesn’t work. So if the UK public has seen through Tory incompetence of deceptions how can the French, who are the parents of enlightened European Progressive political thought continue to buy into the Sarkozy doctrine?

Let me explain why I place so much importance on the French vote. Regardless of the fact that Germany is currently economically stronger, France is the first nation in Europe. France has been around longer than any nation in Europe currently present (Greece was not “Greece” for the majority of it’s history and the same goes for Italy). Then there is France’s cultural pre-eminence in Europe. I would contend that Paris is ultimately the most influential capital in Europe-more than Berlin, certainly more than London and Rome. And then there is a fact that the two most senior advocates of Europe’s austerity drive are Sarkozy and Merkel. The opportunity presented is obvious.

If Sarkozy falls, one of the sturdiest right wing bastions will have been breached. Merkel is very unpopular in Germany and a win for Hollande may give the German opposition the good example to oust her at the next elections. Suddenly, if Hollande wins and sticks to his convictions the tide of neo-liberalism may begin  to be reversed-first France, then Italy, then Germany (potentially the UK in 2015) may eliminate their right wing governments. But a loss for Hollande may nip this in the bud. That is why it’s vital for the French to vote Hollande tomorrow. It is for France, yes but also for Europe. The French people need to lead their peers into a more progressive tomorrow, just like they did before during their Revolution. Then too, the entrenched orthodoxy of Europe was a conservative monarchism, a status quo which put the interests of a small group above those of the people. Again, it has come to this in Europe only it’s not monarchies but banks and their lobby, aided by politicians. Again, it is time for the French as then, to deliver a resounding slap in the face of those who would forget themselves.

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This post will (or might) sound like a giant truism, however maybe if enough people point out one of the EU’s main problems…someone will one day listen?

In terms of cumulative economic power, the EU is technically ahead of the US. It is the world’s biggest market, everyone’s favourite trading partner, the biggest donator of aid and has the most votes in most Intergovernmental organisations such as the WTO and UN security council since it is represented individually by its member states. And yet, all this potential does not translate into the EU dictating policy on the world stage or into it being a veritable superpower. Much though EU leaders may deny that they desire this, it is very naive to believe them or indeed to believe that this is not what is necessary. Divided European Nations can no longer call the shots on the world stage. Together, its a whole different ball game.

The biggest obstacle to the EU moving forward in this sense is that it has taken the shape of a bureaucratic Hydra with each head saying a different thing at different times and no communication in between. Post Lisbon, we have the absurd situation of the EU’s “voice” being represented by the President of the Council, President of the Commission, the High representative (or at least it would be, were Ashton doing her job) and vociferous Member State leaders (eg Sarkozy). Lets not forget that Parliament has a President too and he likes to pitch in here and there.

Clearly, Euro-skeptics abhor the notion of the EU acting as one, so they can look away now. If the EU is to be taken seriously, it needs a singular and coherent response to serious world events. This can be achieved by taking several much needed steps:

1. Firstly, there needs to be only one person with the title of “President” of the EU. While I have nothing against Van Rompuy, his position is entirely unnecessary. His functions should be given over to the President of the Commission who could quite reasonably be expected to chair Council meetings successfully. If we ever get to the position of having the Commission President be directly elected then that would lend some more democratic legitimacy to the whole system.

2. Following from point 1, the President and High Representative need to work out a way not to step on each other’s toes by following the example of how this is done at state level-the Foreign Minister (read High Rep) can respond first to ensure a timely intervention but the main, consolidated position will be laid out by the President. That way it will be clear who one should “dial when calling Europe”.

3. Individual Member State leaders should stop trying to make their policy sound like the official EU position. This has mostly been a problem since Sarkozy appeared on the scene and hopefully the problem will vanish if he is (hopefully) booted out of office in France.

If steps are taken in these directions, one can only hope that we will avoid a repeat of the EU’s shambolic response to the Middle East revolutions.

The more troublesome side effect of this Super-National level split personality disorder that the Union is suffering from is that not only do the EU’s different leaders present and disorganized front, but they are all pushing in different directions internally.  The Council President is the most neutral and so possibly the least damaging influence-though through doing nothing wrong he’s arguably causing greater harm as he should be using his position to reign in the excesses of clowns like Sarkozy who are exclusively interested in posturing in order to get re-elected.  It is of crucial importance for all of Europe that these issues are sorted out as soon as possible.