Showing posts with label France. Show all posts
Showing posts with label France. Show all posts

Friday, October 11, 2013

European values victorious?

Over and over we have been told that the purpose of the European project is to consolidate and spread European values which are, for the purposes of this argument, democracy, liberalism, freedom of just about everything (unless the EU says otherwise) and suchlike extremely admirable concepts. Of course, European history shows quite clearly that other values come to the fore quite frequently but those are the ones the European project wants defeated and destroyed. To put it as succinctly as possible, the European project intends to use European values to defeat European history.

How is that project working out? Not so well in Greece, where the twists and turns of the Golden Dawn saga merit a posting all of its own. Not so well in some other countries, according to latest reports.

EurActiv informs us that the far-right Front National is doing rather well in the opinion polls in France.
France's far-right National Front could top European Parliament elections next May, pulling ahead of the two big mainstream parties for the first time in a nationwide vote, a poll showed on Wednesday.

Some 24% of those surveyed by for the Nouvel Observateur magazine said they would back the anti-immigrant party, compared with 22% for the centre-right UMP and 19% for the governing Socialist Party.
The party has acquired a respectable look under the leadership of Marine Le Pen and
knocked out left-wing rivals and pulled far ahead of the UMP in the first round of a local election in southern France this week.

The party's next major political test will be municipal elections in March, in which Le Pen says she wants the party to build up a strong local base by winning control of hundreds of seats in local councils.

A strong showing in that ballot could set the party up for further gains in the European Parliament elections, where Eurosceptic and nationalistic parties often do well.
That, of course, is the problem. The European project expects European values to transcend boundaries and eventually overwhelm the electorate across Europe particularly in elections for the European Parliament (a. k. a. Toy Parliament). This seems not to happen and, as the EUObserver points out, things could get worse next May:
Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, who PVV party advocates withdrawing from both the euro and the EU, remains a major force in the Netherlands.

It has been polling top in the domestic scene in recent weeks amid frustration with the current government's economic policies and amid rising euroscepticism among the Dutch.

Both Wilders and Le Pen have mooted the possibly teaming up to campaign ahead of the elections.

The eurosceptic, anti-immigration UK Independence Party, came third in local elections in May.

It is currently polling at 11 percent, ahead of the junior governing party, the Liberal Democrats, but is tipped to exceed the 16 percent it claimed in 2009, while party leader Nigel Farage has himself predicted an "earthquake" next year.

The National Front poll is set to heighten fears - already alive in Brussels - that the elections to the European Parliament will result in large gains for extremist parties.
Let us accept that some parties that oppose the cosy political consensus that is the European project will do well in the European elections in May and might do well in various local elections. (In fact, have done relatively well in the case of UKIP.)

Before we start worrying about extremism, though, would it not be a good idea to define it? Is it extremism to point out that the euro was a monumentally stupid idea that has not done any good to anyone and is doing active harm to many? So extreme as to be off the accepted political scale?

Is it unspeakably extreme to oppose the European Union, which is, by its own admission an undemocratic body, ever less popular with the people and whose accounts have never been signed off by its own Court of Auditors?

Is it extreme to say as does Geert Wilders that there should be a moratorium on the immigration of people who not only do not share but actively oppose and try to destroy the accepted liberal (and supposedly European) values of the Netherlands?

Do those much-vaunted European values not include opposition to the current establishment?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Is this why we are in Mali?

I spent a good part of yesterday at a conference on what can be done about Iran and, as ever, some of the more interesting discussions happened during lunch or coffee breaks. A conversation with a leading analyst of the international scene turned to Mali and our ridiculous involvement. He summed the situation up rather well:

"It seems that the policy is to become involved in a third country only if we have absolutely no economic or defence interest in doing so. Anything else appears dirty to this government."

This, I presume, is what they mean by ethical foreign policy: never look to your own interests. Of course, first we might have to sort out what those interests are and that would involve strategic thinking and some notion of what our foreign policy is or ought to be.

France, one may add, does not share that attitude, no matter how much they harrump about American imperialism. Any French government over the years would consider that former French colonies (even if they were that for a short period only) remain in the French sphere of interest and, therefore, French bombs (well, American bombs all too often) can fall on them and French troops of various description can invade them. It might be for reasons of human rights or to salvage priceless manuscripts in Timbuktu or it may be simply because the situation is messy enough for people to ignore French involvement as is the case in Côte d’Ivoire.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Here is a developed country with a long history of imperial expansion and subsequent intervention in other countries, particularly if they are politically and militarily weaker using the excuse of some terrorist organization to go into a poorer country that might conceivably useful from the point of view of oil production. No UN vote to authorize them. No proof presented that the terrorist organization offers a direct threat to the developed country. No care taken about the possible spread of hostilities and destabilization of other countries, which promptly hapens. This is known as old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy. Surely we have moved beyond it? The EU, for example, does not believe in such actions but prefers soft power and negotiations. The EU is about to raise the issue in the UN and through various media outlets with France as the lead protester.

Uh, hang on. This is France we are talking about and the EU is fully supportive of its action in Mali with the UK and the USA providing logistical support and Germany mulling over similar actions. Well, well. And the media are apparently very happy with it, though clearly the military action is going to be longer and harder with greater costs than envisaged and equally clearly the destabilization and terrorist actions promised over Iraq are actually happening over Mali.

Now what?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Last few comments

I promise not to write about the American elections throughout Tuesday. No point, really, Over here we shall have no results before Wednesday, in any case, and if predictions are correct, we might carry on chewing our fingernails till well into Thursday or, God forbid, even after.

However, let me leave you with a few thoughts about the way news have been handled on this side of the Pond, which includes Britain and Europe. Der Spiegel is tying itself into knots, which is very pleasant to watch. No matter who wins, America will lose, they cry, as it has been destroyed by "total capitalism". One could say that even in its bleak hours, America is doing better than Europe that does not have "total capitalism" but I suspect Der Spiegel knows that.

American power had declined, they add in another article though why it should have done so under the great and wonderful President Obama is hard to tell. But, never fear, their coverage is even-handed. Why they even have an article about what Romney's foreign policy might be. Of course, it is really an interview with President Clinton's less than successful Secretary of State, Madeleine Allbright, but one can't have everything. Specifically, one can't have an interview with Condi Rice about Obama's existing foreign policy.

Interestingly enough, my friend Michel Gurfinkiel writes about exactly that, though with reference to the French media.
“Yesterday, we followed Barack Obama’s campaign,” a young woman [on RTL, one of France's main radio channels] said. “Today we turn to Mitt Romney’s campaign.” All right. Except that “following Romney’s campaign” amounted, incredibly, to an interview with a certain Dr. Gordon, who explained that most Americans were grateful to President Obama for having introduced Obamacare. Especially those women who otherwise would have been deprived of any access to birth control. Some journalist at RTL then explained that Romney would abolish Obamacare. And the report was over.
They don't even notice, he adds and neither does the public. (I may say the same thing about the British media and the British public who are astonished that anyone could be so mad, insane and evil as to support a challenger to Obama.) Gurfinkiel gives an interesting and accurate analysis for this ridiculous adoration of a highly incompetent incumbent:
Sympathy for Obama is rooted in the deepest layers of the French collective psyche, right and left. He is supposed to stand for a tame, less dominant, less assertive America; and France, like many other former great powers — from Russia to China, from the Hispanic realms to the Islamic Umma — is driven by resentment against Anglo-Saxon dominance at large, and American great power in particular. That was, after all, Charles de Gaulle’s core political legacy (much more than the need to tame Germany) and the not-so-secret rationale for his Faustian alliance with both communism (Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese) and Islam. In the 1960s, when de Gaulle actually presided over France, a sizable part of the French opinion understood that a powerful America had in fact helped France to be reborn, to remain free in the face of communism, and even to become a great power again (just like Germany or Japan). That current never materialized into a sustaining political force, however, and it gradually ebbed away.
He then explains what exactly motivates this French psyche, how journalists abide by it and why it has become so all-encompassing. Read the whole piece.

Finally, we come to our own BBC. Well, OK, not all our media is quite as bad as the BBC but this one really takes the biscuit. In all solemnity they published an article by the old-style Marxist Martin Jacques, erstwhile editor of Marxism Today and at present "a visiting senior research fellow at the London School of Economics, IDEAS, a centre for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and grand strategy. He is also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and a fellow of the Transatlantic Academy, Washington DC". Oddly enough, the BBC does not see fit to mention this, especially not the position in Beijing.

His "point of view" is that China is more democratic than America but it is framed as a question, which is described even by John Rentoul (not someone on the right of the political spectrum) as being the best QTWTAIN he has come across for a long time.

It would appear that Mr Jacques has been giving a whole series of talks published on the BBC websites in which he has proved to his own and his masters' satisfaction that the Chinese government enjoys greater legitimacy than any Western elected one and there is greater satisfaction with its performance as described by people who are not allowed to criticize the party. (The last phrase is my own.)

I would expect nothing else from and old-time Marxist propagandist. Sadly, I probably expect nothing else from the BBC either.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Let's finish off what the French Revolution started

That seems to be President Hollande's motto and not in a good way either. He seems to be so determined to introduce égalité that, as so often the case, liberté and even fraternité are left out of his calculations. Perhaps that is because égalité is the easiest of the three to control from the centre and to impose by force.

Thanks to Instapundit we get the story of the latest proposal for educational reform in France where schooling has been on a very high standard until now, despite much of it being run by the state. There is a link to an article on the subject in the Wall Street Journal: "France to Ban Homework. Really".
François Hollande has a bold new plan to tackle social injustice and inequality in France: ban homework. Introducing his proposals for education reform last week at the Sorbonne, the French president declared that work "must be done in the [school] facility rather than in the home if we want to support the children and re-establish equality."
Banning out-of-school assignments would put France on the cutting edge of pedagogical fashion, though it wouldn't be entirely unprecedented. An elementary school in Maryland recently replaced homework with a standing order for 30 minutes a day of after-school reading. A German high school is also test-running a new homework ban, after an earlier reform lengthened the school day and crowded out time for extra-curriculars such as sports or music.
Actually, banning homework is far from cutting edge. That was tried in Britain, certainly for younger children for many years, the argument being exactly the one the French President is using: it is not fair as some children might get help from parents and some might not. The result, as we know, was that generations of children grew up with large sections of them being barely literate or numerate, let alone capable of learning anything more complicated than the three Rs.

Furthermore, it became obvious that with no homework required by the school inequality became even more pronounced as it was now only those children whose parents could and would devote time and energy to educating their offspring who prospered. To some extent, I am glad to say, this practice is now being abandoned across the country but school requirements remain lamentably low.

The article is right in pointing out that substituting more activity at school for homework is not the same as deciding not to have any of either. But then, M. Hollande looks to other matters: school, he pronounced at the Sorbonne, is where the child becomes a citizen of the future. What he would really like, I suppose, is to take the children away from their parents completely and to have them brought up entirely by the state.

This, one can argue, is excellent news for Britain. At least, our undereducated children will no longer have to compete with the French. But, I suspect, the rejoicing (if there is any) will be short-lived. French parents care far more about these matters than, I am sad to say, most British ones do. They will be out in force, demonstrating against government proposals to destroy the French school system.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Charlie Hebdo again

This time the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (about which I wrote here, here and here) has decided to go for equal opportunities insults with a cover that shows Mohammed in a wheel chair being push by a Hassidim rabbi. Inside there are, apparently, more cartoons of the Prophet, including some that show him naked. (No nonsense about toplessness.)
Yes, dear reader, you are quite right: those not particularly good cartoons have caused all sorts of problems with representatives of one of the "insulted" groups (funnily enough, not the other) demanding satisfaction and the French authorities running around, heightening security in all sorts of places, especially for the coming Friday. 
The French government, which had urged the weekly not to print the cartoons, said it was temporarily shutting down premises including embassies and schools in 20 countries on Friday, when protests sometimes break out after Muslim prayers. 
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called the drawings provocative and outrageous but said those who were offended by them should “use peaceful means to express their firm rejection”.
Tunisia’s governing Islamist party, Ennahda, condemned the cartoons as an act of “aggression” against Mohammad. It urged Muslims, in responding to it, to avoid falling into a trap designed by “suspicious parties to derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with the West”.
In Lebanon, Salafist cleric Sheikh Nabil Rahim said the incident would raise tensions that were already dangerously high.
“We will try to keep things managed and peaceful, but these things easily get out of hand. I fear there could more targeting of foreigners, and this is why I wish they would not persist with these provocations,” he said.
In the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles, one person was slightly hurt when two masked men threw a small explosive device through the window of a kosher Jewish supermarket, a police source said, adding it was too early to link the incident to the cartoons.
We shall just have to wait and see, I suppose. Would it be possible for some other publications across the world to show some solidarity with Charlie Hebdo on the basis of "I may not agree with your views but I shall defend to the death your right to express them"?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ructions, ructions

The truth is that the EU has reached a point at which no agreement between the various colleagues is possible. It was easy enough in the past to go along vaguely with that much vaunted "ever closer union of the peoples" (which was there in the Treaty of Rome, let me remind everyone) and talk equally vaguely about European values, peace and brotherhood, apple pie and motherhood but what with one thing and another, the time has come when some decision needs to be taken as to what exactly all that means.

We have a fiscal pact, possibly, depending on the forthcoming Karlsruhe court decision and we really need to create a much more centralized economic government if we want the euro to survive beyond the next couple of years in some form or another but is that really what the leaders of the various member state want?

Chancellor Merkel thinks we should have another treaty and is going to call for a convention to draft the pact to be convened before the end of the year. The convention will, if called, spend a good many months drafting a new treaty, which will then have to be discussed with all the member states and an IGC called when there is a vague chance of an agreement. (In parenthesis, let me remind readers of this blog that instead of pretending to have vetoed a non-existent treaty, that is precisely what Mr Cameron should have done last December: demand a convention that would draft a new treaty etc etc. That would have given him plenty of time to decide what it is he wants to achieve if, indeed, there is anything he wants to achieve beyond hanging on to his position as PM of this country.)

However, there seems to be severe disagreement between the other member states.
So far, though, the German proposal has found few supporters in the other EU member states. During a meeting of the so-called Future Group, an informal gathering of 10 foreign ministers from EU countries, the majority opposed a call by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle for a new treaty convention. Other countries, including Ireland, do not want to take the risk of a national referendum, which a new EU treaty would entail in some member states. Poland, a close partner of Berlin, also believes there is currently little chance of finding a compromise among the 27 member states.
Even France is no longer on side with President Hollande busy trying to wreck that country's economy and, therefore, having less time to negotiate with his German counterpart.

One possibility Chancellor Merkel seems to have been thinking about is a new treaty that would be only for the eurozone. But would that be an EU treaty? Certainly, its legality under the EU rules has been questioned from the moment the idea had been proposed. What to do? The one thing we can be reasonably certain of is that the UK government is not likely to play a major part in the ensuing deliberations. Mr Cameron has ensured that in his terrible fear of having to debate a new treaty in Parliament and, perhaps, putting one to a referendum.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

One election result still outstanding

Last Sunday there were three elections. The French parliamentary ones that went largely as expected (though Ségolène Royal lost her seat and the first round against First Girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler and Marin Le Pen's niece has become the youngest MP (one of two for the NF) while auntie lost by 118 votes.

The French electoral system was changed from proportional representation to first past the post in the late eighties specifically to keep the National Front out. This does not seem to be working any more.

The Greek election went as one would have expected and, truth to tell, nothing much has changed though they do now have a government.

That leaves the second round of the Egyptian presidential election, the results of which will be announced tomorrow but the Muslim Brotherhood is already declaring victory. Whether they will be able to keep it remains questionable. The general opinion is that the military will not give up power.

The Wall Street Journal has a sober appraisal of what is likely to happen in the country but seem to be under the misapprehension that there was a moment from the fall of Mubarak (who may or may not have died) when the army was not in control. The truth is that it was an army coup that toppled Mubarak not a popular revolution. Since then the Supreme Council of Armed Forces has been in power. More than that: the army owns a great deal of Egypt's economy. As this article puts it:
Until this very day, the role of the military establishment in the economy remains one of the major taboos in Egyptian politics. Over the past thirty years, the army has insisted on concealing information about its enormous interests in the economy and thereby keeping them out of reach of public transparency and accountability. The Egyptian Armed Forces owns a massive segment of Egypt’s economy—twenty-five to forty percent, according to some estimates. In charge of managing these enterprises are the army’s generals and colonels, notwithstanding the fact that they lack the relevant experience, training, or qualifications for this task.
The military’s economic interests encompass a diverse range of revenue-generating activities, including the selling and buying of real estate on behalf of the government, domestic cleaning services, running cafeterias, managing gas stations, farming livestock, producing food products, and manufacturing plastic table covers. All this information is readily available on the websites of relevant companies and factories, which publicly and proudly disclose that they belong to the army. Yet for some reason the military establishment insists on outlawing any public mention of these activities.
The question we have to ask ourselves, disregarding the analysis given by the media, is whether that is the worst case scenario for Egypt.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

French politics is so much fun

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet (full disclosure: she is a good friend) writes about the enthralling saga of the new French President's two women, past and present, politician and political journalist. First Girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler appears to be following Carla Bruni in one respect: making her husband/partner a political laughing stock.
The woman many of the French are calling “Rottweiler” then illustrated the shortest way to link the words “pride”, “goeth”, “before” and “fall”. Nicolas Sarkozy had been kicked out of office chiefly for having paraded his private life with ostentation. Demurring that she would play “no political part whatsoever”, Trierweiler made it difficult to forget her existence for one minute. Whether she was bemoaning that she didn’t like the title “First Lady” and inviting the public to think up a new one, or insisting that she could remain a working Paris Match reporter “in all independence” while maintaining a staff and office at the Élysée Palace, she was hardly ever out of the news.
Scenting a rich vein, the political puppet show Les Guignols de l’info hastily recycled the puppet they’d used for Jacques Chirac’s spin-doctor daughter Claude, slapping on a new wig and redoing its make-up to rush their Valérie on air. They now portray Hollande as a bumbling, henpecked husband. Deferring to She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, the President is depicted fleeing to the comforting arms of a softer, sweeter, more understanding female – Angela Merkel.
Absolutely priceless.

Yes, yes, I know that this is not what politics should be about and France has many problems (even more than they had before François Hollande became President) but it is considerably more entertaining as well as elegant than the interminable saga of the Leveson enquiry that seems to grip the British media.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Well, I said this yesterday

The votes that will matter in the second round of the French presidential election will be those that Marine Le Pen gathered.
Leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon told a post-vote rally that they must unite together on May 6 to beat the incumbent president, without mentioning Hollande by name. Socialist contender Hollande has already received the endorsement of Green candidate Eva Joly.
That could have been predicted and, indeed, was by all. Similarly, Bayrou's supporters will now move over to Sarkozy.

Given M. Hollande's promises to wreck the French economy it is not surprising that, according to Reuters, has worried investors. Undoubtedly, they are hoping that what, according to a reader of this blog who has been watching developments carefully, was an 8 per cent swing to left-wing parties in general, will, in a fortnight's time, turn into a victory for Sarko. Not that the economy under his guidance has been doing all that well and not that he had brought in any of the necessary reforms but, perhaps, if he does snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, he will have had a nasty fright.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

French elections - 3

Exit polls confirm what was said before: M. Hollande, open socialist, is on 27.5 per cent of the vote, while M. Sarkozy, closet socialist, is on 26.6 per cent. Mlle Le Pen, nationalist socialist, is projected to have taken 19.9 per cent of the vote, a considerably better achievement than  her father's in 2002 when he came second to L'Escroc Chirac. The ultra-left Marxist socialist, M. Mélenchon is predicted to get somewhere between 10.5 and 13 per cent, according to a cautious Telegraph piece. Yet again we can see that national socialism is more attractive to voters than the Marxist kind. The centrist only non-socialist, M. Bayrou is estimated to have got between 8.7 and 10 per cent. Turn-out is said to be around 80 per cent, lower than in 2007 but considerably higher than in 2002.

Results will be announced later today, at 10 o'clock London time. Whichever way you look at it, François Hollande is leading but not by much. So the fight will be on for the votes garnered by the other candidates, that is not the two leading ones. M. Mélenchon's supporters will, presumably move over to M. Hollande and M. Bayrou's to M. Sarkozy. The other, smaller parties will scatter according to their left-right division. 

What will happen to the substantial number that voted for Mlle Le Pen? Were they all motivated by anti-immigrant rhetoric or were some and, if so, how many, taken by the idea of pulling out of the eurozone that she posited rather coyly from time to time? If the latter, where will those votes go now?

French elections - 2

Before the results of the first round come in (though it looks like the predictions were correct and Hollande leads by a small margin) let me make it clear whom I would have preferred. I suspect some people have guessed it already: Frédéric Bastiat, of course. As his election site points out: He could not do any worse than the living candidates and, without doubt, he would do better.

 Il ne pourra pas faire pire que les vivants, et il fera sans doute mieux

French elections - 1

Today is the first round of the French presidential elections and, if one is to go by the opinion polls, François Hollande, the man whose name and appearance nobody could recall a few months ago, is likely to come top, beating Nicolas Sarkozy, the incumbent. The unknown are the three candidates who are following behind them; unknown in the sense of nobody knowing precisely how many votes they will take and which way those might go in the second round.

To recapitulate, they are: Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie's daughter, President of Front Nationale and, therefore, the national socialist candidate whose support is around 15 per cent, according to the last polls; Jean-Luc Mélenchon, also at 15 per cent or so, who can be said to be the Marxist socialist candidate; and François Bayrou, who has some vaguely liberal ideas but is also a firm supporter of the European Union and France's deeper involvement in it and who is polling at about 13 per cent. Other parties are likely to get some votes as well and, as they are mostly far left, we have to assume that in the second round their candidates will support M. Hollande.

The New York Sun is a little more optimistic though it does not think terribly highly of M. Sarkozy. Quoting my friend Michel Gurfinkiel, the editorial says:
All the more reason to note a cable just in from our erstwhile Paris correspondent, Michel Gurfinkiel, who is not so certain that M. Sarkozy is doomed. “In Right-Left terms,” he writes, the outlook is “that all non-Left parties combined garner about 53%, and all Left parties combined 47%.” So, he says, “the question is how many Le Pen and Bayrou voters will rally Sarkozy on the second ballot. My guess is that 2/3 of them at least will. Which, on the face of it, would bring Sarkozy to 46 % only or so.” On top of that, though, “there is another dimension to the picture: so far, some 30 % of the voters say they will not vote, or they are still undecided. I am sure that at least half of them will vote on the second ballot. And most of them are conservative voters who got utterly disappointed by Sarkozy during his first term, but still hate the Left even more.”
Taking all the variables into account, Sarkozy might yet win in the second round though only by the narrowest of margins. The New York Sun has another axe to grind as well:
All the more reason to wonder whether an American president who had a better grasp of the European drama, a clearer commitment to the idea of American exceptionalism, a more emotional connection to the possibilities of France than President Obama has on any of those points, whether such a president could have played a more constructive role in incenting the French away from the disaster that socialism would, if it comes, be for them. We comprehend that it’s a long shot, but one way to think of a France bereft of inspiring leaders is as an opportunity for a strong and articulate American president to inspire the French in our direction.
My own view, for what it's worth, is that it would have made little difference though it would have been helpful to all of us to have an American President who was aware of the rest of the world and, if not knowledgeable himself, would listen to those who were instead of surrounding himself with his equally narrow-minded cronies. Sadly, no matter who wins, France will be saddled with a socialist President.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Germany and France are not happy with Schengen

Dear me, what is it I see? A certain lack of faith in the effectiveness of the Schengen agreement. It seems that Germany and France are discussing the possibility of reintroducing national border controls to deal with illegal immigration. But was Schengen and the general common border policy supposed to be the best weapon against illegal immigration? Was Denmark not castigated by ... ahem ... the Germans, when they did precisely that some months ago?

It was less that one year ago that Denmark decided to reintroduce controls on its borders with Germany and Sweden, a move, Copenhagen said, that was necessary to put a stop to illegal immigration and organized crime. The reactions from Berlin and other European capitals were immediate and unequivocal. The step taken by Copenhagen marked a "bad day for Europe," said German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. Europe's border-free travel regime, said the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, "cannot be infringed upon."
Now, just nine months later, it is Germany itself that is looking to weaken the Schengen Agreement, the treaty signed in 1985 to remove inner-European border controls. According to a report in the Friday edition of daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany and France are seeking to change the treaty to allow for the temporary reintroduction of border controls.
The paper reports that German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich and his French counterpart Claude Guéant have formulated a letter to the European Union demanding the change. The reintroduction of controls, they wrote according toSüddeutsche, should be possible as "an ultima ratio" -- that is, measure of last resort -- "and for a limited period of time" should border controls in southern and eastern Europe prove unable to prevent illegal immigration. Later in the letter, the two write that controls could be re-established for periods of 30 days.
 The proposals will be discussed at next week's meeting of various Interior Ministers but, as is the way of these things, no decision can be expected till June, which means that the proposal cannot be simply a way of assisting Nicolas Sarkozy in his apparently hopeless bid for re-election as the more cynical German commentators have suggested. (I say "apparently" because one can never quite predict what might happen in the French presidential elections, the first of which is due this Sunday.)

Carsten Volkery, who writes for Der Spiegel from London, is not amused.
But the proposal is far from harmless and would throw Europe back decades. Since 1995, the citizens of Schengen-zone countries have gotten used to freely traveling within Continental Europe. Next to the euro common currency, free movement is probably the strongest symbol of European unity. Indeed, for many people, it's what makes this abstract idea tangible in the first place.
To throw this achievement into doubt now is a vote of no confidence in Europe. The fact that this proposal is coming in the middle of the French election campaign makes it even more suspicious. With his back to the wall, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is pretending to take a tough-guy stance toward immigrants. And the fact that Germany's interior minister is allowing himself to get caught up in this charade is regrettable. Still, if you take a look at his party affiliations -- as a member of the center-right Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) -- it's hardly surprising.
Worse even than that:
But this symbolic act could have drastic consequences. It is a relapse into the type of nationalist thinking that many viewed as part of the past. And it brings to mind a country that continental Europeans like to make fun of for its obsession with its own borders: Great Britain.
Well, of course, Herr Volkery is welcome to peddle this idea that Britain is the EU's most dissident member. We on this blog know better: nothing dissident about this government as far as the colleagues in Brussels are concerned. The Boy-King and his little mates wouldn't dare. But France and Germany? That's quite a different kettle of poisson.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Who could ask for anything more?

Eric Cantona has announced that he will be running for the French Presidency. He has a way to go as he needs "the backing of 500 elected officials by the end of February to run". His intention is to highlight the housing crisis in France, which, presumably means that he is hoping to take votes from the Socialists. On the other hand, he is something of a celebrity and can compete with Mme Sarkozy though he has not given birth recently to anything.

UPDATE: Doubt is being cast on the story by a sports news website:
But the newspaper's [Liberation] deputy editor Paul Quinio told a French TV channel that it was all a move to publicise the French housing crisis, which affects 10 million people in the country. "He isn't looking for signatures to be a candidate for the presidency, but to pass on the message of the Abbé Pierre foundation in support of better housing policy, and to make housing, which is a priority for French people, a priority for the presidential candidates," said Quinio.
Oh I do hope not. The idea of Cantona as a presidential hopeful in France is too delightful to abandon.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


They convicted Jacques Chirac of embezzling public funds? Really? Actually found him guilty? My goodness me. What is the world coming to? You mean a French politician cannot simply use taxpayers' money for his own political purposes? I find that hard to deal with. (Washington Post and Telegraph accounts. Two links will do.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are we allowed to talk about glass houses?

French Prime Minister Sarkozy must see himself as a latter-day George Washington who cannot tell a lie or, at least, someone who can call other people liars with a straight face. Or so it would seem from the story that was suppressed by faithful journalists at first but has surfaced on French websites and has now been confirmed by Reuters.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy branded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "a liar" in a private conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama that was accidentally broadcast to journalists during last week's G20 summit in Cannes.

"I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar," Sarkozy told Obama, unaware that the microphones in their meeting room had been switched on, enabling reporters in a separate location to listen in to a simultaneous translation.

"You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you," Obama replied, according to the French interpreter.

The technical gaffe is likely to cause great embarrassment to all three leaders as they look to work together to intensify international pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

The conversation was not initially reported by the small group of journalists who overheard it because it was considered private and off-the-record. But the comments have since emerged on French websites and can be confirmed by Reuters.

Obama's apparent failure to defend Netanyahu is likely to be leapt on by his Republican foes, who are looking to unseat him in next year's presidential election and have portrayed him as hostile to Israel, Washington's closest ally in the region.
It is also, by a strange coincidence the only democracy in the region but that is not likely to worry either Sarko or Obama.

However, the behaviour of journalists who decided that this particular conversation was private and off the record and was, therefore, not to be broadcast to all and sundry is curious. Would it have happened with other politicians in slightly different circumstances? Somebody broke ranks, clearly.

Netanyahu's office refused to comment, presumably because they could not stop laughing long enough.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On another front

Taking time out from the Greek farce (I wonder when the satyrs, so indispensable to a farce, will appear) this blog wishes to call attention to the appalling case of the satirical journal in France that has been fire bombed for the appalling sin of laughing at Islam. Making fun of religion has been the prerogative of every French journalist since the days of Voltaire and is certainly taken seriously by the French literary establishment.

Well, mostly. When Charlie Hebdo transgressed last time by publishing those Danish cartoons (which the British main-stream media would not do)
Jacques Chirac, then the president, called it a “manifest provocation”. “Anything that can wound the convictions of others should be avoided,” he declared.
In my previous existence as co-editor of EUReferendum, I wrote about the subsequent legal case here and here. The legal case failed so the freedom-loving opponents of Charlie Hebdo have decided on another tactic. This time they annoyed even the French political establishment.
François Fillon, the centre-right prime minister, not only denounced the attack, but declared that “freedom of expression is an inalienable value”. Bertrand Delanoë, the Socialist mayor of Paris, deplored the “act of violence against the freedom of expression”.
French Muslim leaders are indulging in the kind of double talk we are sadly used to:
Mohammed Moussaoui, leader of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, an official body, condemned the attack, and stated his “profound attachment” to freedom of expression. But he also “strongly deplored the very caricatural tone” of the newspaper towards Islam.
Charlie Hebdo is satirical about everyone. That is what they do - they publish satire. Some people laugh, some shrug their shoulders, some get angry and some .... fire bomb offices and demand victim status on top of it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's Monsieur L'Ordinaire

The Socialist presidential candidate in France will be François Hollande, Monsieur L'Ordinaire himself. It is reassuring to have a Socialist candidate who looks and sounds so like a socialist apparatchiks.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Meanwhile in France ...

... the turn-out among Socialists in the first round of voting for their presidential candidate was bigger than expected.
Turnout in the first round of voting for the French Socialist presidential contender to take on Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 was bigger than expected , when the first open vote in modern French history allowed anyone on the electoral register to have a say. More than 1 million people voted and the party was hoping for 2 million. The Socialists' interim leader, Harlem Désir, deemed it a "huge success". The Socialist leadership hoped the primary race would help shake off their image as elitist, in-fighting and out of touch.
The Socialists elitist, in-fighting and out of touch? Oh surely not.

The favourite seems to be François Hollande, closely challenged by Martine Aubry, the architect, as the Guardian reminds us, of the 35-hour week.
Ségolène Royal, who was defeated by Sarkozy in the last election, is running again, challenged by two outsiders: the young MP Arnaud Montebourg, who has been fighting a hard-left anti-globalisation ticket, and Manuel Valls, an MP and mayor in the Paris suburbs, considered to be on the right of the party. Jean-Michel Baylet, a senator and head of the small, moderate centre-left Radical Party of the Left is also standing.
Second round is next week-end.