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Centre-left thoughts on the French election

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Centre-left thoughts on the French election

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Just weeks before the French presidential election, EuroNews has been talking to a leading intellectual from the centre-left, Alain Minc. We wanted his thoughts on the European dimension to the election campaign and the different views of the candidates against the background of France’s No vote in the referendum on a European constitution. He spoke to Brussels Correspondent, Sergio Cantone.

EuroNews

“There’s a debate going on about whether Europe should follow more social policies or a more liberal – that is market friendly – line. Do you think that France knows where it stands in that debate?”

Minc

“Of course, the myth of a social Europe versus a liberal Europe played a role, in part, in the No vote, that is obvious. But the French, above all, actually believe the moon is made of green cheese.
And it’s not the first time. The French collective spirit has been falling for about 12 years. I say 12 years, because, as if by chance, that coincides with Jacques Chirac coming to power. The French – who had previously accepted the rules of the free market, globalisation – they regressed. Why did they regress? Because we live – and that it is a problem caused by the government’s domestic policy – in a static society, that hasn’t advanced since 1995. As the French right-wing has as its leader a guy who isn’t a conservative.”

EuroNews

“In any event, all that had a negative effect on France’s role in Europe. The French influence was very important…”

Minc

“Obviously, as I said, the French didn’t contribute and they have to make up for that. Therefore, all they can do is try to become good Europeans, more modest, less conclusive, less arrogant. And first of all, they have to put forward a way of getting out of this crisis.”

EuroNews

“But you think it’s a crisis connected to the No vote in the referendum?”

Minc

“I think that the French have started to work out the devastating effects of this suicidal approach, but more knowledge from experience will be needed to end that. And there is a debate in the French presidential election that is extremely interesting.
Because among the three principal candidates, two of them – Ségolène Royal and Francois Bayrou – say that only a referendum can undo what a referendum did, that only another referendum can overturn the outcome of the original referendum. It is a concept that I think is incredibly dangerous. Because it risks another No vote, and that this would be final and devastating. And I find Sarkozy’s position on this is much more pro-European. What does he say? He’s calling for a mini-treaty rather than a full constitution. But that’s something he’s suggesting for political reasons.”

EuroNews

“But, paradoxically, don’t you think that that could boost the arguments of the left or the extreme-left, who oppose the European Union because they see in it the bogieman of globalisation?”

Minc

“What is it that has protected Europe from the rest of the world, in a way? According to the rhetoric used in the French campaign? It is in the euro. If there had not been the euro, a certain number of poor economic performers – actually the three main continental European countries, since Germany joined France and Italy among the poor performers – the three principal countries would have suffered foreign exchange crises and recession. Therefore, Europe, is liberal at its core, it is relatively protected from outside. It is a domestic market relatively protected from outside. And we must consider that it is a successful model.”

EuroNews

“Is the real problem between France and the European Union not linked to concrete issues rather than the Constitution?”

Mink

“I think that there is a huge problem when it comes to competition policy. Facing massive competition from abroad, I think we need to create European business champions, European giants and so, and be prepared to compromise on a domestic level.
We are in a world where corporate control has become a strategic battlefield.”

EuroNews

“Is economic patriotism a response to that?”

Minc

“Economic patriotism on a national scale is the silliest thing ever invented. Economic patriotism on a Europe wide scale is necessary. I’m very happy with everything that gives more power to the Commission. For example, I’m in favour of something which has never been considered. I’d like there to be a ‘golden share’ to protect Europe’s energy companies from non European takeovers. And my view is that this ‘golden share’ should be held by the Commission. Obviously since it is European.”

EuroNews

“Isn’t that protectionism anyway?”

Minc

“I think it simply protects us from those countries which don’t comply with the rules of reciprocity. That means we don’t have to protect ourselves from the Indians, we don’t have to protect ourselves from the Brazilians. But we have to protect ourselves from the Russians and the Chinese.”

EuroNews

“Do you think that France, with a new president ready to propose such ideas within the European Union with its partners, could recover its lost influence?

Minc

“France won’t be able to become an influential player within Europe again until it sorts out the mess it has created over the constitution. We need to pay the price to undo the harm that we created and restore our voice. Mitterrand’s successor, (Chirac) was someone who was never a real European, who didn’t make any sacrifices in the name of Europe, Chirac confused Europe with defending the interests of the farmers in his local constituency. The problem with the French system is that it is an absolute monarchy. So, if you chose the wrong king, it costs you dear.”