Europe needs neither Merkozy nor Merlande
By Pierre Lemoine | Thursday 19 April 2012
France is preparing to elect the president of the republic for the next five years. The other EU member states cannot be indifferent to this two-round election, on 22 April and 6 May, in the EU’s second largest country in terms of GDP and number of inhabitants. The result, whoever wins, will have political and psychological consequences on the rest of Europe and the political changeover in France could announce a changeover in Europe, because those in power may well pay the price for the multiple crises the European Union seems unable to resolve.
If, in spite of the negative signals, Nicolas Sarkozy is re-elected, the positions he has taken in recent weeks suggest that a number of matters will be called into question: the Schengen agreements and the European Central Bank’s role in particular. If, as the polls suggest, his Socialist adversary, François Hollande, carries the elections, the coming months will also be busy with renegotiations, of a different kind but just as fundamental, the most important being the European budget treaty. The challenger plans to send to his European partners, in late May, a list of proposals that he is intentionally shrouding in mystery. His Europe team, headed by MEP Catherine Trautmann, has drafted a memorandum proposing a “responsibility, growth and governance pact” but is not authorised to say any more about it for the time being, other than that it will mark a real turning point from Sarkozysm and that it may be debated at the EU summit, in late June in Brussels.
If a victory by Hollande is confirmed, it will have been made possible by the combined support of voters from the centre left, the ecologist movement and a new left, a protest left, a left of dreams, a more unstable left because it is more composite: made up of the remaining Communists, but above all of voters disillusioned with the large parties, the neither Sarkozy-neither Hollande, neither far right-neither far left camps, those outraged over the economic system, incensed over massive relocations, victims of growing social injustices, those known in Greece as the “damned of the crisis,” but also of the desperate wealthy. These voters, unknown in the European Parliament’s nomenclature, could make a strong entry in other EU states. The European Socialist parties should take note, since they would see a victory by Hollande as offering hope for a political shift in several European countries, through further gains by the democratic left in France (legislative elections in June 2012), Italy and Germany in 2013, and the European elections in June 2014. This would mark the end of the dominance of the right and centre-right in the member states, the Commission and the European Parliament. But if the current balance of power is in fact reversed, how will the European left go about stimulating growth and employment? Franco-German national Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the European Greens, made no bones about it in Strasbourg: the day after a change of majority, “the economic, financial and environmental crisis will still be there on Monday, 7 May. When the new majority has to boil eggs, it will have to use the water that exists. It won’t be able to invent a different kind of water. In 2013, France will have to raise €25 billion to repay its debts. So France will also be a problem on the markets”.
Hollande’s first visit, if elected, will likely be to Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the new Franco-German tandem, discussions will not be any less tense than before, but will necessarily be different. The change expected was described as “positive” this week at the EP by Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt. He noted that two traditions co-exist in France: the Gaullists, who recommended the Europe of nations, and the camp of “Monnet, Schuman and Delors, who invented the Community method”. This was his way of wishing for the future French president to work for the construction of a supranational Europe, of pointing out that the Union needs the Franco-German tandem but not the intergovernmentalism put back in place in recent years by Merkel and Sarkozy.
To sum up in a journalist’s terms, imperfectly but clearly: please, neither Merkozy, nor Merlande. Just the European Union.