by Jerome a Paris
Wed May 9th, 2007 at 07:23:07 AM EST
Martin Wolf has an article today about Sarkozy and Europe which has two quite separate parts. One is about the state of the French economy and the reforms it urgently needs. As I sent him my article that states the opposite (posted here), I cannot help feeling like it is a reply to me, and I'll comment on that part in another post a bit later. But for now, I'd like to concentrate on his analysis of what Sarkozy's election means for the EU. As the title of the article (Why Sarkozy’s triumph portends strife in Europe) suggests, he is already souring on him, as I predicted Sunday evening. But that's based on, of course, a highly partial view of EU's history. Let's see...
How, then, is Mr Sarkozy’s relaunched France going to fit into this framework [of European economic integration]? One possibility – the most desirable – is what I have referred to as a “European France”. In other words, France will, willy nilly, accept the constraints imposed by membership of the EU. It will accept, in short, that “l’exception Française” is incompatible with the principles of equal membership of the EU.
Right from the start, this is based on the notion that the EU is purely about economic matters, and not subject to national political vagaries. Membership of the EU is only about accepting the common uniform economic and monetary rules. Repeat this often enough, and people will believe it, and will forget that the EU is at heart, fundamentally, a political project.
Except that they don't forget it and, apart from the sovereignist groups in each country, the main gripe about the EU is that it is soulless and uninspiring, i.e. that it is not projecting itself as a political entity. The founders' apparent focus on economic issues is often misrepresented: coal and steel, farming, monetary issues, opening borders are all, at heart, highly strategic and symbolic affairs, and thus highly political, touching upon core issues of sovereignty and power.
Pretending that the EU is just about the common market is shortsighted or willfully manipulative.
Yet what Mr Sarkozy has said in the campaign suggests strongly that he does not accept, or even understand, this idea. He wants a French Europe, instead, one in which his dirigiste approach is translated to the European level: an ECB under political control; a European industrial policy; and EU preference, by which he means greater protection against disruptive foreigners.
These have been EU goals from the start. Again, the EU was built on industrial policy (coal and steel, anyone? Airbus? The European Space Agency? Galileo? Support for infrastructure projects in all countries, but new members in priority?) and EU preference (single trade policy, common tariffs, etc...). The Maastricht criteria clearly set criteria that limit sovereign budgetary action by memeber countries and define an indirect form of political quid pro quo. The fact (often criticized on the left) that political oversight was not built in the ECB charter simply moved the onus towards a stronger need for member countries to better coordinate their fiscal policies. That this has not been done yet does not eliminate that need, and its - again - fundamental encroachment on national sovereignty. The eurozone is a political entity, and will increasingly behave as one.
Yet a French Europe is unobtainable, perhaps even more today than in the past. Historically, French leaders have adjusted to this, albeit reluctantly. They have accepted German views on competition and central banking and their partners’ views on trade liberalisation. They did so for a strong reason: they desperately wanted more integration.
"desperatly" is a nasty dig, but the desire for integration is true - as it is true of France's partners then (and the quid pro quo was farm policy which, people forget, covered a much larger chunk of the economy back then). Germany abandoning the DM for an untested euro could also be seen a a sign of "desperately" wanting more integration and accepting fairly loose indirect rules on ther neighbors' budgetary policies.
Again, this denies the fundamentally political nature of the endeavor, and its purpose of sharing sovereignty, not of emasculating national governments and public action.
Today, however, France does not seek further integration. If Mr Sarkozy will reject a European France and cannot obtain a French Europe, the outcome must then be conflict between France and Europe. The likely result of his election, therefore, is of a France divided internally and intransigent externally. The consequences for the EU are as evident as they are depressing.
There cannot be a EU other than a neoliberal EU. Hmmm... I wonder why these people are so reluctant to get EU treaties subject to referendums.
Needless to say, this outcome is not inevitable. Under Mr Sarkozy, the French economy may rediscover its élan, France may regain its confidence and the French may even accept a globalising world economy. The country may then be reconciled to a market-based EU. Miracles do happen.
Whant condescending crap. Yes, Sarkozy is French before he is liberal. No hpe there, Nicolas, you'll never be one of them. At best, you'll be a prized pet.