Sarko: All-out war on Bastille Day
The French Summer’s getting hotter, and even hotter for Jacques. As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been posting for the past year on how Nicholas Sarkozy’s been distancing himself more and more, politically and ideologically, from Chirac even when they are in the same political party.
After the resounding “Non” vote on the EU Constitution and the subsequent cabinet shuffle, Sarko’s back in Jacques’s cabinet as Minister of the Interior, and he’s turned on the heat.
Not that things weren’t hot enough. The jobless rate is at its highest since December 1999 and the national debt at a record 1.1 trillion euros, representing 66 percent of France’s gross domestic product. The BBC correspondent in Paris says the next presidential elections are still almost two years away, but it is already beginning to feel like the end of the Chirac era. People are talking about change:
“The French do not change things by consensus, they change things by conflict,” said Pascal Perrineau, a professor at the Paris Institute for Political Science.
“The French model is no longer accepted as universal because it doesn’t work. The French are at a crossroads. They know they must change and adapt to a more liberal, global world, but they are hesitating and it may well be that they need a push. From time to time a man of history, like Bonaparte and de Gaulle, comes to force us to accept change, but we have a revolutionary history which makes this period particularly risky.”
Following a shooting where a boy was murdered in a gang “argument” a couple of weeks ago Sarko went on the record asserting that the public housing projects must be cleaned out of criminals, which caused outrage since his words were definitely not PC. On July 6 he stated that the Franco-German axis, that carefully nurtured pet project of Jacques, is obsolete. On Tuesday he was asking,
“Is there a chance that France can solve the problems of 2005 with ideas that are 50 years old?”
Yesterday he was reinstating border controls, which probably had Jacques howling in pain.
Through all this, Sarko’s staying on message. Just last November, when he took over as president of the UMP party, you could read in The Economist that
Mr Sarkozy, by contrast, has no time for tradition for tradition’s sake. In an enlarged Europe, he argues that France can no longer rely on the Franco-German motor and needs to cultivate a group of six that also includes Britain, Spain, Italy and Poland. Atlantic-minded, he urges a milder approach to America. He advocates an overhaul of the French social model, pushing for less state regulation and a more flexible labour market; his inspirations are Britain and Spain, not moribund Germany. He considers that the French model of integration has failed French Muslims, and argues for American-style social engineering to help minorities advance. In short, where Mr Chirac urges caution and conservatism, Mr Sarkozy presses for modernisation and change. “France is not eternal,” says one of his aides. “If it does not reform, it will disappear.”
Today is Bastille Day and Jacques has been having a huge celebration (don’t get me started on the subject of celebrating the beginning of what became The Terror — to me, it is as if we celebrated Fort Sumter as the National Holiday), marking the start of the Brazilian year in France, for which Lula’s in Paris having a nice time, and what’s being touted as a key interview, seen as a bid to win back public trust.
So, what does Sarko have to say, you may ask? This:
“Why do we perpetuate this tradition when there is nothing to report and the French already have their mind on their holidays?”
“People are at the beach, the impact of the message will not be optimum.”
Also posted at Blogger News Network.
Update Jacques gave the much-touted interview, saying, “When I am outside of France… I feel self-confident”.