The Future of France

Good primer on the ascendancy of Nicolas Sarkosy in the Union for a Popular Movement party in the Economist, The changing of the guard.

Although they spring from the same political family, Mr Chirac and Mr Sarkozy embody two quite different and competing ideas about the future of France. Mr Chirac is a neo-Gaullist conservative who believes that French power should be projected through a strong Europe, built on the Franco-German axis and forming a counterbalance to the United States. At home, he defends the costly but comfortable French social model. And he believes that France's Muslim population—Europe's biggest, at around 5m strong—is best served by traditional means of integration: strict separation of religion and state, and equal treatment of individuals before the law. “There is no crisis,” says one of his advisers. “Therefore, there is no need for fundamental reform.”

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.”

Posted by Paul in France Politics at November 27, 2004 12:58 PM | 2 Comments