“Of course one can jump up and down yelling Europe ! Europe ! Europe ! But it amounts to nothing and it means nothing.” Charles de Gaulle, 1965
President de Gaulle has come and gone, but his ideas seems to remain in line with the current French society. What is most striking about today’s France is the dual personality it has developed over the years when talking about the European Union in all its forms. No matter the political color of their leaders, the French have wanted more control over Germany while maintaining a maximum level of sovereignty. This trend was crystallized in the proposal in 2011 of a “two-speed Europe” by Nicolas Sarkozy, which would allow France to more closely integrate with the appropriate countries while keeping out other states such as Greece.
Since the beginning of the 2008 crisis, the Eurosceptic giant has begun to emerge (52% of the French desire “less Europe”). Add this number to the anti-EU pledges of Marine le Pen (Front National), and the declared support of Rachida Dati (UMP) for British PM David Cameron and his stance against Europe, and it is understandably difficult for Hollande to know on which leg to stand. To speak plainly, the numbers are simply not in his favor: the French public debt has reached unrecorded heights in 2013, and the dreaded unemployment rate he had vowed to turn around keeps rising steadily. As a result, the people of France are looking for alternatives to a government that has failed to provide them with the economic security they feel entitled to.
I believe that in order to understand the relationship between France and the EU, there are several factors to be taken into account: the relative ignorance of the French when it comes to the actual workings of the Union; the tendency of national parties to use it as a convenient scapegoat; the deeply-rooted tendency of humans to mistrust foreigners; the controversial resistance of the French society to the changes brought by globalization; the misplaced priorities when nominating French Euro-deputies; etc.
In the run-up to the European elections, this blog will attempt to analyze each of these facets.