3.2 France – L'état c'est moi

3.2 France – L'état c'est moi

The druid, Miraculix, is familiar with the ingredients for the secret potion that makes Asterix and Obelix invincible. Mistletoe branches, which must be harvested with a golden sickle, are just as indispensable as fish and secret ingredients. And by Teutatis!  That's exactly the problem. The druid doesn't pass on the recipe that could make France the Great Nation it once was. After taking a good sip from the bottle, the economically and politically shrunken country could find its way back to its old size and strength. No matter how hard Emmanuel Macron tries, the magic (taxpayers' money) from Berlin simply doesn't seem to work ...

Since the merger of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, France is one of the driving forces of European integration. Under the leadership of French EU Commission President Jacques Delors, the Single European Market was completed in the 1980s and 1990s and the Maastricht EU Treaty signed in 1992.

Traditionally, in the past, two major French parties dominated the political landscape: the Socialists and the Gaullists, today's Republicans. However, the political and administrative elites, almost without exception, are graduates of the renowned administrative university ENA (école nationale d'administration), and this is also true of  the last four French Presidents. This means that politics and business tend to follow the same old approach, regardless of party affiliation.

France's social structure is characterised by decades of immigration, especially from the former colonies in Africa. During the massive social unrest in the autumn of 2005, the failures of French immigration and integration policy over many years came to light. Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, won the presidential elections in 2008 with his election programme for regulatory policy and the regulation of immigration. However, during Sarkozy's term in office during the financial crisis, it became clear how weak the French economy was. French industry has been in decline since the introduction of the euro, the unemployment rate, especially youth unemployment, is also high because of the outdated French labour market legislation and the powerful trade unions. Over-regulation hampers innovation and investment. Sarkozy's efforts to stabilise the banking system and public finances were too hesitant. This hesitancy, along with rumours about illegal campaign financing, meant that he lost the elections in 2012. His successor, Francois Hollande, also failed to overcome the unions and public pressure to push through any substantial reforms. During his term in office, the French debt ratio rose to over 100 percent of GDP.

Photo: Der französische Präsident Emmanuel Macron bei einer Rede im Europäischen Parlament

The 2017 presidential elections then marked a turning point in the political landscape. The established parties almost sank into insignificance. The right-wing Front National under Marine Le Pen received strong support; conversely, the former Socialist Economics Minister Emmanuel Macron, with his newly founded movement République En Marche and his election promises of far-reaching economic and social reforms was able to gain massive votes from the established parties and won the runoff against Le Pen. However, the young, ambitious president has so far fallen far short of his promises. The French economy is also stagnating under Macron. While he may have managed to push through some minor reforms of the labour market, since his election, he has consistently lost popular support because, like his predecessors, he primarily serves the social elites. Any hope of bursting the bubble of the powerful and privileged public service would probably be illusory for Macron.

Since autumn 2018, a new movement has burst onto the scene. The "Gilets jaunes" or in English the "Yellow Vests", started off as a demonstration against the planned increase in fuel tax. In the meantime, however, the Yellow Vest movement has developed into a grass-roots counter-movement to Macron's elite policy and is demanding his resignation. The European elections will probably be the greatest challenge for Macron and his En Marche movement. And his political future is also set to send shock waves through Germany and the entire EU.


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