French Presidential Elections and Europe

Should the voters be content with a candidate speaking only about France?

The French will also look at their programme on Europe

, by Translated by Peter Matjašič, Pauline Gessant

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Should the voters be content with a candidate speaking only about France?

In a few weeks the French will elect their president of the Republic for 5 years. The campaign tackles many subjects such as housing, environment, youth, immigration, economy… However, the candidates are forgetting an essential subject: Europe.

Because Europe is an active part of the French life and because the French president is also our representative within the European Council, Europe should be in the heart of the presidential election campaign.

A daily life marked by Europe

Europe is present in our everyday life: the euro is a very concrete example. Often slandered, the euro allows nevertheless a certain monetary stability in Europe, where the majority of our trade is done. It also makes it possible to weigh more vis-à-vis the American dollar, to reinforce the economic capacity of our companies, to travel without having to worry about the exchange rates…

Europe in France is also more than 14 billion euros, which will be allotted to France for 2007-2013 coming from the European regional policy. In addition, more than 80% of French laws today are of Community origin.

This report thus implies that the European questions are no longer isolated from the national political life. Unfortunately today only the extremist parties speak about Europe in their election campaign and often in opposition to the very idea of Europe. However, faced with today’s challenges of globalisation, world safety and the environment France can apprehend itself only through a European prism.

Many topics approached within the framework of the election campaign should be tackled from a European point of view: • The questions concerning energy and environment for example can be treated only on a European scale • How to be an equal player in a globalised world vis-à-vis the United States and the emergent Asian powers, without speaking with one voice, the European voice?

It is therefore essential that the presidential candidates speak about Europe, especially after the referendum of 2005 revealed a European fracture between the political representatives and part of the population, which knows the temptation of national fold, temptation resulting in suspicion with regards to the European Union.

This fracture will not be solved itself by tackling the European questions solely at the time of a referendum (13 years separate the referendum on the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, and the Constitutional Treaty in 2005). The French men and political women must seize European problems.

“The conspiracy of silence” to use the terms of Pierre Lequillier, president of the Delegation of the European Union to the French National Assembly, should not take place: Europe must be an unavoidable subject of the campaign.

A Head of State, also the French representative in the European Council

If this election seems to be only a purely French event, it is nothing. All European countries are closely following the election campaign. Indeed, not only we will elect our president, but we will also elect our representative in the European Council. Our candidates should thus clearly express themselves on the vision, which they will carry with regard to the budget, the borders and the institutional reform of the European Union.

In a Europe still functioning on a intergovernmental basis, in particular within the European Council, France has a voice that counts. Therefore the priorities of the presidential candidates in this respect should be clearly known.

Moreover, France carries a heavy responsibility towards our European neighbours: it gave a crushing blow to the project of European constitution whereas more than half of EU citizens and European countries ratified it.

We stopped the process, we must propose solutions: the revival of the European constitutional process must be in the centre of the presidential campaign.

Is it already too late? The Madrid meeting recently showed that other member states, in particular those which ratified the Constitutional Treaty, will not await us. Moreover, it is probably France that will return to the forefront and try to revive the constitutional process during its Presidency of the European Union in 2008! The Germans, who currently hold the EU presidency, envisage making proposals for the June EU summit to resume negotiations in order to succeed in December 2008 under the French presidency.

It is also under French presidency when the mid-term revision of the financial perspective for the period 2007-2013 should take place. This revision will relate to all expenditure, including the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the so-calledUK rebate.

The presidential election must thus be the occasion for the candidates to clearly define the options they intend to set as priorities with regards to their European policy.

The French are conscious of the importance of Europe. For a clear majority, the European construction must be an “important “stake (57%), even “completely a priority” (16%) in the presidential election according to a survey made by CSA / FRANCE EUROPE EXPRESS / FRANCE INFO in May 2006. And these same French will vote accordingly…

In 2007 Europe must be part of the programme!

On March 25, the Heads of State and government will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome with a solemn declaration in Berlin. On March 25 France will be in the height of its presidential election campaign. Let us hope that on this occasion our candidates will finally express their vision for Europe.

European integration has always advanced when there were strong leaderships: Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet for the Treaty of Rome; Valéry Giscard d’Estaing for the European Monetary System; François Mitterand, Helmut Kohl and Jacques Delors for the single market and the Treaty of Maastricht.

Europe is today more than ever in need of European leadership. Let us wish that our candidates in the presidential elections show strong European conviction and express an ambitious vision for France in Europe, and thus for European integration.

Make Europe part of the programme!

Image: a graphic of a French ballot box; source: Wikimedia Commons.

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