The perks of being a worker in France are well known: thirty-five hour work weeks, months of vacation, virtual immunity from being fired. The benefits were enough to draw students out into the streets en masse last year to protest even the slightest erosion of the carefree employment conditions that are their birthright. Throw in cultural acceptance of drinking wine at lunch, and it becomes clear that the French really do have nothing to complain about, right?
Well, don't tell that to the French. According to a new study, the French are the world's whiniest workers, edging out Britain and Sweden (another socialist labor paradise) for the top spot. Charlotte Cornish, who heads the company that ran the study, thinks the results bode ill for new French president Nicolas Sarkozy's reform plans:
The French come out on top -- it seems unlikely that Nicolas Sarkozy's election and the likely shift to more Anglo-Saxon economic practices will make the workers in France any more happy with their lot."
Another interpretation is more plausible, though. If some of the best working conditions in the world haven't been enough to make French workers happy, then maybe the paternalistic coddling and stifling embrace of its system are at fault. The Swedes' foul moods lend credence to that interpretation. If so, then Sarkozy's "rupture" might be just what the doctor ordered to cure the French maladie. With some more dynamism in the their economy, maybe the French would only be as unhappy as Americans—who ranked number five.
One of Nicolas Sarkozy's most immediate foreign policy challenges will be responding to the seizure of two French aid workers in Afghanistan. The Taliban abducted the workers in early March, but the Taliban has quite thoughtfully given France a chance to hold its election and appoint a new government before it must respond. Said a Taliban spokesman:
We will wait for a while after the election of the president. He will be busy with internal issues of his government but he will also pay attention to foreign issues."
Once the grace period expires, however, the Taliban has demanded that France provide a timetable for leaving Afghanistan, and Sarkozy made some worrying noises about withdrawal during the campaign.
Sarkozy may now want to consult the primer the Italians helpfully provided on how not to respond to the Taliban. in March, the Italian government pressured Afghanistan to release five Taliban prisoners in order to spring a captured Italian journalist. The move outraged NATO allies and the Afghan population (in large because the captive's Afghan interpreter was subsequently beheaded). It's hard to imagine Sarkozy now going down the path of negotiations.
With Bush's approval rating at the lowest of any president since Jimmy Carter in 1979, Republican insiders are seeking solace in Nicolas Sarkozy's win. After all, France's new president was able to pull out a victory for the incumbent party despite Jacques Chirac, a similarly troubled and maligned leader. Here is Newt Gingrich summing it up on Face the Nation yesterday:
Nicolas Sarkozy is in the Chirac government. Chirac is at the end of 10 years, two terms. People are totally fed up with him, they're very tired. And yet Sarkozy has managed to become the candidate of change while Segolene Royal, the socialist opposition, has become the candidate of status quo."
But who among the current Republican field can position himself as a Sarkozy? Toby Harnden, who writes for London's Telegraph, suspects that Sen. John McCain's campaign may be trying to mimic Sarkozy's playbook. I don't see him pulling it off. Where Sarkozy offered France radical solutions on the country's two most pressing issues—immigration and economic malaise—McCain has become the candidate of the status quo on the United States' most pressing problem, Iraq. Sarkozy is about to become France's first baby boom president. McCain, if elected, would become the United States' oldest commander in chief.
Rather than having a maverick of the Sarkozy type emerge from within the Republican field, I suspect we are instead more likely to see one splinter off from the party and go it alone. Two leading contenders for that role, Sen. Chuck Hagel and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appear to at least be giving that option some consideration. They'd better hurry. Desperate to get behind any candidate who offers charisma and hope, many Republicans who might support a Hagel or Bloomberg are already defecting to Sen. Barak Obama's camp. And that should tell us everything we need to know about the likelihood of a radical of the Sarkozy vein emerging from the Republican primary.
You may have noticed that blogging was light at Passport yesterday. (It was May Day, after all. And since we are a global magazine, we were in solidarity with all those countries that celebrate it as labor day.) To tide you over, we posted a Top Secret memo from Paul Wolfowitz to World Bank employees. In this super-duper secret memo, the beleaguered World Bank president warns that Bank employees are forbidden from wagering on a sports betting website that trades in the probability of future political events.
Doing so "will be considered insider trading in clear violation of my anti-corruption guidelines," the memo says. It goes on: "Your knowledge of normal World Bank personnel procedures gives you a clear information advantage in predicting whether I will be forced to resign. You must not abuse it. Please note: the Bank's prohibition on insider trading applies not only to immediate family but also to significant others (e.g., girlfriends)."
We are delighted that Very Important People read ForeignPolicy.com. Our esteemed Gallic cousins across the Atlantic at Le Monde were kind enough to post a link to our super-duper secret memo. For you non-French readers, Le Monde's piece has a straightforward headline, "Paul Wolfowitz wants to prevent World Bank employees from betting on his resignation," and basically just translates and quotes selected text from the memo into French. There's not much editorial commentary except for a throwaway line that Wolfowitz is not totally without humor.
Neither are the French, thank goodness. Several hours later, after finding out that our memo was fake, Le Monde posted an "Oops" note on its website. (They weren't alone. When I first read it, I had to ask Blake, "Is this for real?") As the byline should make clear, the satire was the brainchild of our friend Kenneth Rogoff, who is a professor up at Harvard and a potential future candidate for the economics beat at The Onion. Thanks to both Ken and to Le Monde for giving us a chuckle today.
As Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy jostle for position in the upcoming French presidential runoff, Sarkozy—generally thought of as pro-American—appears to be engaging in some ritualistic Yankee-bashing. He blasted the U.S. position on climate change in a recent interview. That's fair enough. But he also suggested that French forces may not be in Afghanistan for long if he's elected:
The long-term presence of French troops in that part of the world does not look definitive to me," he said in an interview with France-2 television.
That's quite troubling, particularly in light of the recent French withdrawal of special forces from the region. For the moment, I'm attributing Sarkozy's loose talk to the need to lure centrist voters skeptical of cooperation with the United States.
Graham Parker has an interesting take on French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy over at the FT's Brussels Blog. The conventional wisdom among the Economist/Financial Times set in Europe is that Sarkozy is exactly what France's heavily statist and rigid economy needs. Parker worries, though, that Sarko will get on everyone's nerves once he's in office (assuming he wins on May 6):
... [L]eave aside policy for a minute and imagine what Sarko would be like on a personal level on the European stage. If you think Chirac tried to dominate European summits, wait until you see the little cowboy in action. [...]
As Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, says: "Europe is the antithesis of his approach. He always wants to be acting constantly, getting into details, while Europe lays down rules to constrain the action of national politicians."
Even if Sarko's policy agenda is one of modernisation, how long before his assertive French Gaullism, taste for the limelight and ill-considered initiatives, start to get on the nerves of his colleagues?
Parker then points to Sarkozy's April 20th appearance on a white horse as a potential indicator of a "more macho political style" that could rub Europe's other leaders the wrong way. I can see how the horse thing might remind them of certain past French leaders:
The polls turned out to be pretty accurate after all:
With most votes counted in Sunday's first round, Mr Sarkozy had nearly 31%, with Ms Royal, bidding to be France's first woman president, on 25%.
Centrist Francois Bayrou got 18%, and far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen almost 11%.
Voting throughout the day reached record numbers, with turnout put at 85% - the highest for nearly 50 years.
So what happens next? Sarkozy faces Royal for a left-right showdown on May 6. Do the French want the eat-your-spinach approach of Sarkozy, or more social spending, as Royal is promising? We'll find out soon enough—but my bet is on Sarkozy.
This weekend is host to three elections: Nigeria, where ethno-religious violence and widespread accusations of fraud have marred the country's first attempt at a democratic rotation of power; France, where the gap between conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Ségolène Royal has narrowed somewhat in recent days and many voters are still undecided; and ... what was that third country again?
Oh yeah, Syria.
Syria, an anachronistic Baathist regime ruled by an opthamologist, is holding "elections without politics" on Sunday and Monday, in the words of the Carnegie Endowment's Omayma Abdel Latif. You probably haven't heard much about Syria's parliamentary contests because, well, there isn't much to tell. One faction of the beleaguered opposition, as is typical in countries where politics are window-dressing for dictatorship, has had enough:
It is "pointless to take part in an election whose results are known in advance," said lawyer Hassan Abdel-Azim, spokesman for six banned parties operating under the umbrella National Democratic Rally (NDR).
And that is all you need to know about election #3.
Women workers are today’s proletariat ... There’s an unacceptable gap between golden parachutes and private pension plans [of executives] and the salaries being paid to workers.”
-Ségolène Royal, Socialist candidate for president in France, Financial Times, April 19, 2007, at a Carrefour-owned store in central Paris
It's crunch time for France's presidential candidates. With the first round beginning on Sunday, Nicolas Sarkozy, Ségolène Royal, François Bayrou, and Jean-Marie Le Pen are pounding the pavement in a last-ditch effort to round up votes. Who will win? The latest polls posted on Le Monde's website depict a tightening race between Sarkozy and Royal, the two frontrunners. If Sarkozy wins, he'll have to deal with the fact that he's deeply hated in Muslim and immigrant areas for his actions as interior minister during the 2005 unrest, when he famously denounced rioting youth as "scum."
As you can see from the following Google mashup map of the candidates' public appearances, Sarkozy has studiously avoided North African suburbs of Paris like Montfermeil and Clichy-sous-Bois, ground zero for the riots. (Sarkozy's is the blue and red UMP logo; Royal is depicted by the purple-ringed icon in the middle of the map.)
And who can blame him for staying away? David Rieff, writing in Sunday's New York Times, quotes Mamadou, a Muslim from one of Paris's notorious banlieues:
If I could get my hands on Sarkozy, I’d kill him.”
Sarkozy is making a lot of sense on economic reform and relations with the United States, but if he does win, he's going to have to govern millions of people like Mamadou who hate his guts almost as vehemently. How's that going to work?
Spring is in the air—and in Spain and southern France, that's bad news for bulls. The bullfighting season kickstarted this last weekend with a holiday festival in the Provençal city of Arles; Seville and Madrid will have their celebrations in the coming weeks. This week's Thursday Video offers a glimpse of the pageantry and violence from the Arles Féria:
Like traditional culture elsewhere in the world, bullfighting—or corrida, as enthusiasts prefer to call it—is facing challenges in adopting to the modern world. Many see the practice as a barbaric blood sport best allowed to go the way of gladiatorial combat. Others are pushing for the ritual to adapt by, say, sparing the bull from the slaughter.
Traditionalists, however, are quick to defend the beauty of a matador demonstrating courage, artistry, and complete domination over a powerful creature. They frequently point to the fact that corrida is covered in the arts section of local newspapers, not sports. Bullfighting is also adapting from within: Among the matadors at Arles this weekend was the first French female to enter the ring with a bull at a major holiday festival. And with 30 million people attending corrida in Spain alone each year, she is likely to have enthusiastic crowds to preform in front of for some time.
Yesterday, French presidential candidate François Bayrou called for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, saying that China was not doing enough to stop the bloodshed in Darfur:
There is nothing easier than stopping this tragedy, this genocide. This is a political issue because China decided to bring its protection to the Khartoum regime."
China has come under increasing international criticism for investing in Africa, while ignoring human rights atrocities occurring on the continent. It currently buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil, and so has used its position on the U.N. Security Council to stymie attempts to put real pressure on the Sudanese government.
Bayrou's statement is not likely to have much of a real effect. The center-right party's candidate is currently running behind Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal in the polls. Press freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders ended its own call for a boycott during a visit to Beijing in January. And as for China, it trotted out Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao today for this bland retort: "The people who put forward those remarks are not very clear on China's position on the Darfur issue."
Still, it's unusual that Bayrou would call for a boycott on the basis China's foreign policy towards a third party. (The American and Soviet blocs each boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, respectively, in response to the other side's domestic policies and foreign policies aimed at them.) Nonetheless, it's an interesting thought. Beijing will invest more than $23 billion in the 2008 Olympics, and has been preparing for years to showcase China to the world. What better way for China to lose face than for no one to come to the party?
Anti-immigration zealot and aging right-wing icon Jean-Marie Le Pen claims he has the endorsements necessary to enter France's already fascinating presidential race. Still, there's reason to doubt he can be the force that he's been in the past, when he sent France's political establishment into near apoplexy. Le Pen is a mesmerizing orator, but at nearly 79, he's getting a bit long in the tooth—and so is his base of elderly voters.
But what Le Pen's candidacy will do to the evolving race is anyone's guess. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is besting socialist Ségolène Royal and centrist François Bayrou in the latest polls, has been encouraging both Le Pen and far left candidate Olivier Besancenot to get into the race:
I fight Mr Le Pen's ideas. But I will fight to ensure that Mr Besancenot as well as Mr Le Pen can defend their ideas. Democracy mustn't be hijacked by a small number of people. That isn't democracy," he told France 3 TV.
It's damned magnanimous of Sarkozy. So what's the angle? The BBC sees it this way:
Mr Sarkozy's gesture may not be quite so altruistic as it seems - if the National Front is not represented in the elections next month, he will be forced to shift his own position to the right. That would alienate some supporters and give more ground to Mr Bayrou.
Americans have long been knocked for taking too superficial an approach to their politics. Saturday Night Live's caricatures of presidents and presidential candidates have been especially influential in defining their identities for the public. The French, though, have gone one step further, and turned to puppets.
Les Guignols de l'info ("News Puppets" in English), a puppet-based political satire airing on French TV station Canal+, has been popular for years. But how it aims its latex-clad barbs may now have an outsized effect on the contest between presidential candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal. Fully half of the French electorate believes the show will have an "important" effect on the outcome of the election, according to a recent poll.
The show ridicules everyone, but like American satires such as the Daily Show, it can't avoid appearing hostile to the conservatives currently in power. If Socialist candidate Royal eventually prevails, she may have more than the usual number of stagehands and behind-the-scenes manipulators to thank. Most politicians are in debt to figurative puppet-masters; she may find herself beholden to the real thing.
In yesterday's New York Times, FP editor-in-chief Moisès Naim nicely dissected the growing problem of what he termed "rogue aid"—development aid by dictatorships like China and Venezuela with no strings and little social conscience:
In recent years, wealthy nondemocratic regimes have begun to undermine development policy through their own activist aid programs. Call it rogue aid. It is development assistance that is nondemocratic in origin and nontransparent in practice, and its effect is typically to stifle real progress while hurting ordinary citizens. China is actively backing such deals throughout Africa; its financing of roads, electrical plants, ports and the like boomed from $700 million in 2003 to nearly $3 billion for each of the past two years.
Naim acknowledges, of course, that Western governments have often dabbled in the strategic aid business, particularly during the Cold War. And today's Christian Science Monitor has an interesting take on France's struggle with its own rogue aid problem, which has come to a head at this year's Franco-African summit in Cannes. For years, France has given succor to shady Francophone regimes in a bid to maintain influence in its erstwhile colonial realm. It's a practice that's becoming untenable at home, however:
African protesters, along with international aid organizations, led protests outside of the Cannes summit this week, and France's ties with illiberal African regimes has become a hot-button topic in the ongoing presidential race to replace President Jacques Chirac. "By favoring personal friendships to the detriment of the general interest, the presidential practice has tarnished the image of our country, which is associated in African minds with the most questionable regimes on the continent," wrote French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, in an editorial for the Témoignage Chrétien, a Catholic weekly.
France's bout of conscience makes Naim's point well. For all its flaws, Western development aid has inched toward transparency. Beijing and Caracas are nowhere close.
A couple years ago, the French officially bid adieu to the 35-hour workweek. Now it appears that those extra hours of work are taking their toll. This week, the Gallic government launched a $9 million public awareness campaign about sleeping problems.
Not surprisingly, 56 percent of the population has said that lack of quality sleep has made them less productive at work. In an interview on Monday, French health minister Xavier Bertrand said, "Why not nap at work? It can't be taboo." He said he would promote the idea of on-the-job slumber, if studies show that it's effective. But who needs research? If you snooze, you don't necessarily lose—JFK, Churchill, da Vinci, Clinton, and Einstein were all nappers, and they did just fine.
Ségolène Royal seems to be making a habit of committing diplomatic "gaffes". Her latest blunder has raised the hackles of Canadian PM Stephen Harper. Royal reportedly stated that she believes in "the sovereignty and freedom of Québec" following a meeting in Paris with Andre Boisclair, the leader of the pro-independence Parti Québécois. Harper responded haughtily:
Experience teaches that it is highly inappropriate for a foreign leader to interfere in the democratic affairs of another country."
While Royal maintains that her comments did not depart from France's longstanding policy towards Québec (characterized by "neither interference nor indifference"), further damage to Royal’s credibility in foreign relations has already been done. Royal has been criticized as a foreign policy novice in the past, first for meeting with a Hezbollah leader in Lebanon, and subsequently for condoning his comments comparing Israeli occupation to Nazi occupation in France (she blamed translation errors for the mistake), for admiring China's justice system in spite of that country's questionable human rights record, and for advocating that Iran should be barred from developing even a civilian nuclear energy program, although that is permitted by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Her main presidential rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, has to be thrilled as he races ahead in the polls and focus attention on his economic policy reforms—a key issue for French voters tired of sub-par economic growth.
Never mind the brouhaha over a dying newspaper industry. Certain sectors of Old Media are actually gaining ground (er, I mean air). More and more broadcasters are showing a commitment to a format that is all news, all the time, all around the world. Yesterday saw the launch, to mixed reviews, of France 24 (vingt-quatre), a government-backed 24-hour news channel that's putting a Gallic spin on the day's events. Most of the stories will be broadcast and streamed online in French and English, and there are plans to ramp up Arabic-language content as well.
The trend is happening in smaller countries too. When I was in Bangkok last month, I spoke with Tom Mintier, a CNN veteran who had been hired by Thailand's media giant UBC to launch a 24-hour news channel. Mintier thought that there was a valuable untapped market made up of viewers who wanted to watch news in their native tongue. Too bad UBCTV's news programming wasn't already on the airwaves during the coup. Then again, maybe it wouldn't have mattered. Mintier plans to avoid political coverage in favor of business and sports. If you ask me, that's an incomplete definition of "news."
At any rate, France 24 and UBCTV may make some headway in their respective niche markets. But neither is likely to make a dent in the overwhelming global dominance of the BBC and CNN International. They simply don't have the resources, reach, or potential audiences.
French presidential candidate Segolene Royal is being heavily criticized for her "poorly prepared," "useless for peace," and "dangerous" tour of the Middle East. In an attempt to burnish her FP cred ahead of next year's election, Royal recently met with Israeli, Palestinian, and Lebanese leaders during a visit to the Middle East. She is receiving strong criticism in France, however, for failing to immediately react when a member of Hezbollah compared Israel's occupation of Lebanon to the Nazi occupation of France during WWII. While Royal claims to not have heard the comment, others attest that failure to react is more evidence of her inexperience. She did, however, get her requisite photo-ops.
The EU recently released fertility statistics for the EU-25, and the new numbers point to an increasing number of Europeans choosing to have children out of wedlock (32.2%) vs. inside marriage (67.8%). The leaders of this trend, as the map from EUROSTAT at right shows, are the Scandinavian countries. In Denmark, for example, 60% of firstborns have unmarried parents. That figure hits 80% in certain districts of Norway.
While the United States still has more children being born out of wedlock (37%) than Europe as a whole, the profile of unmarried couples differs sharply. In the U.S., births out of wedlock are still associated with teenage pregnancies and poverty. In European countries like France, they have no such stigma. Ségolène Royal, who just won the Socialist Party nomination for France's presidential election next year, has been living with Francois Hollande, the party's leader, for 25 years. They have four children and remain unmarried. And they're hardly the only prominent French couple to prefer l'amour without marriage.
A closer look at the map reveals another interesting correlation. The countries in which birth rates are increasing are the same countries that have a larger percentage of children out of wedlock. It looks as though the current generation of childbearers is thoroughly rewriting their parents' family model.
The French have always been gung-ho about preserving their unique history and identity. They are now, perhaps, taking it just a little bit too far. The country's governing party, UMP, is proposing that wine classes should be introduced into French schools, which would teach the "history and qualities of various types of French wine." The French wine industry has been hit hard by competition overseas and decrease in domestic consumption. The government argues, therefore, that in order "to hold a forceful position in the world, French wine must first assume a strong position at home." What's next? Cheese classes?
The French have long been resistant to the idea of American cultural imperalism. Now, they are resisting American technological imperialism as well. Not only has France worked on a homegrown search engine to counter Google's ubiquity, the government is also casting off the cloak of Microsoft. The French parliament is following the example of its gendarmes and its Ministry of Culture and Communication by ditching Microsoft Windows for its computers' operating systems in favor of open source platform Linux. My tech geek friends have informed me that this is a smart move, and not just because they hate Microsoft. It will save France cash (money that would otherwise go to Microsoft's coffers for Windows licensing fees), and Linux is a more stable platform than Windows (which is prone to crashing, as we all know from personal experience). Security is also better, making it perfect for a government concerned about protecting privacy.
Ahead of a major Nato summit in Riga, which commenced today, President Bush attacked Nato members who are reluctant to send their troops into some of Afghanistan's most dangerous areas, charging that they must engage in "difficult assignments." Under the agreement to aid in security and reconstruction, several member states, including Germany, France, Spain, and Italy, are allowed to choose which operations they wish to undertake.
Meanwhile, French President Jacques Chirac has written a column in today's Guardian in support of boosting national contributions to Nato operations in order to ease Nato's reliance on the United States. Chirac also makes the push for a stronger European influence in Nato, and proposes methods of how and why Nato must adapt. Ahead of a summit that will likely be dominated by Nato involvement in Afghanistan, Chirac also offers his idea of what is needed in order to succeed in the operation,
To bring about the conditions for success [in Afghanistan], we must act in the framework of a comprehensive strategy, a reaffirmed political and economic process. The establishment of a contact group encompassing countries in the region, the principal countries involved and international organisations along the lines of what exists in Kosovo is, I think, necessary to give our forces the means to succeed in their mission in support of the Afghan authorities, and refocus the alliance on military operations.
It may seem like there are hordes of people doing fairly ridiculous things nearly every day of the year, but today is special. Today is Guiness World Records Day, and people around the world somehow feel more compelled to participate in mass events that involve the largest aqua aerobics class (in South Africa), the largest tea party (in Japan), and the largest check (in Kuwait). In some cities, national pride is at stake with Frenchies attempting the largest simultaneous kiss in Paris. Meanwhile, in Toronto, Canadians are attempting the largest ever re-enactment of Michael Jackson's Thriller video. This is the part of the story where the whole of Toronto starts showing up at awards shows with chimpanzees as dates, marrying Lisa Marie Presley, and dangling babies out of windows. Or they buy their own island and move to Bahrain. Either way, best of luck to everyone!
Incidentally, I'm happy to report that at least two people at FP have participated in Guinness events: the world's largest bowl of popped popcorn and the world's longest chorus line. At their request, identities will remain anonymous.
France is attempting to pass a controversial bill which would make it a crime to deny that Turks committed genocide against Armenians during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Under rule of the Young Turks from 1915 to 1917, some 1.5 million Armenians were expelled and massacred. The Turks, however, strongly reject the label of "genocide", claiming that both Armenian and Turkish lives were lost during conflicts of that time.
The French proposal has triggered explosive reactions from Turkey. And today, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn claimed that the bill would be "counterproductive" and damage relations between the EU and Turkey, which is an aspiring EU member. Mr. Rehn stated that Turkey's entry into the EU should not be conditional on its recognition of the genocide, contrary to the opinion of French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who, as it happens, opposes Turkey’s accession to the EU. Many French politicians, who are trying to appeal to France's large Armenian population for votes in the upcoming elections, favor the bill, due to be discussed on Thursday. But the proposal comes at a time just when the EU is due to consider Ankara’s progress on harmonization. Sure seems like a convenient time to rock the boat. Wouldn't some deft backroom diplomacy, rather than politicking, better foster dialogue?
By backing away from the recent offer to have a French consortium enrich uranium on Iranian soil, the United States and its allies are missing out on a perfect opportunity to squeeze Iran. True, the proposal raises a number of issues. First and foremost, how can we trust the Iranians with any sort of domestic enrichment program given their dubious behavior in the past? However, given the current impasse, perhaps we have no choice. With Chinese, French, and Russian opposition, sanctions on Iran are unlikely to pass the U.N. Security Council; a full-scale ground invasion is unfeasible; and a selective bombing campaign would only succeed in one thing: convincing the mullahs that they need nuclear arms.
The West should have embraced the offer today with legally-binding and internationally-recognized conditions, such as full IAEA access to all Iranian nuclear sites and final say for the French government in the screening and hiring of Iranian personnel. By explicitly tying these conditions to Iran's previous noncompliance of the NPT, the West could have assuaged any fears that all NPT-compliant enrichment of uranium will be punished. The Iranians would have reneged in the face of those conditions, but then the responsibility is back on them. In short, the French option would add to the evidence that Iran is the belligerent party.
In late August, Lionel Jospin made a dramatic return to the French political scene, four years after he was knocked out in the first round of presidential voting. In an emotional speech, Jospin presented himself as the elder statesman of France, the true Socialist. Or, to put it more bluntly: the stop-Ségolène-Royal candidate. Today, he pulled out of the race.
Jospin's candidacy had failed to catch on with Socialist voters, among whom he trailed Royal 54 to 21 percent. Jospin had also failed to persuade the other male candidates, who have even lower ratings, to withdraw in his favor.
If this isn't enough to put a spring in Ségolène's step, there's also a new TV show in France featuring a charismatic female president. Now for all to be well in the Royal household, she just needs to persuade her common-law husband to confirm that he's standing aside for her.
Bush, McCain, Obama, and Rice are the awesome foursome of Washington as far as foreign visitors are concerned. It's a sign of the esteem in which the French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is held that he got to meet all four of them on his recent trip to the United States, giving his statesman credentials a boost before the French presidential election in 2007.
It's unsurprising that D.C. loves Sarko. How many other French politicians respond it "flatters me" when asked if he's annoyed to be called a friend of America? Or tell Americans, "I want you to know that in this fight, the French are your friends, and the French are at your side"? And happily confess that, "French parents dream of sending their child to an American university"?
In short, Sarko—the child of Hungarian immigrants—is the closest thing that this old European country has to a new European. Despite all this, the Washington establishment is wrong to place their hopes in him. Why? Because the single most important thing that France can do for the United States is to help get Turkey admitted into the European Union.
Turkish membership in the EU would firm up its commitment to the West. It would be, as Bush has said, a "crucial advance in relations between the Muslim world and the West" and help "expose the 'clash of civilizations' as a passing myth of history." On the Turkish question, Sarko is far worse than even Jacques Chirac. Chirac accepted in principle that Turkey could join the EU. But Sarkozy wants membership talks stopped immediately and Turkey never to become a full member.
The good news for the United States is that Sarko's likely opponent, Ségolène Royal, doesn't subscribe to this hard-line view. Speaking in Brussels, she chided her opponent, "I understand the worries of Europeans, but simplistic reactions like 'We must reject Turkey' will only bring forward disastrous results." Admittedly, Royal is not exactly racing to put down the welcome mat for the Turks, but at least she's not slamming the door in their faces either. Washington should take a look at this French Socialist: It might be pleasantly surprised by what it sees.
The candidate of the left who fails to make the presidential election run-off in an essentially left-wing country like France should hang up his hat. Especially if he's already lost a presidential election previously and the two right-wing candidates who defeated him were an extreme nationalist and an unpopular incumbent tainted by corruption allegations, respectively. But former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has concluded that his résumé makes him the ideal Socialist candidate for the 2007 election.
Accordingly, Jospin made his return to the political stage this weekend with an emotional speech at the Socialists' youth conference at La Rochelle. According to the FT, he'll lobby the other prospective male presidential candidates to drop out in the next few weeks to leave him as the "stop Ségolène Royal" candidate.
Royal's crime is to have spent her time making herself popular with the public—she's the only Socialist who could beat Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy—rather than courting party elders. She also dared to deviate from party orthodoxy on various subjects such as crime and employment. Jospin is hoping to attack her for being a pretty face, announcing in his speech that "[t]echnique does not replace politics." (A somewhat ironic charge, from a man who had just very publicly welled up while discussing his 2002 defeat and had to take a dramatic sip of water before continuing.) And other contenders have made comments that make Forbes's Michael Noer sound like an ambassador for gender equality.
As if all this wasn't drama enough, Royal’s common-law husband might end up running against her for the Socialist nomination.
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