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.