Member and neighbour States

Is the French Socialist Party tempted by Germany-phobia?

Angela Merkel (German chancellor) and François Hollande (French President) (Flickr - European Council)

Angela Merkel (German chancellor) and François Hollande (French President) (Flickr – European Council)

A text was enough to create polemic and cacophony again.

In the framework of their future conference about Europe and looking forward the 2014 European elections, the French Socialist Party (PS) adopted a resolution which firmly criticizes Angela Merkel and her “inflexible selfishness”. This resolution was not unnoticed; Claude Bartolone, current Speaker of the French National Assembly, even wowed a “confrontation” with the German chancellor.

These statements provoked a huge controversy within French politics – in the opposition and in the government – reminding Arnaud Montebourg’s statements comparing, in November 2011, Merkel to Bismarck.

Some political analysts and columnists became worried about the French socialists’ radical position vis-à-vis Germany and the European integration. Pointing out Angela Merkel and her all-austerity strategy, some French socialists (mainly from the left wing of the PS) are looking for accusing the Chancellor and her inflexibility even if it means being criticized by Jean-Marc Ayrault and his government. Indeed, some Ministers such as Manuel Valls and the Prime minister himself want, due to diplomatic reasons, to appease the situation with the Christian-democratic leader, reaffirming the importance of the French-German tandem, real engine of the European Union.

By incriminating Angela Merkel, the PS’ left wing and Claude Bartolone are not so much targeting Germany and European integration but are most of all betting on a possible come-back of the German social-democratic party (SPD) in power just after the legislative elections which will be held on the 24th of September. Such reasoning is not so stupid insofar as the German social-democrats may still win the elections – according to the polls – but quite hazardous. Indeed, far from being rejected, Angela Merkel still seems to be popular among the German people and may really get a third term, like Helmut Kohl in the past.

In other words, the French Socialist Party is rather trying to give a hand to the German SPD which clearly backed François Hollande during the previous French presidential election, than tackling Germany. By criticizing austerity, the French Socialist Party’s left wing wants to reaffirm its identity but also its criticism of a European Union it considers as too oriented towards free-market (an orientation embodied by Angela Merkel, in their eyes). And the recent statements by Martin Schulz – socialist chairman of the European Parliament – and Jose Manuel Barroso – President of the European Commission –questioning austerity measures, seem to (partially) support the claims of the French socialists’ left wing.

Nonetheless, this return for favours cannot hide the discord that still seems to exist within the PS vis-à-vis the European integration and, especially, the strategy to face to crisis, even if it means adding more cacophony at a moment when a speech of truth is required from the French President of the Republic. Tackling Angela Merkel, some ministers as Benoit Hamon or Arnaud Montebourg and Speaker of the French national Assembly, Claude Bartolone, relayed by some members of the French Socialist Party’s left wing, are taking the risk to make François Hollande’s speech non-understandable and inaudible, although the French leader was in favour a “friendly tension” with Angela Merkel some weeks ago. They are especially taking the risk to awake tensions towards Europe, expressed with violence during the referendum regarding the ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty in 2005.

Gilles Johnson

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