Sarkozy, the German

PARIS/BERLIN | | frankreich

PARIS/BERLIN (Own report) - France's recent defeat at the hands of Germany in the struggle for hegemony over the EU is shaping the current presidential election campaign in France. This has been confirmed by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in a recently published analysis. Conservative circles of the Paris establishment, according to this publication, feel impelled to imitate in France, the austerity measures ("Hartz IV"), imposed on Germany under Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, to safeguard the French economy from the overwhelming German competition – at the expense of growing impoverishment of the French population. The DGAP hardly sees any alternatives, once the struggle for a demand-oriented solution to the crisis in the EU was lost to Germany. The president’s party, the UMP, which wrote its electoral platform with the collaboration of the German CDU, is promoting the austerity policy as a "German model." Following initial protests, the opposing Parti Socialist (PS) is warning against "anti-German sentiments." Analyzing the EU's development over the past few years under the German austerity dictate, a Swiss research institute has concluded that France has become the "junior partner" of the "undisputed EU leader, Germany."

Election Campaign Help

A short analysis of the current Presidential election campaign in France, published at the beginning of this month by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), confirms that Germany is "more and more present" in the "discourse of the conservative UMP" (Union pour un mouvement populaire, incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party). The DGAP also refers to the appearance of CDU General Secretary Hermann Gröhe at the official launch of the election campaign, the UMP's Conseil National on January 28, an appearance that attracted much attention. Gröhe made remarks about Sarkozy's candidature, before the latter had publicly announced it. Gröhe also suggested joint appearances of the UMP candidate and the German Chancellor during the election campaign - a hitherto unprecedented German interference in the internal affairs of the neighboring country. The DGAP considers as "the highlight of this new tendency" "a televised interview with the president on January 29, 2012," in which Sarkozy "mentioned Germany and the Germans no less than 25 times in seventy minutes."[1] The first common televised interview of Sarkozy and Merkel on German and French TV, on February 6, is also considered support for the election campaign.

Hartz IV Model

The UMP's intensive reference to Germany has to be viewed in an economic context, according to the DGAP paper: "The central point of reference is the economic performance."[2] Since some time already, Paris has been complaining that French enterprises, in general, can hardly keep abreast with their German competitors - the reforms ("Hartz IV") pushed through by the German Red-Green government had increased poverty in Germany while creating locational advantages for German firms, with the result that France is lagging behind. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[3]) After their unsuccessful attempts over the past few years to counter the brutal German austerity dictates in the Euro crisis with a demand-oriented growth policy, French conservative economic circles saw their only chance in imitating the German model - to economically catch up, at least in the long run. "What is being presented in France as the German model, largely corresponds to the Schröder government's Agenda 2010," explains the DGAP. In January, business oriented Paris newspapers ran the headlines "the French work less than Germans." In March, EADS CEO Louis Gallois confirmed at an event organized by the DGAP, "today, Germany is reaping the fruits of the Agenda 2010." The "German experience should inspire us."[4] The fact that "Hartz IV" has greatly increased poverty in Germany and, should this model be adopted, the same can be expected in France, is not mentioned.

Excellent German

The French president's UMP party's orientation on the German model has been systematically prepared since last year. In April 2011, the Paris branch of the CDU's Konrad Adenauer Foundation distributed a comprehensive bilingual publication entitled "The German Way out of the Crisis," destined to satisfy sectors of the French establishment's growing interest in the "German Model." In October 2011, the first UMP delegation visited Berlin to formulate, together with representatives of the CDU, the UMP's election platform. Other delegation visits followed, attended by the French Minister of Agriculture and German specialist, Bruno le Maire (UMP), who is responsible for the election program. "The meetings with Minister Le Maire led to an intensive exchange of ideas with the CDU on the 'Project 2012' - your election platform," CDU General Secretary Gröhe reported in Paris on January 28, 2012 adding, condescendingly, that the UMP can "be proud of the results."[5] German press correspondents remarked not only with irony that Le Maire speaks an "excellent German." Referring to the new Germany-orientation of Sarkozy's party, complacently adding that its delegation even closely inspected the CDU's headquarters near the Berlin Tiergarten "to better plan their own new party headquarters."[6]

A "Learning Process"

In its recently published short analysis, the DGAP explicitly praises the importance of the new Germany orientation of the French President and his party. Sarkozy has "not always" been a "fan of Germany", the paper states. In the 2007 election campaign he had rather "oriented himself on the USA and Great Britain" and had mentioned Germany "time and again in connection with World War II and the Nazis." Referring to the effects of years of pressure from Berlin, which had escalated in the dispute - lost by France - over the EU's economic approach in efforts to overcome the Euro crisis, DGAP writes that "in the course of time" Sarkozy learned "to appreciate the German-French relations' importance for European integration." "Sarkozy, the American" as he liked to call himself, became "Sarkozy, the German."[7]

The Calm after the Storm

The open submission to the German model has in fact created a controversy in France. The oppositional Parti Socialiste (PS) has compared "Angela Merkel's attitude in the Euro crisis to Bismarck's policy," the DGAP reports. Certain "nervousness" can be detected in the PS, with regards to the "loss of national self-determination." After a phase of hefty controversy, which were marked by allegations that Sarkozy had "unconditionally" surrendered to German demands, "calm has returned to the discussions on Germany and German-French relations," according to the DGAP's short analysis. Today, Sarkozy barely mentions the "German model" so as not to become vulnerable, while the PS remains silent. "Under no circumstances, should the Left revive anti-German sentiments," as the leader of the PS election campaign, Pierre Moscovici, is quoted to have said. And the PS leading candidate, François Hollande, is "ostensibly teaming up with the German Social Democrats," the DGAP notes.[8]

Leader and Junior Partner

In a study on the EU's development under the pressure of the Euro crisis, the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich analyses the power relations underlying the UMP's new orientation on Germany and Sarkozy's transformation from "American" to "German." According to the analysis, the German government has completely prevailed in the dispute over the crisis management. Since then, it is clear: Germany has risen "to the position of the EU’s indisputable leader," while France "has been downgraded to a junior status." The Center for Security Studies concludes: "Never before in the history of European unification has there been a similar degree of preeminence of any single country."[9]

Please read also Breaking a Taboo, No Tandem and On a Collision Course (II).

[1], [2] Claire Demesmay: Deutschland: Die Kandidaten und die Gouvernante; dgap.org 05.04.2012
[3] see also Die Frage der Führung
[4] Maßstab Deutschland; dgap.org 27.03.2012
[5] Frankreich am Scheideweg; www.kas.de 28.01.2012
[6] Vive l'Allemagne; www.faz.net 04.02.2012
[7], [8] Claire Demesmay: Deutschland: Die Kandidaten und die Gouvernante; dgap.org 05.04.2012
[9] Daniel Möckli: The strategic weakening of debt-ridden Europe, in: Strategic Trends 2012. Key Developments in Global Affairs, Center for Security Studies an der Eidgenössischen Technischen Hochschule Zürich, März 2012