A whirlwind romance in France?

Pre-election promises are usually alluring. They generally flatter voters’ egos and often create a fuzzy image of what should be expected after elections. But they also contain traps and provoke anxiety, as most citizens are well aware that few of these pledges will end up being realized. Post-election France is currently facing this latter scenario. Grandiloquent pledges by French President Nicolas Sarkozy have been followed by the «abduction» of political personalities from rival ideological camps due to the prevailing air of self-confidence that would overshadow Charles de Gaulle himself. The truth is that France has recently shown difficulty in adapting to the new global reality. And although the memory has not yet faded of that winter of 2003 when United Nations Security Council officials gave then French premier Dominique de Villepin a standing ovation when he attacked the USA over Iraq with such characteristically French finesse, the fact remains that the French economy, its politics and its society remain something of a mystery. It remains to be seen what actions Sarkozy will take to clarify these areas. Part of this task will be undertaken by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the charming leftist who some condemn for «switching camps» but others regard as having sacrificed his «valuable» self for French politics. Kouchner could end up being Sarkozy’s trump card. But this could also turn out to be a whirlwind romance that burns out with the first argument. But how will Kouchner react to critical international issues? Let’s consider a few examples. Darfur, for one. Will he opt in favor of military intervention or will he propose a boycott of the Olympics in Beijing next year over China’s oil links with Sudan? And what about Turkey? In view of his position, it is he who should officially relay the French stance, according to which Ankara’s negotiations with the EU should stop. But Kouchner has been a staunch supporter of Turkey’s accession to the EU. And Russia? Will Kouchner follow the example of Poland and Estonia and oppose Moscow, will he object to the US anti-missile shield or will he avoid shaking hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit? And how will he pursue the development of French-US relations in view of the fact that Sarkozy has already demonstrated his openness to the USA by imitating the US model of governance? Many of these questions remain unanswered. But when exercising policy there is always a dividing line. If you cross it, you make an impression and you win the battle. If you fail, the subsequent backtracking would be extremely detrimental. The charming Kouchner and the realist Sarkozy may succeed in striking a balance. But French romantics will always want an equally romantic France behind them.

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