Following Francois Hollande’s handling of Nicolas Sarkozy in last week’s Presidential election, a number of pressing uncertainties are making their way into the minds of people around the world. The issue attracting the most global media attention is the significance of France electing it’s first Socialist President in 17 years, and how it will effect economic stability in the Eurozone, as well as in global markets.
In addition to economic uncertainty, the election of Hollande gives rise to questions of how foreign policy will be handled in France. The country’s traditional distribution of policy portfolios reserves foreign policy for the president. Jonathan Marcus of BBC writes,
Many see the French president as a kind of republican monarch – more powerful than equivalent heads of state in other democracies and with fewer constraints on his power. Nowhere is this clearer than in the field of foreign policy which, throughout the Fifth Republic, has been seen as a reserved presidential domain.
Under Sarkozy, those powers were utilized liberally. France was at the helm of international action against Libyan government troops in March 2011, which ultimately led to the overthrow of long time dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.
So what does the Presidential shake-up mean for foreign policy? Unfortunately, no one is quite certain yet. On the campaign trail, Hollande barely touched on the issue of foreign policy, dedicating only four points of his 60-point agenda to the subject. Gary Schmitt and Daniel Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute indicate at least a glimmer of hope for French foreign policy under the new leadership, largely because Hollande was noticeably silent on the campaign trail in his criticism of Sarkozy’s foreign policy endeavors.
However, as with every newcomer, there still exists the possibility that France’s foreign policy could drift to a “less than helpful direction” under Hollande. Anne-Elizabeth Moutet of the Weekly Standard points out:
Because Hollande knows little of international affairs, he is likely to pick the staunchly anti-“anglo-saxon” Hubert Védrine, a former Mitterrand chief of staff who was an extremely capable foreign minister under Chirac and Jospin. Védrine, the son of a Mitterrand acolyte and junior Vichy official, Jean Védrine, is a clever, urbane ENA graduate with a clear vision of a foreign policy designed to reduce the West’s influence in global affairs.
The coming months will be far more telling as to France’s foreign policy direction. Right now, its simply a toss-up.