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French foreign policy under Hollande a toss-up

French foreign policy under Hollande a toss-up

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.


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Ragspierre | May 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Mr Hollande is an Enarque – a product of ENA (L’École Nationale d’Administration) France’s elite “rulers’ academy”.

Well…That kan’t be good…

jimzinsocal | May 7, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I saw a comment from Obama suggesting France stick to the austerity plan and not spending.
Just like he does here. Okey dokey.

BannedbytheGuardian | May 7, 2012 at 8:15 pm

France needs an aggressive foreign policy to maintain its 4th ranked arms exporter rank.

They have always been busy in Africa. In Nth africa Ghaddafi was the big impediment in his pan Africanism . Further south is just mad & dangerous but they do go in to defend their market share in highly volatile regions.

My guess is this guy has just been a desk occupier & does not have any opinion. But he is not about to give his power to some ex Mitterand guy.

If he was smart he would have a look at boosting France’s SE Asian /Pacific presence where they are seen quite postively & have a legitimate presence.

I even think they could make a return to Vietnam & be welcomed.

BannedbytheGuardian | May 7, 2012 at 8:21 pm

BYW all posters missed the Guilia (Sarkozy ) reference in the Obama advert.

American Democrats love the dream of French society. It has always been their choice of exile.

French foreign policy? Lol.

    GrumpyOne in reply to Same Same. | May 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Hey… Don’t laugh. They’ve already waved the white flag of defeat in Afghanistan. They’ll all be out by the end of this year…

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to GrumpyOne. | May 8, 2012 at 1:47 am

      Excuse moi? That is pathetic. French service people have also died & suffered equallly awful injuries in Afghanistan.

      Australia is also going after 10 years . Are you accusing us of the white flag also?

      (As a non Nato nation we did not have to go but we honour our treaties).


Hollande doesn’t have a foreign policy; that always makes it difficult for an observer to figure out what it is. He wasn’t elected for any reason other than his promise – implicit or explicit – not to do austerity and reduce government budgets. Period.

Sorry; that last phrase ought to have been ” – not to do austerity nor to reduce government budgets.”

“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…”

Badly, I predict. Probably starting with something like “You remember all that money you loaned to France? Well too bad. Oh, and we need some more.”

It will almost certainly be bad in the Middle East. Libya and her petroleum aside, they’ll remain “neutral” effectively doing nothing to slow the drift away from secular governments and free, open societies. French forces will withdraw from Afghanistan almost immediately. They’ll continue Israel bashing (recall, they sent Yasser Arafat’s body home with military honors for burial – to Gaza I believe), and will continue to do nothing for the Syrians. Turkey is making its own bed with Europe, so there’s nothing to be done there. As the West slowly abandons Middle East society, France will do what it can to create the illusion that it is not. As to the rest of the world . . . anymore, it’s just France and the Euro.

From the article:

“The defeat of Nicolas Sarkozy in France’s presidential election and the victory of a socialist president could be the straw that broke Europe’s back and by association, that of the global economy.”

French foreign policy applies as well to Les banlieues as it does to events outside its borders.

IIRC, Sarkozy’s rise to the presidency was propelled by his tough guy stance during the car burning riots in 2005.

How soon they forget.

    Squires in reply to Jack Long. | May 8, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Some critics have suggested that the Bush administration may have played a role in triggering these riots to retaliate against President Chirac who was against Bush policies and had embarrassed the United States by preventing the UN Security Council from voting to approve the Iraq War.

    F***ing Wikipedia…

    Those would be the same rioters, IIRC, who were shouting “Allahu Akbar!” into the night as the smashed and burned everything they could.

    It’s hard to keep track when so many European “youth” or “student” or “immigrant” riots go that way – but clearly those are all isolated incidents and therefore it is perfectly reasonable to put forth the notion that this particular isolated incident in question was a secret plot by the evil genius simian unperson Bush.

      Jack Long in reply to Squires. | May 8, 2012 at 5:13 am

      I live in Germany now. There’s really no way for the guy on the street here to get an accurate background of what actually happens in the US. The media spits out bits and pieces of a narrative and there is no possible way to formulate a big picture from it.

      If there is international breaking news the German online media, especially Spiegel Online, is very good with first reports. After a day or two the narrative is the same as MSM in the US, regardless if the initial reports coincided or differed from the US originally.

      I help out coaching at the high school here. One of the coaches is a current events teacher who really attempts to study news reports and prepare for his discussions. Good guy, actually. The problem is that he is not an English speaker and has to rely on German public media. What he knows is a mile wide and an inch deep, and he seriously tries to be informed.

      Theoreticals are sometimes harder for Germans, as well, in my opinion. They seem to be more comfortable with assuming things are factual and working inductively. The bits and pieces they do get re: US news isn’t sufficient to separate the plausible from the BS.

      The point being, the authors of the Wikipedia entry could be the same.

      Nothing scientific here, just some observations of mine.

Taxpayer1234 | May 8, 2012 at 12:08 am

Let’s see, French Socialist foreign policy will be either:

a. The US sucks; or
b. The US sucks.

Anyone wanna bet which one it’ll be?

BannedbytheGuardian | May 8, 2012 at 2:20 am

If you guys could put aside your French dissing one thing to consider is how Hollande will work within NATO.

Will he take the French military out after Sarkozy put them back since De Gaule took them out in 66.

Will he bring back the 2,000 troops on the Lebanon /Israeli border?

If you hate them so much why not pack up the Statue of Liberty & send it back? It can be done.

    Why would we have to put aside dissing the French to consider details of Hollande’s likely policies?

    We’ll send back the Statue of Liberty when they pay their WWII debt with all interest, mmmkay?

You can expect Hollande to take any opportunity to undermine American power and influence and interests wherever he may do so without risk to France. He will put French resources into any engagement which carries a good chance of furthering French policy and influence, but minimize participation in any which do not directly serve his interests.

There may not be much he can do to implement his agenda, as Sarkozy’s party seems poised to keep control of parliament, and can block his socialist plans. New elections in two years, tops.

[…] am not normally one to disagree with Legal Insurrection opiners, who noted that French foreign policy under Hollande a toss-up. Fellow SLOB Shane Atwell, who knows France and French politics extremely well, is deeply concerned […]

Mutnodjmet | May 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm

I don’t normally disagree with LI punditry, but in this instance I must. Revised MAP OF HELL: FRANCE is its NEW CENTER!. From a friend who knows France — One little known aspect of Hollande is that he is very sympathetic to Muslims. This fact has been going around in private e-mails in France, but not discussed openly in the media. And, sadly, their blogosphere is probably smaller than what we have in San Diego. Hollande has publicly called for a reconciliation of cultures (i.e., Western and Islamic). His campaign staff was largely Algerian and North African. Anyway, he’s going to encourage the submersion of the French culture and rise of Islam in France.

Also, the link will take you to a story about French Jews fleeing to Israel. I think the direction of the new French foreign policy is anything but a toss-up.