Louis de Gouyon Matignon is a young French candidate in the EU elections and a self-proclaimed advocate of Roma and Traveller rights. He is profiled in the third part of a series looking at the French election candidates, by EurActiv France.
Military service is no longer obligatory in France, but Louis de Gouyon Matignon wants to replace it with something else: Erasmus, the EU student exchange programme established in 1987. At just 22 years of age, his love of Europe and its citizens has led Louis de Gouyon Matignon to form a political party, the European Party.
His unconventional journey started with a small amount of money for voting ballots. “And they still won’t be in all of Ile-de-France’s polling offices, because it costs too much,” he told EurActiv France.
Defending the Roma community at the UMP
He currently studies law in Paris and is fascinated by Roma culture. His political career started out of nowhere… in a parking lot. He was working with Roma people when he met the French UMP Senator, Pierre Hérisson. “I rather brazenly offered to work for him and he agreed,” he said.
He did not work for the Senator for long. Advocating the cause of the Roma community quickly got in the way of a career with the UMP. “I disagreed with Christian Estrosi and Gilles Bourdouleix. Then I ended up getting fired, which is normal,” he recalls.
Louis de Gouyon Matignon and his party demand that politicians show restraint in policies regarding the Roma community. He advocates for policies that establish the rights of minorities as fundamental values, especially in relation to the Roma community, Europe’s largest minority group.
According to de Gouyon Matignon, “We are witnessing silent ethnic discrimination and no one talks about it. In Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, governments have done their utmost to prevent these people from integrating into society and systematically discriminate against them. In France, they have to sign into a police station once a year… they are watched like criminals. It is a failure of public freedom.”
Europe: large country divided by artificial borders
The European Party wants to include the rights of minorities in the European constitution. Louis de Gouyon Matignon argues that Europe is a “big country that is divided by artificial borders. It must be reunited, elect a president, do away with the French president and strengthen regional power.”
His federalist party advocates for a ‘Eurafrica‘, seeing as Europe has been “moving towards greater openness and less borders for the past 500 years”.
Louis de Gouyon Matignon is fascinated by the cause of the Roma community in France and Eastern Europe, and their common language, Romani. Something of an expert on nomadic European peoples of Indian origin, the young candidate has learnt Romani and even published a book on this under-researched language.
Resort to the Constitutional Council of France?
He admits that his ideas are extreme. “However, I am part of the Maastricht generation, those born between 1985 and 1995. This generation will be in power in 30 years, and things will have progressed by then. We will improve the transparency of political life to levels similar to democracies in Northern Europe.”
In the meantime, he wants to be an advocate for the Roma and Travelling community.
Louis de Gouyon Matignon also advocates for more fairness in French elections. To do this, he plans to bring a case to the French administrative tribunal on the requirement that voting ballots have to be financed by candidates. This limits the chances for lesser-known candidates to be elected. He hopes that the case will go to the French Constitutional Council. According to the candidate, the discriminating costs go against the freedom of opinion guaranteed in the French constitution.
The European elections will be held in all EU countries in May 2014. The Lisbon Treaty states that the European Parliament elects the Commission president on the basis of a proposal made by the European Council, taking into account the European elections (Article 17, paragraph 7 of the TEU). This will apply for the first time in the 2014 elections.
European Parliament, parties and many others have pushed for these parties to nominate their front-runners in the election campaigns.
This would make the European elections a de facto race for the Commission president seat, would politicise the campaigns and could increase voter turnout, they say (read more in our LinksDossier).
Other politicians believe that choosing a top candidate is not the ideal solution. Van Rompuy has called for caution numerous times: the European Council could choose a different candidate from the party that wins.