The EU took centre stage in the French Socialist Party’s presidential debate on Tuesday (25 October), as candidate Benoît Hamon denounced the “toxic arrangement between the right and the social-democrats” in Strasbourg. EURACTIV France reports.
The candidate for the French Socialist Party’s presidential primary chose Strasbourg as the platform from which to vent his criticisms of CETA, show his support for the Walloon parliament and call for the refounding of Europe.
He defended the “courageous position” of the Walloons in opposing the free trade deal with Canada and took advantage of the occasion to attack President François Hollande. “I expect more from François Hollande than this attitude. He is treating Paul Magnette the same way he treated Alexis Tsipras, trying to force him into line against his principles,” Hamon said.
Faced with the risk that Brussels will bypass national parliaments in an attempt to push the CETA deal through by force, Hamon published a press release in which he challenged the French president to stand up for European principles.
“I formally call on the president to strongly reaffirm France’s refusal to see the legal status of this agreement changed. This is a matter of transparency and the defence of the democratic principles that are the foundation of the European project,” he wrote.
The presidential hopeful, who was ejected from the government in August 2014 at the same time as Arnaud Montebourg and Aurélie Filippetti, is counting on the Socialist primary to restore his political credibility. He is the first candidate from the mainstream French left to make the trip to Strasbourg during a plenary session.
For the left wing of the French Socialist Party, including Hamon himself, there is nothing sacred about the current structures and workings of the European Union. In fact, the party has never overcome the divisions created by the 2005 referendum on the European constitution.
The future of Europe is already a major talking point in the Republican primary and is sure to be one of the dominant subjects of the 2017 presidential elections.
Alliance of the European left
For Hamon, the failure of CETA is a perfect opportunity to take Europe back to the drawing board.
“With a courage and political will that has burst open the European debate, the Walloons have stood in the way of this treaty that is bad for the environment [and] which is a Trojan horse for tomorrow’s free trade deal with the United States. This gap carved out by the Walloons should be used by all those who want to democratise and repoliticise the European project,” the candidate said in a video published on his Twitter account.
The former minister for education said an “alliance of the European left” was the only way to escape the “toxic arrangement” between the conservatives and the social-democrats, which, he said, was the driving force behind Europe’s “democratic disenchantment”.