French party programmes for the EU elections are full of ‘surprises’

Marine Le Pen presents her ecological programme and her "smart protectionism". [Blandine le Cain/Flickr] [Blandine Le Cain/Flickr]

The programmes of French political parties for the upcoming European elections contain proposals that are sometimes far-fetched, even unrealistic. So far, all parties have managed to be off-topic. EURACTIV France reports.

To attract voters, the parties have not skimped on fanciful or even totally unrealistic proposals. EURACTIV examined their programmes through a more realistic lens.

The good idea that does not work

Many French parties are keen to put forward popular measures such as taxing digital giants, a proposal that is featured in a vast majority of political programmes, but would be impossible to implement in Europe due to a lack of consensus.

Tax reforms require unanimity, which the EU has just failed to achieve, and the European elections are unlikely to change this since EU member states and European parliamentarians were opposed to a tax on internet giants, what the French call the GAFA tax.

Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland firmly opposed such a proposal just a few months ago, which pushed Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s government to propose a French version.

France set to introduce new tax on internet giants

France will introduce a bill Wednesday (6 February) to tax internet and technology giants on their digital sales, and thus curb efforts to pay global levies in countries with lower tax rates.

On tax issues, the joint list between the French Socialist Party (PS) and Place Publique is proposing a European corporate tax base. It’s an idea that the European Commission has already proposed several times, but which also faced opposition from European member states.

The migration fad

On migration, French political parties have competed in terms of inventiveness. The right-wing Les Républicains (LR), proposes to “denounce the UN Migration Compact signed in Marrakech at the European level because it encourages migration and promotes multiculturalism”.

This UN Global Compact on Migration was signed by President Emmanuel Macron last December. While it aims to improve cooperation on international migration, the measures listed in the compact are non-binding.

Besides, each EU member state is free to join or not. France, for instance, is a signatory, while Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary have withdrawn from the Global Compact. The issue, therefore, has nothing to do with the European elections.

Double standards

For other parties, such as Macron’s LREM, proposals made at a European level sometimes contradict national decision-making.

This is the case regarding the thorny subject of glyphosate. Although Macron initially vowed to outlaw the use of glyphosate by 2021, he later decided it would be impossible to do.

Yet, the programme of his party’s list for the European elections led by Nathalie Loiseau, still mentions this vow… for 2021.

Off-topic

The medal for addressing the most off-topic issues goes to Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National. Her party has accumulated proposals that are unrelated to what the European Union can really do.

For example, her party calls for the introduction of a “national priority for social benefits”, which depends entirely on the French state.

The party also proposed to “put an end to the automatic renewal of residence permits”, something the European Union cannot decide upon.

This is also the case with their proposal to “close down radical mosques” and to expel “foreign Islamists”.

Although these issues are widely-discussed in France, Rassemblement National’s future MEPs will have no chance to vote on European measures that are along such lines.

Le Pen’s Rassemblement National revises stance towards EU and the euro

Le Pen’s party is no longer making calls to exit the EU or abandon the euro. Instead, the party is attempting to renew itself with a nationalist but locally anchored narrative. EURACTIV France reports.

But the Rassemblement National is not alone in making off-topic proposals.

The joint PS-Place Publique list has proposed the creation of a European solidarity tax on wealth, similar to the French ISF (impôt de solidarité sur la fortune).

The fiscal ambition of the left-wing La France Insoumise (FI) falls into the same trap. By proposing a “universal tax for individuals within the EU to put an end to tax evasion”, the list led by Manon Aubry forgets that the EU does not have a say on the subject.

Among the Greens, the proposal to introduce the right to vote at 16 in all European countries also falls flat, since member states set the legal voting age.

Macron’s Renaissance list is no exception to this since it is suggesting to introduce a minimum tax at a global level, something MEPs can do little about.

Déjà-vu

Another approach is the proposal of measures that are already implemented, a strategy that appears to guarantee electoral success.

PS-Place Publique is proposing the creation of a eurozone budget, even though this was approved at the European level last December. While this still needs to be validated by EU member states, the proposal is in its final stages.

The joint-list also suggests giving the European Parliament the power to dismiss EU Commissioners, a procedure that is already provided for in the Treaties…

Remaining mysterious

Finally, some proposals leave it up to the voter to use his or her imagination. This is the case, for example, of La France Insoumise’s suggestion to “refuse any form of EU funding for internet trolls” that promote the European Commission’s policies.

If the European Commission has a communication budget and a directorate-general in charge of it, it is difficult to know what or whom Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party is referring to.

The party also continues to repeat the idea of “leaving the treaties” like a mantra and without anyone knowing what it means. Because the treaties are part of the EU, withdrawing from the treaties would mean leaving the EU. However, this is not what LFI is defending, since the party claims to want to remain in the EU while withdrawing from the treaties.

Meanwhile, Nicolas-Dupont Aignan, leader of right-wing party Debout la France, is proposing to impose a referendum for any major decision, which seems to open up an infinite amount of new possibilities.

French electorate in doubt and abundance of candidates: What could go wrong?

Although they elected an ardent defender of Europe as their president, French people are poorly mobilised on the European elections, where 33 French election lists are set to challenge each other on 26 May. EURACTIV France reports.

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