The Brief: Hollande’s moral courage sets EU an example

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President François Hollande had the guts and good sense to realise he wasn’t up to the job and quit the race to lead France last night. If only other European Union politicians had the moral courage to follow his example.

Hollande became the first sitting president not to chase a second mandate since the system was set up 1958. The decision is his effective resignation.

The socialist was faced with a record low 4% approval rating and the prospect of a humiliating first round defeat in May’s presidential run-off against the centre-right candidate François Fillon and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

His decision, which has opened up a path for an effective left-wing candidate, astonished France.

Resigning isn’t the done thing in Paris. It certainly isn’t in Brussels or in many of the other EU capitals.

Instead politicians, appointed or elected, cling grimly to power, impervious to the mounting evidence of their incompetence.

Throwing in the towel isn’t always a sign of weakness. Hollande had the strength of character to evaluate his performance and sacrifice himself for the greater good of his political beliefs.

Do the leaders of the European Commission and European Parliament have the same clarity of purpose or duty?

After the Brexit referendum – an unambiguous slap in the face to the EU – just two Brussels politicians, both Brits, fell on their swords.

Commissioner Jonathan Hill rightly recognised that someone in the executive had to respond to the popular vote.

Ian Duncan MEP, stepped down as rapporteur on reforms to the EU’s carbon market. It was only when it emerged that the file could fall into the hands of a coal-supporting Polish MEP that he was convinced to stay on.

David Cameron, who had only recently won an election, also resigned – his credibility and authority shot to pieces by the electorate.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker faced calls for his head after the Luxleaks scandal and again after Brexit, which will cost the EU its second largest budget contributor.

Racism campaigners wanted Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger to resign after the Oettigate scandal. Juncker recently defended the man he may yet still promote.

Who knows if Italy’s Matteo Renzi will keep his promise to quit if he loses this weekend’s referendum on reforms?

Hollande, after painful self-examination, recognised there was a tipping point at which staying in office hurts the political project. When hanging on does more harm than good.

His humility and willingness to take responsibility for his failures sets a standard other leading EU politicians should strive for. But don’t hold your breath.


Margrethe Vestager won the European Woman of Power award last night. Vestager told Catherine Stupp that she never supported gender equality quotas, until she realised men had had informal quotas for centuries.

Vestager was also asked about Commissioner Oettinger’s controversial flight to Budapest. She said it was a case of the “wrong Commissioner on the wrong plane”.

Oettinger and Andrus Ansip were at today’s Telecoms Council. They talked roaming, e-commerce, and the plan to distract citizens from real problems by giving them free Wi-Fi.

Staying with digital, Danish prosecutors are taking on Uber and the TiSA trade deal is a threat to data protection.

Green bonds have enjoyed “extraordinary growth”, a new study has found. The Dutch have joined the push to freeze Turkey’s EU accession talks.

Ankara must respect EU sovereignty, the Commission told EURACTIV. Rival Cypriot leaders will resume reunification talks.

Theresa May has been uninvited to the traditional European Council dinner at December’s summit. Meanwhile, a pro-EU candidate has won a by-election in the UK.  If you missed it, make sure to check out EURACTIV’s Brexit50 list of influencers.

Austria heads to the polls this weekend to elect a new president (again).  The far-right is tipped to win. You may have heard of the “alt-right” but have you heard of “alt-truth”?


Commission First-Vice President Frans Timmermans is speaking at Google HQ in Brussels about stamping out online hate on Monday from 4PM.

Views are the author’s and not our sponsor’s.

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