Disunity on European issues within France’s governing party on European issues was once again laid bare at the party congress in Poitiers last week. Opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is one of the rare points of consensus among the Socialist Party. EURACTIV France reports.
The French Socialist Party has struggled to agree a common line on European policy since the failed referendum on the EU Constitution in 2005.
The party’s vocal left wing is equally critical of the EU’s economic stance, seen as too liberal, and the French government’s unwillingness to challenge it.
This topic was picked up by dissenters, including the former industry minister Arnaud Montebourg, who called for a coalition of European countries to implement a strategy of “lowering taxes to help families”. The call was published in an editorial co-signed with investment banker Matthieu Pigasse, one of the three main shareholders of the Le Monde newspaper.
“The absurd conformism” of the EU executive’s policy “has become a giant vote factory for the National Front,” Montebourg and Pigasse wrote in in Le Journal Du Dimanche, a Sunday paper.
In Poitiers, it became clear that Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ mild austerity measures had eroded the government’s support within the party. Anti-austerity feeling and solidarity with Greece and Spain was palpable at the conference. Gérard Collomb, the mayor of Lyon, was heckled by left wing party members for his criticism of Syriza and Podemos.
No to austerity, no to TTIP
Socialist party Secretary General Jean-Christophe Cambadélis tried to bridge the gap between his party’s expectations and his government’s actions.
He said, “There is a conflict that we need to address in Europe. To those who support austerity, we say investment, investment, investment!” He went on to detail all the motions of opposition to TTIP submitted by Socialist party members in preparation for the conference.
“As Europe suffers greatly from its bureaucratic language, I would like to be perfectly clear. At this stage we say ‘non’, ‘no’, ‘nein’! We say ‘???’!” [Greek]
But the French government has so far struggled to rally members of its own party to a common position on TTIP. Between the strong opposition of the left and the French president’s pro-American stance, this is no easy undertaking.
French responsibility in the EU
Pervenche Berès, the head of the French Socialist delegation to the European Parliament, reminded her party colleagues of France’s responsibility to the European left.
“Today, France is the only large country in the European Union to be governed by socialists. We have a tremendous responsibility for the future of social-democracy on the continent,” the MEP said.
In spite of party divisions, the congress did result in a resolution on Europe, in which party members called for social issues to play a more central role in European policy.