Tuesday, July 10, 2007

France and Africa

(29 Jun) One aspect of Sarkozy's speech at Toulon which has generally been ignored is his grande vision of a second union,  alongside the EU,  one between European countries and the south of the Mediterranean,  with Africa beyond.  This according to somebody on Le Franc Parler,  4 June, with x, a spokesman on foreign policy for the UMP (*). Algeria has tremendous potential,  as does [the rest of] Africa.  We need to help them develop.  Otherwise,  we we will be faced by an enormous wave of migration that we will not be able to cope with.  Europe should work with Africa in the same way that North America has worked with South America or Japan has worked with the countries of its region.

We cannot ignore the genocides and civil wars in Africa.  We need to address its problems very seriously,  he says.  At the same time,  aid should be conditional on progress in democratisation and transparence.  So,  the choice of Bernard Kouchner as foreign minister is consistent.  He is known for championing the right to intervene,  for saying to people like Charles Taylor,  when you carry out genocide,  massacre your people,  you will be treated as an international criminal.

To which I add some comments of my own.  There is certainly growing chaos in a whole region of Africa,  from Sudan / Darfur to the former French colonies, Chad and the Central African Republic.  There was a report on C4 News on the latter (last Tuesday) and then an Amnesty report mentioned on the BBC WS.  The French still have a military presence in both countries.

On 11 Jun,  Kouchner was in Sudan,  and of course on 25 Jun President Sarkozy chaired a conference in Paris about Darfur - Condi Rice, China & the Arab League were there,  but not the AU. It looks like there will be a "hybrid force",  but not until next year.  We shall see.

I have also one question on the general issue:  if bringing people who carry out genocide to justice is thought such a good idea in France,  why was there a near total opposition to the US-led intervention to remove Saddam Hussein?  Not just criticism of the many errors of the US administration after the war,  but a conviction that the intervention was inevitably,  necessarily, bound to fail.

This could be due partly to the French tradition of anti-Americanism,  in a wider sense an antipathy toward the "anglo-saxons",  which has largely transferred from being against Britain to being against the US nowadays.  It is worth, though,  noting one thing:  while George Bush is held in almost universal contempt,  Tony Blair is probably hated less in France than he is in Britain.

Denis MacShane suggested last year that there was a deal whereby France was won over to the German position (against the Iraq war) by Germany offering to support completely the French position opposing reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy in late 2002 (**).  MacShane,  of course,  was Europe Minister in the British government,  so he is not an entirely unbiased observer.

Nonetheless,  if Chirac could carry out such manoeuvrings without there being any substantial debate,  it suggests there is an almost complete consensus among opinion-formers in France,  such that Blair (or Brown) would envy.

One final thing:  the UMP man points out,  and I have heard this before from the French Right,  that Britain is the only country in Europe,  apart from France,  to have substantial spending on defence;  so any progress in European co-operation on defence will depend on Anglo-French initiatives.

Update (1 Jul):
* I missed the start and end of the programme.  Fortunately,  Radio France International's website has a good archives page for Le Franc Parler.  The guest on 04/06/2007 was Pierre Lellouche.  It is possible to listen again to the programme or to the one of 23 Apr,  say,  with Bernard Kouchner.

** Review of Gerhard Schröder's autobiography in the FT magazine,  2/3 Dec 2006.

Update (10 Jul):  Sarkozy is visiting Algeria and Tunisia.  As the BBC WS points out,  this is his first trip outside Europe since becoming president. 

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