EU-France: Sparks fly

25 June 2013 – Presseurop Libération, Le Figaro

“There’s some badmouthing going on between Paris and Brussels,” notes Libération, reporting the controversy brewing between France and the European Commission since the launch of the negotiations over a free-trade agreement with the United States.

On June 23, the French Minister for Industrial Renewal, Arnaud Montebourg, accused the President of the Commission of being “fuel for the National Front”. Answering back, José Manuel Barroso retorted that “some French politicians [should] abandon their ambiguity towards Europe and put up a better defence against nationalism, populism, even chauvinism.”

The left-wing daily explains this exchange of remarks by referring to José Manuel Barroso’s ambitions.

Promoting this Treaty, which risks increasing Euroscepticism, reveals that his agenda is no longer European, but Atlantic. According to our sources, Barroso is preparing to campaign for the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations or of NATO. And for that, he needs the agreement of the Americans – hence the pledges he is giving them for the TTIP, and hence the attacks on France.

In turn, Le Figaro believes that the president of the Commission “henceforth a designated target, is paying the price of the disenchantment of the French with Europe and of a government struggling to score points against the crisis.”

The “cultural exception” episode and its aftermath showed how the French political class, right and left, has little enthusiasm for the economic liberalism that remains the credo of most of its neighbours, including Germany. This is the major reason for the disenchantment. The second, more political, could well arise at the European summit on Thursday, or in its backrooms: the reluctance of the Elysee to put France through the reforms requested and meet the budgetary objectives of European governance that François Hollande regularly calls for.

In the scathing response by José Manuel Barroso to Paris, the conservative daily also senses a reaction to the rapprochement between the Elysee and the German Chancellery.

The team has been strengthened by the meeting in May and by the most recent “Franco-German contribution”, although that was purely lip service. The consequence for the European dynamic is known. When France and Germany are divided, the Commission prevails. But when the two founding nations agree, it finds itself the scapegoat...