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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.presse.fr/journ...

by Interview by Rosa Moussaoui

Can the Presidential Election Change France’s Foreign Policy?

Translated Tuesday 13 February 2007, by Emma Paulay

Nicolas Sarkozy shaking the hand of a George W. Bush caught up in the Iraqi mess, Ségolène Royal posing for photographers on the Great Wall of China…These pictures cannot be a substitute for a foreign policy programme. In the context of international tensions, where globalisation blurs the boundaries between domestic and foreign matters on a daily basis, Pascal Boniface (1), director of the Institute of International Relations and Strategies (IRIS), questions the future President in an open letter on France’s role in the world. He is convinced that world security cannot be ensured without tackling the breeding ground of terrorism and that France and Europe can weigh heavily in favour of a peaceful outcome to the conflicts.

HUMA: In your letter to our future President of the Republic on France’s role in the world, you predict the breakdown of the classic separation between domestic and foreign matters. Why?

PASCAL BONIFACE: We are now living in a world where what happens outside of our country has direct repercussions on our daily lives. On both economic and strategic fronts, globalisation has ruled out the notion of boundaries. From environmental protection, to security, terrorism and conflicts, it is evident that the different parts of the planet are interrelated. Hence, we can no longer draw a neat line between what is domestic and what is foreign. Seeing that overlaps occur daily and all over the globe, the French, contrary to the opinion of some of the elites, are interested in international issues and are conscious of their influences on the world. It is evident that the voters’ choice will be determined primarily by economic and social issues, but I remain convinced that international issues will be part of the equation in the coming elections.

HUMA: In the context of risks linked with terrorism, you are demanding that the future president take on the breeding ground of this violence…

PASCAL BONIFACE: If you want to cure an ill, you have to counteract the symptoms, but also the causes. Some intellectuals assimilate any thinking on the causes of terrorism as a form of legitimisation. I think this reasoning is specious. A military element is necessary in the struggle against terrorism, to reply to any immediate danger. But we also have to try and eliminate the causes, by finding solutions to ending ongoing conflicts (the war in Iraq, the Middle-East) and to all the political frustrations to which they give rise. If we dismantle terrorist groups without changing the strategic environment which allowed their creation, other groups will gradually re-form.

HUMA: You are openly critical of the role played by and intended by NATO. How should Europe ensure its defence according to you?

PASCAL BONIFACE: NATO is both a solution and a problem for European security. Although NATO has ensured European security for a long time, it has also prevented the emergence of a European defence identity. NATO must remain, but such a structure should not prevent Europeans from building their own defence mechanism. Aside from this already old debate is the question of NATO’s projects. In some circles, the idea is developing that NATO should become a sort of “Saint Alliance of democracies” against terrorism or against China, with a view to including countries as diverse as Japan, Korea or Australia. The intentions may be good, but it seems to me to be a very dangerous drift.

HUMA: Faced with American domination, how can France and Europe favour multilateralism and the research of diplomatic solutions to conflicts?

PASCAL BONIFACE: First of all, the “anti-American” debate has to be brought to an end. As soon as George W Bush’s foreign policy is opposed, accusations of anti-Americanism pop up here and there. Incidentally, the phenomenon is similar to the anti-Semite accusations made as soon as the Israeli government is criticised. These shortcuts can be accounted for by the intellectual laziness which consists of demonising those who do not agree with such and such a policy. The problem with America is not American society, which in many ways could be a source of inspiration for France (representation of minorities/diversity, integration), but the USA’s foreign policy. This is illustrated by the war in Iraq. It is essential that France, and the other European countries constitute a counterbalance to curb the most harmful tendencies of American foreign policy.

HUMA: How can you make your voice heard in the context of the rising power of emerging countries?

PASCAL BONIFACE: The world is becoming multi-polarised: the western world will eventually lose its monopoly on power. France and Europe, faced with these changes, could gain from a huge advantage in developing a global vision on international issues without building up any illusions of becoming a superpower. In so doing they would contribute to their own security as well as to world security.

HUMA: What can be said about the American alignment advocated by the UMP candidate?

PASCAL BONIFACE: This position was met with a huge amount of reticence among the electorate, which has forced him to tone it down on two occasions: firstly, his article in “Le Monde” condemning the execution of Saddam Hussein and secondly, the affirmation at the UMP congress that the opposition to the war in Iraq was just. Nicolas Sarkozy understands that being seen to be too close to US foreign policy is running the risk of being rejected even by his own electorate.

HUMA: Can Iran be denied access to civil nuclear power as Ségolène Royal suggests?

PASCAL BONIFACE: It goes against the text of the non-proliferation treaty. That Iran does not have the right to nuclear weapons is a fact. That it does not have access to enrichment does not quite conform to the NPT text, but it is the position of the international community. But attempting to forbid access to civil nuclear energy would not be right.

HUMA: What role can France play in finding the path to a diplomatic solution in the Middle-East?

PASCAL BONIFACE: Alone, France can do nothing. But it can be the driving force of a more active European policy towards this. Europe is the main provider of help to the Palestinians and the principal business partner of the Israelis. It has much more scope to manoeuvre than it realises. It should free itself of its inhibitions on this subject.

As well as being the current director of the Institut d’études européennes de l’Université de Paris VIII, Pascal Boniface is also a prolific author on current affairs, notably of the yearly Annee stategique. Aong his recent publications:

Football et mondialisation, 2006
Quelle politique européenne pour la France ?, 2005
Les relations internationales de 1945 à nos jours, new edition, 2005
Vers la 4ième guerre mondiale ?, 2005
L’Année Stratégique, 2005

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