France Revived

A former French Socialist prime minister gives high marks to the new conservative president, Nicolas Sarkozy. After the relative lifelessness of President Jacques Chirac’s final years, says Michel Rocard, dynamism has returned to French foreign policy – a welcome development not only for France, but also for Europe’s global political influence.

Nicolas Sarkozy won the French presidential election in May in part because he attracted a substantial portion of the far right’s supporters to his conservative banner. Indeed, the Front National’s popular support has fallen from around 15% to 10%, weakening the FN tremendously and strengthening the traditional French right.

Sarkozy succeeded by embracing themes of national identity and immigration. As a result, many regarded his campaign as very right-leaning. In France and across Europe, people expected an extremely conservative government, akin to US President George W. Bush’s administration.

This was a mistake. Sarkozy’s embrace of the theme that France’s national identity has come under threat, which he linked to immigration, is not enough to make him an American style neo-conservative. He has chosen to demonstrate this most clearly in the field of foreign policy.