French politics / Let's talk about Europe

Hollande, the Europhile?

On the last Tuesday, François Hollande expressed, in his address, his views on the European integration, to the MEPs at Strasbourg.

François Hollande, France's President, delivering his speech to the MEPs, at Strasbourg

François Hollande, France’s President, delivering his speech to the MEPs, at Strasbourg

During near half an hour, the French president exposed his vision and his objectives stressing on the priority given for jobs and growth to re-launch the EU and reply to the more and more increasing citizens’ distrust but also on more solidarity vis-à-vis the European youth and between Member States.

François Hollande’s speech was globally welcomed by the European representatives. For Isabelle Durant, Green EP Vice-president and former Belgian minister of Transports, the France’s head of State delivered a “very nice speech” exposing a “real European federalist vision”. The socialist MEPs share the same opinion, paying tribute to the Hollande’s performance and conviction.

The Hollande’s intervention was very expected and had a quite clear objective for the French president: (re)affirming the role, even the leadership of France within the EU vis-à-vis Germany and UK mainly. Indeed, confronted to the will of Angela Merkel to impose her views and methods and the intention of David Cameron to reconsider the relations between London and the EU, François Hollande draws a different strategy, clearly Europhile to show his difference and be more influent.

François Hollande meeting Martin Schulz, chairman of the European Parliament, the 5th of February

François Hollande meeting Martin Schulz, chairman of the European Parliament, the 5th of February

With such a strategy, the French leader wants to retake the initiative. As Alain Lamassourre, French MEP and EPP member (the European conservatives), underlines on the air of Radio France Internationale (RFI), François Hollande has been more spectator than actor and finally leader”. This opinion should be nuanced but remains still insofar as face to the German chancellor and the UK Premier the French head of State is looking for printing his mark and playing a major role.

Introducing himself as a federalist, Hollande is challenging Germany and Great-Britain, being in the path of François Mitterrand and Jacques Delors. The reference to one of his predecessors and the former president of the European Commission is clearly intentional insofar as the current French head of State wants to appear as the political heir of the two famous French politicians. His vision of Europe clearly goes in this direction and Hollande wants to be the defender of the political legacy vis-à-vis Merkel and Cameron.

To be clear, the Europhile speech of François Hollande should be understood more as a political strategy to counterweigh Germany and Great-Britain than the will to address a call in favour of the European integration even if the current French president had, at several times, the opportunity to express his euro-romanticism in the past. For information, he wished the June 2014 European elections give the occasion to debate about the future of Europe with citizens, a subtle way to express his Europhile activism, pointing out David Cameron who is thinking the relation between his country and Europe in a purely national (even nationalistic) way of thinking.

1992019438_hollande_devant_le_parlement_europeen_a_trois_François Hollande was convincing at Strasbourg after his speech to the MEPs, finally. But the question is to know if his Europhile strategy will have an impact and concrete results in the framework of the current budgetary negotiations in the European Council.