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Thursday, 24 February 2011

French diplomacy - "amateur, impulsive and lacking coherence "

Those were the words used to describe France's foreign policy and in particular its diplomacy, under its president Nicolas Sarkozy.

They came in an open letter published on Wednesday in the national daily, Le Monde from the Marly group, a collection of French diplomats, retired and serving, of all political persuasions, who were anonymously but collectively airing their concerns.

French foreign affairs and its diplomacy, certainly seem to have come in for a fair bit of scrutiny recently - and this week's events have perhaps only highlighted how much.

Take for example the first visit of a French government minister to Tunisia since that country's Jasmine revolution.

French foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie

In fact there wasn't just one minister but two; Christine Lagarde, the finance minister, and Laurent Wauquiez, the minister for European affairs.

Notice anything odd...apart from the fact that France saw in necessary to send a minister responsible for Europe to a country in North Africa?

Yep, the absence of the foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie (MAM) who had been dispatched to Brazil out of harm's way.

She, MAM, justified her visit to South America as being more "pragmatic".

"The visit was planned over a month ago and Brazil is a country with which we have a very important relationship," she is reported to have said in an informal conversation in the capital Brasilia.

Of course foreign ministers cannot change plans at the last minute to react to changing situations, and her absence in Tunisia had nothing whatsoever to do with the ongoing controversy there has been over her holidays there earlier this year.

So it was left to Lagarde and Wauquiez to build bridges with the finance minister telling journalists that she was confident the relationship between the two countries had not been harmed and Wauquiez mooting the idea of economic aid in the form of a "Marshall plan for Tunisia"

"We've come, not to lecture but to listen to their needs," he said, clearly aware of the fact that there are over 1,200 subsidiaries of French companies in Tunisia and there are interests to be protected.

Strangely silent and hovering in the background was the recently appointed ambassador, Boris Boillon.

He seemed almost, as some commentators back home in France observed, to be paying penance for the insulting remarks he had made to a journalist last week and which resulted in protests calling for his resignation and a subsequent very public apology on national television.

"Sarko boy" was on his best behaviour. Perhaps he had wind of an old can of worms that had been reopened in the form of an appearance he had made on the early evening news magazine Le Grand Journal on Canal + television last November.

Boillon défend Kadhafi (C+)
envoyé par LePostfr. - L'info video en direct.

During the interview Boillon had defended Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, saying he had been a terrorist but wasn't any longer.

"We all make mistakes in life," he said. "And we all have the right to another chance," he said after admitting that Gaddafi had referred to him as "his son".

Boris Boillon (screenshot from Le Grand Journal)

Yes old news - well not so old - but certainly words that seem misplaced with hindsight.

To top it all off was the publication on Wednesday in Le Monde of that open letter from the Marly grop.

"Amateur, impulsive, obsessed with the media and a lack of coherence" were the main criticisms aimed at the current state of affairs.

"Our foreign policy is one of improvisation often undertaken with respect to domestic political considerations," they wrote.

A bold move as far as the weekly news magazine L'Express was concerned and one "which coming from a group of people known for their discretion, indicated how worrying the situation was."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you make your bed, so must you lie on it.

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