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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

French ministers and votes for foreigners - same hymn sheet but different notes

Ah cohesion and clarity.

Two words so often lacking in French government during Nicolas Sarkozy's time in office when ministers would regularly step out of line and speak their minds.

Sometimes it was refreshing such as Fadela Amara calling the proposal to verify the bloodlines of would-be immigrants with DNA tests "dégueulasse" or Rama Yade criticising the visit to France of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

On other occasions it was clearly an attempt to appeal to the very worst sectors of French society such as former interior minister Claude Guéant saying, "France didn't need foreign bricklayers or waiters" or that, "The number of Moslems in France caused problems".

In fact Guéant was a master of the most inappropriate and oftentimes racist of comments?

Thankfully though François Hollande is now president - just in case you hadn't realised...and you could probably be forgiven for not noticing.

So things are bound to be different.


Maybe not.

Hollande's 60 election promises (which is surely grounds in itself not to believe) included extending the right to vote in local elections to non-EU citizens resident in France.

On Monday a group of 75 Socialist parliamentarians - with more than an eye on the 2014 local elections - decided to call his bluff, urging Hollande and the government to get the process underway saying, "Proposals for were needed quickly because any reform of the law would require constitutional amendment and that would take time."

The reaction of interior minister Manuel Valls, the most liberal-minded and truly Socialist member of government, was one of which both his immediate predecessors in office, Guéant or Brice Hortefeux, would have been proud.

"Is this reform something which preoccupies the French at the moment and would it be a way of improving integration of foreigners into French society?" he asked.

"No," he emphatically told the French daily Le Monde.

"There isn't the same sort of drive for such a move as there would have been 30 years ago," he continued.

"The challenge today is how best French society can integrate foreigners."

Hang about. What exactly did Hollande say during his presidential campaign?

Well in his typically decisive manner, he "promised" a reform but of course left the timing rather open-ended as many, even within his own party, doubted (and still do) whether it was a "priority".

Such clarity: a promise made is one that's certainly not going to be kept.

Enter stage left housing minister Cécile Duflot, free from the constraints of having to toe the Socialist party line because she's in fact a member of  Europe Écologie – Les Verts or the Greens to the rest of us, and one of that party's two ministers in the government.

Don't ask why they've been included because the Socialist party could quite happily form a government without them. Still there was an electoral pact, and we all know how much politicians believe in sticking to promises made.

Cécile Duflot (screenshot from interview with France Inter)

"It's absolutely a necessity and yes, it was an election promise (made by François Hollande) and it'll be honoured next year," she said on France Inter radio.

"It remains an important element in helping integration into French society," she added, contradicting neatly what Valls had said.

"Reform is such an obvious given, that it's surprising it hasn't been done already."

Cécile Duflot par franceinter

So that's as clear as mud.

It remains government policy, but not just yet - and 2013 is still far enough away for plenty of other things to get in the way and banish the promise to the backburner.

(Don't) watch this space.


Anonymous said...

Why do you say Manuel Vals is one of the "truly" socialist member of the government? From why I see and hear, he's acting tough on crime, and in a way, he reminds me of Sarkozy when he was minister of the interior.



France Today said...

Irony Felicity. Irony.

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