At this difficult time for France and for Europe I cannot help but reflect upon the national motto of the historic French nation.
The results of the French elections have sent us a clear message, one that has been repeated throughout the member states. The citizens are tired and disillusioned by mainstream politics, turning to extremes in the hope of a new solution. The consequences are already showing in Greece where the leftist government of Tsipras promised hope, but brought a meltdown instead to an already troubled country and its people.
In France things are more worrying. Despite an impressive re-branding and a changed rhetoric by the National Front and its president Marine Le Pen, the leadership remains dangerously extreme. The National Front is fiercely anti-immigration, anti-semitist and xenophobic, taking advantage of the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks by the radical extremists of the Islamic State. The answer of Ms Le Pen is to close the borders to most immigrants and ask to restore internal border controls in Europe. Shockingly, in the country that served freedom, democracy and equality, Marine Le Pen wants to bring back the death penalty.
The party is as poorly equipped to handle immigration and foreign affairs, as it is to define France’s economic policy. They promise to increase taxes, scrap the euro and bring back the franc, raise wages and pensions, and lower the retirement age. She is not mentioning how the taxes will destroy the French competitiveness and reduce the spending power of the French citizens. Furthermore, she is not explaining how to compulsorily raise public wages and pensions, without having the money to do so.
Marine Le Pen has lost no opportunity to attack free trade and open markets. She wants to dismantle the eurozone and the free movement of goods, capital, labour and services in the European Union; freedoms which lie at the heart of the European project. Moreover, for a country among the world’s top merchandise exporters, such policies would take a hard hit on French exporting businesses, large or small.
The party is quick to dismiss and attack foreign money and workers, but was more than willing to take a 9 million euro loan from a foreign bank, one that is closely related to the Kremlin. The implications of a foreign institution, closely linked to another government, having such a large financial footprint in a political party are scandalous.
Sadly, the poor policies of the disillusioned Socialists in France have made it easier for the National Front to use populism to reach out to the French people who are experiencing the consequences of the inadequate leadership of President François Hollande. We hear the worries of the disappointed citizens who turn to the extreme right and left, but we can not and will not do the same. We won’t turn to populism to win them back.
The Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls recently stated “I’m afraid of my country” and I dare to agree. One solution is for the democratic and free political forces of France to unite under the common goal of shining light into the black political cloud brought by the National Front in France, and by “National Fronts” in the rest of our countries.