segunda-feira, 16 de novembro de 2015
6 takeaways on Hollande’s speech
6 takeaways on Hollande’s speech
The French President’s strategy is risky, for him and for his allies and rivals.
By PIERRE BRIANÇON AND NICHOLAS VINOCUR 11/16/15, 9:59 PM CET
To wage his “war” against ISIL, François Hollande wants to seduce his allies abroad and reduce his opposition at home.
In a widely anticipated speech Monday in front of a rare joint session of parliament, the French president tried to position France as the West’s leader in the fight against Islamic State, and force the Conservative opposition into supporting him — by proposing a constitutional change that they would only oppose at their political peril.
Hollande took two risks. The first is that the priority he puts on “destroying” ISIL in Syria would bring Russia and its president Vladimir Putin back into the diplomatic fold — which may prove divisive among Western allies. The second is that, if the opposition rejects his constitutional proposals, Hollande could pay a political price ahead of the French elections for looking weak by failing to build a consensus.
Here are six takeaways from his speech:
1. France needs friends
Hollande laid the groundwork for the creation of a wider, global coalition to fight ISIL in Syria. Criticizing what he called a “divided and incoherent” international response to the security crisis in Syria, Hollande said he would call a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss a resolution, without specifying its aim.
“We need a cohesive approach,” he said. His objective is likely to draw reticent powers into the fight against ISIL, as he flagged an upcoming meeting with Putin, whose air campaign in Syria so far has not been focused on ISIL.
He also pressed for more military aid from France’s European partners, none of which are so far engaged in Syria. “I asked the minister of defense to reach out to his European counterparts,” he said. “When a European country is attacked, other European Union countries must come to their aid,” he added, referring to a ‘Mutual Defense and Solidarity Clause’ in the Treaty of the European Union.
2. All enemies aren’t created equal
Analysts were waiting to see whether Hollande, who had been the most outspoken Western leader in demanding the removal of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad before any political settlement could be reached in the country, would refocus France’s Middle East policy on the fight against ISIL.
France is still seeking a solution that wouldn’t involve Assad, he said. “But,” he immediately added, “our enemy in Syria is Daesh,” referring to ISIL.
Without saying it in so many words, Hollande might be ready to tone down the anti-Assad rhetoric if Putin gave some signs that he’s ready to step up Russia’s so-far weak war effort against ISIL.
3. He needs a bigger stick
Over the past few days, the French airstrikes in Syria have been more intensive than they had been since the announcement of an air campaign in September. Hollande said many more would be forthcoming as Paris sought to “destroy,” rather than contain, ISIL, in addition to providing increased support for rebel groups. France would also dispatch to the eastern Mediterranean its only aircraft-carrier, the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle, which has a capacity to launch 36 aircraft. Hollande said that would “triple” France’s firepower in the region.
However, Hollande stopped short of pledging further funding for the military, with an increase of €1.9 billion already planned for 2015-2016.
Polls show that a majority of French people favor a boots-on-the-ground strategy in Syria. But Paris is unlikely to launch such an operation unilaterally, and its troops are already stretched across the globe, including in an ongoing anti-terrorism operation in Mali and a peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic.
4. The constitution as political trap
The sweeping constitutional changes that Hollande is asking parliament to adopt will be a political trap for his conservative opposition and notably for Hollande’s past and future rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, now the leader of the Les Républicains party.
There’s little that conservative leaders could in principle oppose in reforms geared toward harmonizing the legal possibilities to deal with exceptional circumstances — such as war, armed uprisings or coup attempts. That is especially the case since the constitutional clean-up had been suggested a few years ago in a report by former prime minister Edouard Balladur, who is Sarkozy’s political mentor.
So the opposition is caught between supporting Hollande’s policies or appearing to deny the country’s “chief of the armed forces” — his constitutional responsibility — the powers he needs to lead the “war” on ISIL. Hollande needs a three-fifths majority from the joint parliament to pass the reform.
If he can’t get it, the blame will fall squarely on his opponents.
5. A little less liberté
With officials warning about a risk of further terrorist attacks, Hollande said he would seek parliamentary approval to extend the current 12-day state of emergency to three months.
Under a state of emergency, courts and police have broader powers to launch raids on homes, search cars and interrogate suspects. But Hollande said that he wanted to “substantially” increase the powers of police and justice to go after terrorists and stop weapons-trafficking, without detailing specific measures. Parliament already voted on a law to increase the state’s digital surveillance powers.
Finally, Hollande’s proposed changes to the constitution, which he wants to see better adapted to what he calls “the terrorism of war,” would give the government more power to restrict liberties, without having to resort to the so-called “state of siege” under which the judiciary and legislative branches are suspended.
6. ‘The security pact trumps the stability pact’
While asking the whole of Europe to feel as attacked by ISIL as France was on Friday, Hollande is also thumbing his nose at the EU’s fiscal discipline.
With that sentence he warned clearly that he would not feel constrained by the bloc’s budget deficit limits, and that the extra spending he demands for security and intelligence forces would be treated differently from day-to-day government spending.
That may create some tensions with the EU commissioners in charge of enforcing fiscal discipline — including, ironically, Hollande’s former finance minister Pierre Moscovici — but politically there’s no doubt that the French president is on safe ground: Who will argue with him on this topic?
Pierre Briançon and Nicholas Vinocur