What does the election of Nicolas Sarkozy mean for France, the European Union and the world? The answer will depend on whether what now emerges is a European France, a French Europe or a France set against Europe. Any of these three outcomes is possible. Only the first would be desirable. Which it will be depends on Mr Sarkozy’s true identity. Will he be an economic liberal or a populist interventionist? It is probable that he will turn out to be a mixture of the two. If so, his arrival is likely to deliver the last of the three alternatives: France against Europe.
The French agree on few things. But on one thing, they have close to a national consensus: free markets and free trade are a diabolical Anglo-Saxon plot. In a thought-provoking book on the challenge for French policymakers, Georges de Ménil, himself an American-trained liberal economist, ascribes this hostility to the legacies of Catholicism, Cartesian rationalism, revolutionary utopianism, nationalism and the dominance of the state*. Read more