Thank you Mediapart!

(A French leftwing Web investigative newspaper)

 

The publication by Mediapart of the four memoranda addressed by Arnaud Montebourg to the French President between September 2012 and March 2014 sheds a valuable insight on some key aspects of the first half of the presidential mandate. The editorial comments by Laurent Mauduit and Edwy Plenel that I commend to the reader analyse their content from a most interesting perspective.

 

The reading of these texts has certainly changed my opinion of the former pugnacious “Minister for Productive Revival”. In the first place they are a testimony to his understanding of the complex subjects he tackles. Even if written in collaboration with his staff and external experts – which he acknowledges – is it not one of the most important and rare qualities of a Minister to choose with discernment those on whose advice he relies? Assuming alone the full responsibility of his proposals, he is also entitled to receive the plaudits for their merits.

 

Additional positive elements projected by the texts are a personal conduct wholly compatible with governmental solidarity including the appropriate discretion shown by the serving Minister. These contradict the image widely propagated by the media and that Mediapart is now, thankfully, responsible for amending.

 

The quality of the analysis and the accuracy of the damaging consequences of unchanged government policies, as demonstrated – unfortunately – by level of unemployment and the growth rate for 2014, are additional reasons for approval.

 

Finally, I was happily surprised by the European commitment of the Minister who understands perfectly the need to act at EU level to fight efficiently the continuous progress of the National Front.

 

After having fully recognised the Minister’s efforts to see his arguments prevail, I must, nevertheless, voice some serious doubts concerning the means suggested to engineer a “change in the policies of Europe” and to alter Germany’s stance.

 

First, this “Europe” that he aspires to change does not exist, or at least not yet. His argument is flawed when he imputes to the Commission the responsibility for the current policy orientations and rules, when in fact it is the European Council that makes the decisions and then turns over to the Commission the responsibility of implementing them. Such a stance is all the more dangerous that he appears to aim at establishing a “southern front” of Member States against Germany and her allies. The Europe that he claims to hope for will not emerge from the confrontation between Member States which are not ready to share a greater amount of their sovereignty.

 

The preservation of national sovereignty implied can be explained by a political posture; it contrasts however, with the rigour of the economic analysis pervading the memoranda. The latter identify correctly the overriding need to complete the EMU and the impending disaster of the Euro’s implosion. The posture, therefore, contradicts the aim of prioritising the fight against the rise of national-populism.

 

As to Germany, the Minister underscores correctly that it is the country that has the most to lose from the implosion of the single currency, and, on the other hand, has nothing to lose by condoning greater flexibility in applying the stringent rules that Member States have imposed on themselves.

 

What he fails to take into account, is that this rigidity stems from the will of the Council (that means the Member States) to avoid the need for a partial economic and fiscal Union in favour of a rulebook that, consequently, must be constraining. When the latter failed to prevent the occurrence of successive crisis, the Council fell back on creating new financial instruments; accessing these was inevitably subject to strict conditionality, including a level of austerity often inappropriate to the situation. It delegated the negotiation of specifics and the monitoring of compliance, in this case, to the Troika.

 

In conclusion, if Arnaud Montebourg is really the progressive European he purports to be, he should join the camp of those advocating the rapid completion of the EMU and support the creation of an “economic government” endowed with a budget, own resources and an autonomous borrowing power.  Only such an Authority could engage in a constructive dialogue with the ECB for the benefit of all Members and provide the EMU with the appropriate economic and monetary tools.

 

It is exclusively under such conditions that an extrapolation of the conditions prevailing in the USA, the UK or Japan to which the Minister makes reference and the policies that supported their exit from the crisis, can usefully serve as examples.

 

In the light of the credibility of Arnaud Montebourg that has been considerably reinforced by the publication of his memoranda, his endorsement of this project would constitute a significant support for EMU which is currently in disarray resulting from its internal contradictions.

 

Lorgues 17th February, 2015  

 

 

Paul N. Goldschmidt

Director, European Commission (ret.); Member of the Steering Committee of the Thomas More Institute.

 

 

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