The French Socialist Party (PS) is willing to “not respect certain rules” of the European Union, according to the joint program agreed on Wednesday with La France Insumisa (LFI), the eurosceptic party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The agreement for the legislative elections in June is an earthquake for a pro-European party like the PS, already very weak after the collapse of the presidential elections in April.
If Mélenchon achieved a majority in the legislative elections in June, becoming prime minister with this program and with socialist support, France would join the list of countries that, like Hungary and Poland, are putting the common European project under stress.
The agreement avoids the differences on NATO: the socialists are Atlanticists, the rebels want to get out. And it is logical: even in the case of a government headed by Mélenchon, international politics would be “reserved territory” for the president, Emmanuel Macron, who is Atlanticist and pro-European.
The differences, abysmal until now, between the European policy of the PS and that of the LFI, were the main stumbling block for the agreement, to which environmentalists and communists have also joined and which will be submitted to the vote of the National Council of Socialists on Thursday. The entire debate centered on the word “disobedience”, fundamental in Mélenchon’s vocabulary when referring to the EU.
In his program for the presidential elections, Mélenchon proposed a plan A and a plan B. Plan A: “We will propose to the European States and peoples the agreed rupture with the current treaties.” Plan B comes into play if the EU partners do not accept this rupture: “We will immediately apply our program at the national level in all cases, assuming the confrontation with the European institutions (…). We will disobey, whenever necessary, the rules that represent a blockade.”
The environmentalists and the communists, who closed agreements with LFI earlier in the week, agreed to include the word “disobedience” in the common statement. The Socialists raised more problems.
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It is true that there has always been a pro-sovereignty current in the Socialist Party, which, for example, held an intense internal debate during the referendum on the EU constitutional treaty in 2005. But it is also the party of François Mitterrand, promoter with the chancellor Helmut Kohl of Franco-German reconciliation and the common market. And it is the party of Jacques Delors, patriarch of a united Europe. The decision to participate in a joint project under the tutelage of a Eurosceptic leader like Mélenchon —and not in a hegemonic position as in previous agreements, but subordinate— was not minor.
The solution is a convoluted formulation that prevents socialists from assuming the term “disobedience”, but ends up saying something similar. “Because of our histories,” the statement reads, “some of us speak of disobeying, others of temporarily repealing, but we aim at the same objective: to be able to fully apply the shared government program and thus respect the mandate that they will have given us. the French”.
“Our program will necessarily lead to tensions”
Socialists and rebels continue: “The implementation of our shared program will necessarily lead to tensions, to verify contradictions. It will take overcoming these blockages and being willing to break certain rules as we work to transform them.”
The document refers, specifically, to the “economic, social and budgetary” rules. And he cites the stability and growth pact, which is already in the process of being renegotiated in the EU. Also competition law. And what he calls “the productivist and neoliberal orientations of the common agrarian policy.” France is the first beneficiary in the EU of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The agreement between Socialists and Mélenchonists insists that it is not exceptional to “disobey”, “temporarily repeal” or “not respect” the common rules. “We will not be the first or the last to do so, neither in France nor in Europe,” the text says. He cites, among other countries, “Spain with the price of energy”, a case in which derogations have been laboriously negotiated and agreed with Brussels. And he adds: “We will do so in respect of the rule of law and firmly combating the attacks on fundamental freedoms by the far-right Hungarian and Polish governments.”
The signatories want to distance themselves from countries such as Poland or Hungary, which have continuous clashes with Brussels and the EU partners for considering that national law prevails over community law. This was also an argument by Marine Le Pen, a far-right candidate in the presidential elections in April, to promise not direct exit from the EU, but a reform from within that would end up turning the club into what she called an alliance of nations. European.
An frexit —France’s exit from the EU— not immediately, but in the medium term could be a future consequence of applying Mélenchon’s (and Le Pen’s) presidential program to the letter. The agreement dispels this possibility.
“The government that we will form cannot have as a policy the exit from the Union, nor its disintegration, nor the end of the single currency”, affirm the parties. “Our goal will be to drag other states with us, in order to contribute as a government to reorient European policies and to permanently modify European rules and treaties that are incompatible with our social and ecological ambition legitimized by the people.”
There is a sovereignist argument behind the agreement: the idea that the popular will of the French, expressed at the polls, cannot be annulled by EU law. And there is another argument that could be described as progressive: some European rules, “and not minor ones, are not adapted to the imperatives of economic and social urgency.” The whole question is how the rules are changed: whether unilaterally — disobeying them, or ignoring them — or by negotiation: the old and effective European method of all life.
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