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Analysis: The GOP's French Connection

Council on Foreign Relations

August 28, 2007
Prepared by: Michael Moran

Now three months into his tenure as France’s leader, President Nicolas Sarkozy has made a good start on pledges laid out during his spring campaign. To the dismay of his Socialist opponents, his government has created a new Ministry of National Identity, an effort to allay concerns that immigrants from Muslim and African nations are diluting France’s national character. Sarkozy’s reforms of higher education (FT) passed the National Assembly in late July. He also created a constitutional reform commission (FT) to examine ways to prevent rampant political graft. The next target in his sights, France’s thirty-five-hour workweek, once looked unassailable. Sarkozy’s strategy attacks disincentives (taxes) on working overtime.

Sarkozy has sought to balance these moves through inclusion. He named France’s first minister of North African descent, Rachida Dati. The new justice minister is one of a record seven women in his cabinet. He also tapped a leading Socialist, the renowned humanitarian and Iraq War supporter Bernard Kouchner, cofounder of the Nobel Prize-winning Doctors Without Borders, as his foreign minister. For all this, many analysts believe Sarkozy’s record has been oversimplified. On the Left in France and elsewhere, the caricature usually features “Sarko” wearing Napoleon’s uniform and ordering his gendarmes to chain North African immigrant workers to the Airbus assembly line.

This contrasts with the views of Republicans in the United States. Perhaps overjoyed at the departure of bête noire Jacques Chirac, some leading Republicans cast Sarkozy as a kind of Gallic Ronald Reagan.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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