Monday, February 28, 2011

EEAS Org Chart

Thanks to the Migrants at Sea blog for this organizational chart of the European External Action Service (EEAS). 


EurAmerican has published regularly about the EU's fledgling diplomatic corps, notably its relations with China, last year's disappointing Christmas summit with the US and this op-ed from Washington's The Hill newspaper, focused on the EEAS' presence in the American capital. 

Sarkozy Names Juppé Foreign Minister After Alliot-Marie Disappoints

French president Nicolas Sarkozy replaced foreign minister Michele Alliot--Marie last night after a storm of criticism at home in the wake of the Middle East and North African turmoil. Her replacement is defense minister and former prime minister Alain Juppé. 

Here's more, just in from Bloomberg:

"Sarkozy’s address last night and Cabinet shuffle follow a troubled month. His approval ratings fell to a record low and he was criticized by opposition parties, French diplomats and members of his own party for not firing Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie after it was revealed her Christmas holiday in Tunisia overlapped with the beginning of anti-regime protests.
Alliot-Marie quit yesterday following criticism over her Jan. 11 statement during the Tunisian revolt that her government was ready to provide advice to local police on crowd control. Alliot-Marie, who served as a minister for the past nine years, was also criticized for accepting two flights in a private plane from an associate of then-Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
"France’s voice had to be heard in the world … and Michele Alliot-Marie’s voice wasn’t audible anymore,” Fillon said. Polemics about Alliot-Marie ”became dangerous for France,” he said."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

To Young French, London Means a "Gateway to Globalization"

This week's Economist describes the cross-section of French who pull up stakes and move to London, seeking work, adventure and the chance to master English. 

The archetype of this exodus, explains the piece, is the French "banker with children at the Lycée Francais in [the upscale neighborhood] South Kensington... who misses the food and weather of home." Indeed, The City's status as a global financial and business hub, not to mention its lower tax rates on income and personal wealth, make it an enticing destination for ambitious French who have money or want to make it. Many London-based French complain of the strictures of their often upper-class social codes and expectations, which they are free to customize or discard completely through a new life in the British capital. 

The international smorgasbord of London offers an intoxicating feast to those seeking cultural and culinary adventure. "It's hard to go back once you have tasted the internationalism here," explains one Gallic expat. A senior official from the French consulate likewise dubbed the city a "gateway to globalization"  for mobile and willing French professionals. Some of these are fleeing the economic doldrums of Ireland, where they had gone to launch business and careers; reluctant to head home, they're giving themselves a second chance in the UK. And language is a key draw for French of all social strata, and many lower-middle- and middle-class strivers elect to work summers or longer stints as waiters, au pairs and odd-jobbers in exchange for increased fluency in the language of Shakespeare.

One detail of the article's Franco-centric globalization deserves underscoring: In the 2012 elections there will be for the first time a representative in France's Assemblée Nationale -- equivalent to the U.S. House of Representatives -- for all French citizens living in the UK and Northern Europe. The capital for the French diaspora in this part of the world is London by overwhelming numbers: the same French consulate approximates the Hexagon's population in London as some 400,000, perhaps the capital's largest minority nationality.

Watch this space for more on the French député for London and European points north, as well as Franco-British developments on either side of the Channel.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Left- and Right-Wing French Diplomats Spar in Press

The Hatfields
It's like the Hatfields and McCoys -- family feuds, 
strong words and provocations -- only this time, the families are French diplomatic chiefs who skirmish not with weapons but a pair of caustic collective letters published (anonymously) in top-tier news outlets. The French Politics blog reports a tit-for-tat between France's pro- and anti-Sarkozy foreign service members. 

Le Monde printed an editorial Thursday from a group of diplomats critical of the Sarkozy record, who, going by the moniker "the Marly group" after the Paris cafe where they congregate, launched a missive against what they feel is their overshadowing by the French president's do-it-himself approach to foreign affairs. Sarkozy's supporters came to his defense in another editorial published by Le Figaro the following day. The group styled themselves similarly, calling themselves "the Rostand group," after the name of their most-frequented cafe. I won't delve into a long analysis of each piece, but some choice morsels read as follows.

From the Marly group, critical of Sarkozy diplomacy:

"Europe is weak, Africa is escaping us, the Mediterranean is avoiding us, China is overtaking us and Washington is ignoring us! Even worse, the voice of France has disappeared in the world. Our herd mentality in regard to the United States puzzles many of our partners."
["... L'Europe est impuissante, l'Afrique nous échappe, la Méditerranée nous boude, la Chine nous a domptés et Washington nous ignore ! ... Plus grave, la voix de la France a disparu dans le monde. Notre suivisme à l'égard des Etats-Unis déroute beaucoup de nos partenaires."]
Note the worry over Washington's seeming move away from one of its historically important foreign partners, even as the prose projects a latent but palpable antiamericanism... Still more odd is the virtual invitation for a "WikiLeaks à la francaise" to expose the sound methods of French diplomats that the Marly group considers wrongfully dismissed by the current French head of state.

"A French WikiLeaks would allow [the public] to see that French diplomats drafted, like their American colleagues, cables just as critical and without concessions."
["Un WikiLeaks à la française permettrait de vérifier que les diplomates français ont rédigé, comme leurs collègues américains, des textes aussi critiques que sans concessions."]
These mixed attitudes of this random sample of the French left typify the post-WWII posture pioneered by Jean-Paul Sartre and others. They are only aggravated when the element of the United States gets put in the mix -- a tireless trope of the countries politically progressive wing.

Not that the Marlyites act as the sole contributors of weirdness in this ugly exchange. The Rostand Group is guilty of its own inelegant tone.  The Figaro piece vaunts heavy sarcasm, which does little to advance its case among nonpartisan readers in France or elsewhere. They write, on the Marly group's rhetoric:

"Oh, if only [the world] had listened to us! France would have predicted the fall of the Arab dictators. Even better, France wouldn't have mixed with these evil regimes...  If we'd let the French do as they intended, [the climate summit at] Copenhagen would have been a triumph and global temperatures would already be a little lower everywhere. The Middle East would be in peace... France would have anticipated everything; France would have never been wrong."
["Ah, si on les avait écoutés! ... La France aurait prédit la chute des dictateurs arabes. Mieux, elle n'aurait pas frayé avec ces régimes honnis... Si on les avait laissé faire, Copenhague aurait été un triomphe et la température baisserait déjà un peu partout. Le Moyen-Orient serait en paix... On aurait tout prévu, on ne se serait jamais trompé."]
Clearly, "hyperbole" was Rostand's operative word. They go on to question Marly's timing (French presidential election campaigns for 2012 are gearing up) and throw in a whiff of postcolonial reflection: 

" 'Africa is escaping us,' they also say. Must it still belong to us? And must we have today nostalgia for a "Papa's Africa" held in dependence on aid for which we know the cost, where clientelism takes the place of politics?"
 [" 'L'Afrique nous échappe,' disent- ils aussi. Devrait-elle nous appartenir encore? Et faudrait-il aujourd'hui avoir la nostalgie d'une Afrique de papa tenue dans la dépendance d'une aide dont on connaît le bilan, où le clientélisme tenait lieu de politique?"]
This kind of editorial sparring among federal bigwigs just doesn't happen in the US. Or as the WSJ put it in today's weekend journal, "we don't grow them here," but that's in reference to France's sometimes-intellectual rockstar, Bernard-Henri Lévy, and his thoughts on writing, style and why people hate him.

"Style, writing, hating... Hating, style, writing..."   Bernard-Henri Levy
As a barely-related final thought: in 2006, Levy retraced the American journey of French aristocrat and political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, then wrote a book about it. For that, Garrison Keillor nailed him.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

NY Times Suggests EU's North African Policy Is Unclear

See this New York Times piece on the European Union's mixed-bag policy suggestions on the current turmoil in North Africa. EU leaders have in recent days spent much fretting over the prospective masses of immigrants from the Mediterranean's southern crescent. The article underscores the particular concern that the possible collapse of the government in Libya could unleash "chaos and anarchy," which may in turn prompt huge flows of migrants into southern Italy and other European nations from that point on. 

The British foreign secretary William Hague has signaled that the North African situation has far broader implications for EU foreign policy, terming it a “major test, a historic test for the EU.”
“Clearly if we can succeed in bringing more democracy and more stability to North Africa and the Middle East that will be the greatest achievement for the E.U. since enlargement,” he added, referring to the bloc’s expansion to bring in former Communist states. “If we don’t succeed, the dangers to the E.U. of instability or extremism on our frontiers are immense.”
Other EU chiefs moved beyond hypotheticals and toward crippling financial restrictions for Libyan leaders who may be considering flight from the country. There is an implication the same would hold true for other government officials in the region, though whether other EU seniors will rally behind the pronounced position seems politically unlikely.  

A few EU politicians voiced benevolent, if politically unrealistic, aspirations to have functional democracy materialize in nations so long accustomed to authoritarian rule.
"Belgium’s foreign minister, Steven Vanackere, suggested that European parliamentarians should help countries like Egypt to develop a parliamentary system."
Also see how protests in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, were fought off with troops and warplanes on Monday, Feb. 21. In a symbolic shift in political capital, Libya's diplomats at the U.N. openly renounced Col. Muammar El-Qaddafi, the country's leader since the 1980s, called for his resignation and calling him a genocidal war criminal for his violent crackdown on protesters.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt and the European Angle

Here's some of what we in the U.S. may not be seeing in regards to the European response on Egypt:

From Presseurop
The European Voice reports that the EU is reconsidering their aid structures to the country, which for the last three weeks has been paralyzed by protesters demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Earlier this month EU leaders gathered in Brussels called for a democratic transition 'now,' offering various EU instruments that include "proposals and projects" to assist a post-Mubarak Egypt. The columnist Bruce Stokes underscores the leverage that trade could provide in stabilizing the nation should the current president, who has occupied his seat since 1981, respond to broad calls from his citizens that he step down.

From Le Figaro
Le Figaro describes a furious public after this afternoon's speech by Mubarak, in which the president announced the transfer of his powers without going as far as resigning his office. This article features a fascinating minute-by-minute timeline on the events of the day, from before the speech to the march toward the TV station where Mubarak had delivered his address.  

EUobserver sports a black-and-white dichotomy between in reporting and editorial blogs, with almost zero attention paid to the Egypt conflict in the former, and near-exclusive focus poured onto the Middle Eastern nation. Roberto Foa alludes to the region then segues nicely into a demographic analysis.  George Irvin surmises that, "will Mubarak go? The answer must surely be ‘yes’," before launching into a security debate with an Israeli-Arab orientation.  Nicu Popescu writes on revolutions, European "fence-sitting" as policy and the Egypt uprising's similarities with those in Albania and Belarus.

Presseurop submits that the revolutions across North Africa are only difficultly comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. On EU-Middle East relations, they say it's "time to ditch the Arab stereotype."

Euronews bring an under-reported angle to the religious climate in Egypt, where Muslims and Coptic Christians are united in solidarity during anti-government protests.

Global Europe illustrates discord between the EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and the Egyptian government, after the latter warned her not to follow through on a planned diplomatic visit later this month. Those close to Ashton say she still plans to arrive in the region, at least to Tunisia.

Watch this space for more on European and US dealings in the ongoing Egyptian turmoil.