In this latest issue brief, Atlantic Council nonresident senior fellow Nicholas Dungan analyzes the current state of politics in France. 

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His main conclusions are:

  • Hollande and his government will act like socialists at home and Gaullists abroad. This may make French policy more traditional and predictable compared to Sarkozy but it doesn’t address France’s problems
  • France’s main domestic challenge as competitiveness. To achieve greater competitiveness, Hollande will have to liberalize and dismantle much of the rigid entitlement system, including reform of the labor market
  • The only way to reduce the overweight public sector in France is to grow the private sector. To do this, France must become a market in which French people want to stay, and foreigners want to come, to build businesses — not a socialist agenda but the only path to competitiveness, and to success for Hollande, as opposed to a high-tax anti-business stance
  • French foreign policy as basically steady even with a tone of greater Gaullist national independence yet we think France’s big external challenge is not to safeguard its independence but to articulate a vision for the EU in the 21st century, obviously with its European partners
  • US and French policy-makers and indeed most leaders from both countries don’t know each other well enough, certainly not as well as the postwar generations did, and this is accentuated by a new administration in France and even more if there’s a new one in the US
  • American conservatives need to know the French socialists aren’t demagogues and the French left needs to know the American right aren’t gunslingers
  • The best way for French and US leaders to achieve better mutual understanding is to pursue a joint competitiveness project over several years (the US needs a competitive overhaul too) and it turns out French and US competitive strengths and weaknesses are similar and complementary