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Viewing cable 05PARIS4760, PS FIRST SECRETARY FRANCOIS HOLLANDE UNDERWHELMS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05PARIS4760 2005-07-08 08:08 2010-12-01 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

080857Z Jul 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 004760 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/07/2015 
TAGS: PGOV PREL FR
SUBJECT: PS FIRST SECRETARY FRANCOIS HOLLANDE UNDERWHELMS 
AMBASSADORIAL GROUP 


Classified By: DCM Alex Wolff for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

1. (C) Summary: Francois Hollande, First Secretary of 
France's deeply fragmented Socialist Party (PS), on June 30 
presented his take on a variety of French, EU and foreign 
policy issues to an informal "Circle of Ambassadors" group, 
attended by Charge. Hollande's analysis impressed 
participants as sound and insightful. His lack of a clear 
program of action to contend with French socio-economic 
difficulties, however, left his audience asking if he is 
capable of projecting himself as a candidate with a clear 
message and a winning program. On display were both 
Hollande's questionable viability as a candidate in the 2007 
elections and the PS's lack of unity and coherent vision. 
End Summary. 

EU Constitution and the PS 
-------------------------- 
2. (SBU) France's Socialist Party (PS) hosted, for the first 
time, a "Circle of Ambassadors" group to hear party First 
Secretary Francois Hollande give an overview of key issues 

SIPDIS 
and answer participants' questions. While his general 
presentation was unremarkable, Hollande proved more 
insightful in answering questions. Addressing the failed EU 
Constitutional referendum, Hollande noted there were a number 
of reasons for the 'no' outcome, including the need for a 
collective effort earlier in the campaign to better explain 
the content of the treaty. Part of the problem, Hollande 
reasoned, was in the prevailing view of the EU; whereas it 
had previously been seen as a protective institution, issues 
such as the Bolkestein proposal to create a single services 
market and "liberal" (free-market) labor laws have sparked 
fear and concern. Hollande also saw rising nationalism as a 
factor. Rather than seeing the EU as the guarantor of peace 
and stability, citizens are asking what is in it for them. 
Hollande expressed his disappointment in the lack of 
discipline within the PS in support of the Constitution 
adding that just as lack of party discipline had had 
consequences for the future of Europe, it should also have 
consequences for those party members who broke ranks. The 
split within the Socialists over the EU Constitution was a 
key factor in its defeat, according to Hollande. The divide 
legitimized both the PS 'yes' and 'no' camps, as supporters 
of either could point to a PS leader championing their cause. 
Hollande took a swipe at PS no-camp leader Laurent Fabius, 
stating that his support of the 'no' was not based on the 
merits of the Constitution, but on "ulterior motives" -- that 
is, Fabius's ambition to make himself the PS candidate in the 
2007 presidential election. Hollande announced that the PS 
would decide on its candidate for 2007 at the party congress 
in mid-November, and added that party members who, 
afterwards, presented themselves as an alternative candidate 
would be expelled from the party. 

Future of the EU 
---------------- 
3.. (SBU) All elections within Europe have an EU dimension, 
according to Hollande, who added that domestic and EU policy 
were becoming difficult to separate. Hollande noted that, 
over the medium-to-long term, politics in European countries 
tend towards regular alternation in power between center-left 
and center-right -- which should currently favor the 
center-left, as many European countries (among them France, 
the Netherlands, and Italy) are currently led by the 
center-right. Hollande said that the center-left parties of 
Europe needed to work together and develop a coordinated, 
common approach. Hollande also remarked that Europe was 
facing a crisis of confidence and identity. The French and 
Dutch rejections of the EU Constitution laid bare this crisis 
in Europe and would have the effect of prolonging it. First 
among the concerns was the issue of EU borders. An EU-wide 
debate was necessary to discuss how big the EU should become 
and what its purpose should be. These comments struck many 
as intimating re-consideration by the PS of its position 
favoring Turkey's inclusion in the EU. Hollande also noted 
that the EU shouldn't wait for any new constitutional 
initiatives to secure several essential goals, such as a 
common foreign minister and voting weights and other 
decision-making changes. 

French Politics and 2007 Presidential Race 
------------------------------------------ 
4. (SBU) Hollande asserted that victory in the presidential 
election in 2007 would go to the party that provides 
solutions to the problems of France. If the Socialists can't 
engender confidence, he stated, they risk resorting to 
populism and the "us against them" mentality that showed 
itself during the EU Constitutional debate in the guise of 
the Polish plumber. Hollande stated that reforms in France 
were difficult to effect and often the result of legislation 
imposed by the majority party rather than compromise among 
stakeholders -- a system Hollande characterized as 
ineffective. Hollande cited job creation as a most urgent 
challenge facing France, and pointed out that 70 percent of 
jobs in France are short term or of a fixed duration. (Note. 
This is largely a result of the French employment laws that 
make it inordinately difficult to fire full-time employees. 
End Note.) Hollande observed that the vaunted "French social 
model" (often invoked by President Chirac) was a recent idea, 
and added that he did not know what it meant. The PS, he 
stated, speaks of an EU social model, but the current French 
government touts a model no one wants to follow. 

5. (SBU) Hollande made several predictions regarding the 
2007 presidential elections, notably that Chirac would not be 
a candidate. Sarkozy would leave the government before the 
elections, likely under protest so he could criticize Chirac 
and Villepin. The Socialists would reunify before 2007, 
unless an opposition candidate rose to challenge the official 
flag-bearer. Hollande foresaw the UMP candidate making the 
second round of elections, with the PS candidate representing 
the left. Ultimately, Hollande reiterated, the winner would 
be the candidate offering the most credible promise of 
change. (Paradoxically, his presentation inspired no such 
impression.) 

Asia and Africa 
--------------- 
6. (SBU) Describing Asia as a dynamic, competitive, and 
important region, Hollande similarly noted that it was 
causing economic unease in France. It was not constructive 
to simply tell people to work harder, he said. Hollande 
stated that regulations were needed to protect economic 
interests, but was careful to underline that he did not 
support protectionism, just the guarantee that all parties 
should play by the same rules. Touching briefly on Africa, 
Hollande remarked that France had a unique responsibility to 
the continent. The EU is seen as the panacea to African 
problems and aid to Africa should be increased, he added. 

Comment 
------- 
7. (C) Hollande is right that the next President of France 
is likely to be the candidate who offers the most credible 
promise of change. Hollande, however, seems unlikely to be 
that candidate. Hollande does not project as a leader 
implementing a clear program of action. He has often been 
criticized for his diffidence and lack of "political punch." 
True to that image, he did not demonstrate the confidence or 
talent for galvanizing others to action that voters look for 
in a candidate. His comments on issues focused on general 
diagnoses, not concrete remedies. His vision for the party 
made the Socialists appear adrift. Interestingly, every 
positive example of Socialist leadership that Hollande 
outlined came under Jospin, which raises the question as to 
whether Hollande is preparing Jospin's return, even if 
unconsciously. End Comment. 
STAPLETON