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Viewing cable 05PARIS8606, AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH KEY SARKOZY ADVISOR FRANCOIS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05PARIS8606 2005-12-22 12:12 2010-11-30 21:09 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Paris
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 008606 

SIPDIS 

SENSITIVE 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR SOCI FR EUN
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH KEY SARKOZY ADVISOR FRANCOIS 
FILLON 


1. (SBU) Summary: Sarkozy advisor and former Education 
Minister Francois Fillon told the Ambassador December 20 that 
Sarkozy had a chance to buck the French predisposition to 
vote against the ruling party in 2007 by focusing his 
presidential campaign on the electorate's deep-seated desire 
for real "change." Fillon argued that the victor in 2007 
would need to make the presidency more personally accountable 
and involved in explaining government policy to the populace. 
The EU, in Fillon's opinion, is struggling under the weight 
of new members, and it was time to bring the UK into the 
Franco-German union in order to move the body forward. 
Fillon believed transatlantic relations would be more cordial 
under a Sarkozy presidency; although disagreements would 
certainly arise, they would be handled in a more nuanced 
manner. Fillon elaborated on Sarkozy's plan to improve the 
French economy through welfare reform and greater flexibility 
for businesses, and offered his own views on needed changes 
for the French education system. End Summary. 

2007 Elections 
-------------- 
2. (SBU) The Ambassador met December 20 with Francois 
Fillon, former Minister of Education (2004-2005) and Social 
Affairs, Labor, and Solidarity (2002-2004) in the Raffarin 
government, who was named in July 2005 to be the Political 
Counselor to Nicolas Sarkozy in his role as president of the 
Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). Fillon noted the 
instability of the French Fifth Republic compared to the 
governments of Germany and the UK, and commented that the 
French electorate always voted for change. This suggested 
that the Socialist Party (PS) should logically win in 2007, 
but Sarkozy had a chance because he was a strong proponent 
for change, whereas the PS had turned into a party of 
"restoration" of the status quo ante. He insisted that most 
French voters really do want change, although he conceded 
that they are also afraid of losing what they have. Chirac 
always erred on the side of French fears rather than a desire 
for change and Villepin's big liability would be that he is 
seen as a continuation of Chirac. Sarkozy, by contrast, was 
betting that people really wanted reform. 

3. (SBU) Fillon believed that Sarkozy would remain in the 
government until January of 2007, when the UMP would 
officially nominate its presidential candidate, at which time 
he would break with Chirac/Villepin to run for the 
presidency. He said that Chirac and Villepin would do 
everything possible in the meantime to trip him up. The 
recent unrest in the suburbs had not hurt Sarkozy, Fillon 
noted, because he was seen as taking action on the issue. 
Fillon did not foresee a cohabitation government, saying, 
"The people will choose a president and give him a majority" 
in Parliament. 

Institutional Reform 
-------------------- 
4. (SBU) Elaborating on his statement that the French Fifth 
Republic is inherently "unstable," Fillon said there was a 
need to move to a presidential system in which the president 
would have to take a more active role in explaining the 
government's actions to the people and the parliament. (The 
only such public appearance by Chirac was his disastrous Town 
Hall-style appearance in early May in favor of the EU 
Constitution.) While there were also arguments in favor of a 
more parliamentary system, Fillon said that it would be 
impossible to convince the French electorate to abandon the 
election of a president by universal suffrage. Nor was in 
possible any longer for the president to remain above the 
fray, he said, then blame everything on the PM. The move to 
a five-year presidential term of office had reinforced this 
trend. He characterized what he said was a PS plan to weaken 
the powers of the presidency in favor of the prime minister 
as "unrealistic." 

The EU 
------ 
5. (SBU) The EU currently suffered from a lack of direction 
and leadership, Fillon said. He explained that enlargement 
was the main problem, which made it difficult to take 
decisions efficiently. "We can hardly express ourselves in 
meetings" with 25 members, he lamented, since there was no 
time to take the floor more than once. In order to move the 
EU forward, Fillon saw a need to expand the Franco-German 
"couple" into a Franco-Germano-British "menage a trois." His 
basic point was that it was hollow to think that Europe could 
progress without the UK. He saw the emergence of Angela 
Merkel as positive, while commenting that Chirac was trying 
to make his relationship with her appear closer than it was 
in the vane of the mythical Franco-German tandem. Returning 
to his analysis of the French electorate, Fillon argued that 
the May 29 French referendum vote was not a rejection of 
change or Europe, but in fact a vote for a more radical 
overhaul of the system. This coincided with the tendency of 
the French to vote against the current government, which had 
backed the EU Constitution. However, Fillon conceded this 
was his interpretation, and that it was difficult at the 
moment to accurately draw conclusions from the referendum 
vote. 

U.S.-French Relations 
--------------------- 
6. (SBU) Fillon thought a Sarkozy government would better be 
able to work together with the U.S., and be less overtly 
critical and more nuanced in its public statements. Under 
Sarkozy, he continued, disagreements would not as easily lead 
to blow-ups with close and vital allies. At the same time, 
he cautioned, this would not change the very real 
anti-American sentiments of some parts of the French 
populace. In response to the Ambassador's comment that 
France is perceived as an obstacle to U.S. ambitions for 
NATO, Fillon noted that there needed to be a better balance 
in NATO between Europe and the U.S. First, however, he said 
that Europeans themselves needed to be clearer about their 
priorities. Separately, Fillon noted that Sarkozy did not 
necessarily see the need for high levels of defense spending. 

Economy 
------- 
7. (SBU) On economic issues, Fillon called for fusing 
welfare with unemployment so that the unemployed would be 
more compelled to take jobs they were offered. He noted that 
a Sarkozy economic system would push for more flexibility for 
businesses and a simplification of the work codes. He also 
advocated breaking the power of unions, including requiring 
that elections be held every several years with open 
candidacies. 

Education 
--------- 
8. (SBU) Fillon spoke at length about giving schools more 
autonomy (citing this as yet another area where Europe was 
falling behind), but stopped short of recommending 
decentralization. He criticized the burdensome bureaucracy 
of the education system and lamented that the short time that 
leaders remain in power limited their ability to effect 
change. Increasing immigration required adaptation of the 
system, but France had avoided such adjustments. He thought 
universities should become independent, and that communes 
should assume more responsibility for early education. He 
talked about using limited resources for overtime pay for 
those teachers willing and most able. 

Comment 
------- 
9. (SBU) Fillon came across as a seasoned, non-dogmatic, and 
serious political figure. He appeared pragmatic, 
forthcoming, accessible, and open to continued dialogue. He 
has commented publicly on his disappointment at not being 
included in the Villepin government because of his support of 
Sarkozy. Fillon is among Sarkozy's closest advisors, and is 
considered a potential prime ministerial candidate should 
Sarkozy be elected president in 2007. End Comment. 

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 

Stapleton