Hollande Capitulates to EU Pressure on Labor Laws Risking His Own Presidency
Monday, June 20, 2016
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
As you know, we’ve been reporting on the growing labor protests in France. And one of the key issues that we are dealing with in these protests is the effort on the part of the French government to conform to the requirements of the European Union, as they were trying to do in France, when it comes to labor conditions.
Now joining us to talk about all of this from Paris is Renaud Lambert. He is the editor of the monthly paper Le Monde diplomatique.
Thank you again for joining us, Renaud.
RENAUD LAMBERT, EDITOR, LE MONDE DIPLOMATIQUE: Thank you.
PERIES: So, Renaud, one of the things that you are very interested in talking about to the people is the convergence that’s going on in Europe itself when it comes to regulating labor. And this is why France is going through this reform that Hollande wants to introduce. So let’s talk about that. What does this mean for France, and what does it mean for Europe?
LAMBERT: Yeah, yeah. I think you’re right in bringing this up. I mean, there is one question is: why would any president, potential candidate for presidential election, stand so firmly behind a bill that is so unpopular? And I think that of the many reasons, one is European pressure. You have to bear in mind that similar laws have been passed in Spain, of course, Greece, Portugal, Ireland–in plenty, in many countries. And France pretty much stands as the last domino in the European Union strategy to bulldozer work-related regulations.
And I think this is one of the reasons Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, stepped into the debate in France and said the bill that is proposed to the French people is–and I quote–the very minimum that needs to be implemented in a European country, the very minimum. And when you see the amount of people in the street, I mean, that infuriated people, such a comment.
But I think he was right. And I would expect that this explains the level of solidarity we are receiving, the labor movement is receiving from across the border. From the U.K., Jeremy Corbyn, head of the Labour Party, [brought support to ?] the workers strike in France. Ken Loach, who was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, sent a message of support in a recent meeting. We are receiving support from Podemos in Spain. We are receiving support from Portugal. People are looking at what is happening in France because they know that an important struggle is taking place here.
PERIES: And when you say the eurozone is trying to conform to this kind of labor regulation they want across Europe, why do they want that? Why do they want that kind of conformity?
LAMBERT: Well, that is a big debate. And my opinion is that that is the reason why the European Union was created. The European Union is not like the United States, the addition of separate states under a federal government. It’s a plan to create a common market. It’s a corporate-oriented project that was intended to make it easier for companies to make profit and to streamline regulations that would hinder their profit-making. Hence what we have seen under the guise of creating solidarity, pushing for peace and prosperity, is ever better regulations in favor of companies and tougher and tougher laws directed, passed by Brussels for workers.
If you look at free trade agreements, the one we are negotiating at the moment with Washington, the–
LAMBERT: –exactly, TTIP–is a demonstration of this way of looking at the world. It’s basically a dream come true for companies, but the promise of a much harder life for workers in France, Spain, and Germany and the rest of Europe.
PERIES: And politically how do you think this is going to pan out for Hollande, given you mention that this is an election year? What is going to happen in France with the discontent that’s growing around these reforms at this time?
LAMBERT: Well, I think it would be very presumptuous to make any projections as to what is going to happen. It’s a very explosive situation on the social front. As you said, there were two policemen, a policeman and a policewoman, killed by an attack. If there was another attack, who is to say what would be happening on the Place de la République? There is no way one can tell what will happen at the moment. And that is one of the specifics of the situation at the moment is that anything is possible. I mean, in a couple of days the U.K. is going to vote on whether they will stay or exit the European Union. I mean, who could have thought this possible a couple of years ago?
PERIES: And that might actually be happening in Britain next week if the polls are correct.
I thank you so much for joining us today.
LAMBERT: Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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