Saturday, January 13, 2007

Two European Leaders Changeover

Two interesting stories on the upcoming changing of power in Great Britain and France.

First France. Heir apparent to the center-right vote Nicholas Sarkozy (current Interior Minister) who was supposed to cakewalk to nomination is hit a wall. Story here from Wapo. Current Premier Jacques Chirac is skewering Sarkozy for his lack of support back in 1994.

Sarkozy styles himself a reformer--wants to mend relations with the US, become more pro-globalization, cut bureaucracy, and affirmative action towards immigrant (read Muslim) assimilation. He is neck and neck in polls to date with Socialist candidate Segolene Royal. She has united her party and allies while Sarkozy got booed by his own.

Either way France couldn't get much worse than Chirac I imagine.

And Great Britain. A story that is not getting much press in North America is the possible break up of the Union of Great Britain--Scotland is heading pro-separation. But it is unclear what that would mean. Is it only devolution with the Union or a complete breakup?

Story here from The Times Online. Gordon Brown, the heir to Tony Blair, is Scottish and this vote could force Brown to choose sides--he is pro-Union. Brown's position is also compromised because of his party's almost lock-step following of President Bush's Iraq War while getting (until now) nil in return: on the Palestinian question and Global Warming the two issues Blair thought he could get in return for his support of the Iraq War.

Brown has been fairly quiet on Iraq, but his political future domestically depends on getting British troops out quickly as possible.

What is interesting to me about the near simultaneous hand over of these two countries is how both leaders, Chirac and especially Blair were hailed back in the 90s as models for the future of European Leadership. Both have left their countries further weakened--not always their own fault, esp. Blair. And yet each took different paths on the prime foreign policy question of their governments: Iraq War. Chirac after an initial jump in popularity for his country's Veto in the UN only lasted so long. Student Riots and French Muslim youth violence rocked France over the last few years.

I'm more and more convinced that Europe must find a third-way for the future. The status quo of state dependency is continuing to fail, along with general relativism. But the cure I don't think is a Mark Steyn-like return to the Western values by positing a monolithic enemy (Islam) against which all must fight. The future of Europe is going to have to be more open markets with post-national (to the degree healthy) identities and most importantly the country defined as an opportunity for human beings and the expansion of its classical liberal heritage to all. If I were being crazy, I would say W.Euro does not need to return to its roots but (gulp) become more American. i.e. The best side of America--the ability of multiple groups, ethnicities, and religions to co-exist.


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