Wednesday, December 14, 2005

How the French Élites Remain in Power, Making Themselves Rich in the Process: "The intransigence is unbelievable"

French citizens, who see the rise in unemployment and the fall in their standard of living, are paying an increasing price for having voted for their nomenklatura during the last three decades
wrote Jean-Christophe Mounicq (merci aux archives d'RV).
These elites behave as if France were theirs. They control the Parliament and enact laws but do not respect them. They distribute commissions to mistresses of ministers with Elf Aquitaine, they lend billions without calculating risks to Credit Lyonnais , they resort to illegal means to finance political parties, such as the Socialists with Henri Emmanuelli or the Gaullists with Alain Juppé. Despite multiple instances of illegal behaviour French elites are rarely sanctioned.

The socialo-gaullist elites, who control French media groups, buy their support by distributing money to Communist (CGT) and Trotskyite (FO) unions, to 7 million public servants (often useless), to 12 million retirees (often pre-retired), plus millions of immigrants living on welfare. But French politicians are so "generous" that even with the highest taxes of any OECD country, they chronically accumulate huge debts in all public entities: state, regions, cities, social programs, public companies. Having been unable to balance any French budget for more than 30 years, they are driving France to a financial crisis that will shake all of Europe.

"Enarques" also control many major French companies and banks, including private ones. Nostalgic for the glorious past of France, Napoleon is often their model. The current foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, wrote a book on Napoleon I and praises the former French emperor as vehemently as he denounces American "imperialism." Messier, who brought his once wealthy company close to bankruptcy, was often described as thinking he was Napoleon.
This helps explain the report from Anthony Browne and Nicola Smith:
FRENCH farmers were accused of holding Europe and the world to ransom yesterday after official figures obtained by The Times revealed just how far European Union subsidies are skewed in their favour.

Three times as many French farmers receive large subsidies from the EU than those of any other country. In total, France receives almost twice as much direct subsidies for its farmers as any other member state, and they are mostly channelled to large farmers rather than traditional small-scale land holders.

Despite the huge discrepancies France steadfastly refuses to countenance any reduction in farm subsidies, bringing the EU budget negotiations in Brussels and the World Trade Organisation talks in Hong Kong, both climaxing this week, to the brink of collapse. …

Neil O’Brien, of the Open Europe think-tank, said: “The world trade talks will fail because the EU won’t budge, the EU won’t budge because France won’t budge, and France won’t budge because its farmers have it over a barrel.”

Claire Godfrey, trade policy officer at Oxfam, said: “This is holding so much up. It is holding the EU budget and the WTO talks to ransom. The intransigence is unbelievable.”

The European Commission figures show why French farmers are so attached to the EU subsidies. More than 131,000 French farmers took €20,000 (£13,000) or more from Brussels in 2003, far more than the combined total of 104,000 farmers from Britain, Italy and Germany who receive that amount. About 3,200 French farmers secured more than €100,000 in subsidies. The biggest beneficiary in France was a rice farmer in the Camargue, who received €866,290.

In total, French farmers received €7.38 billion in subsidies in 2003, more than twice the total of the UK, Italy or Germany. The EU subsidies are highly skewed in favour of large farmers. In 2003 the richest 1.6 cent of EU farmers received 27 per cent of all subsidies. The poorest 54 per cent of farmers received only 4 per cent.

…Chris Davies, the Liberal Democrat leader in the European Parliament, said: “The French have to face up to the reality of the modern world. The CAP is not providing protection for the traditional French farmer in the way seen in the French popular imagination.”

…In a pamphlet last week, the Centre for European Policy Studies, an EU-funded think-tank, described the phenomenon of politicians receiving money from CAP as a form of legitimate corruption. The author, Richard Baldwin, said that it “helps to explain the CAP’s gravity-defying ability to transfer large sums to large landowners in the name of social solidarity”.

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