Plus ça change?

Sarko has done it again. In a brilliant media stunt, he has managed to grab the headlines and project a dynamic image of a changing France, in “rupture” with the Chirac era. I don’t want to ruin the party, and I certainly hope France is moving forward, but his speech is worth a closer look. Yes, he is promising a brand new CAP. But if you look at the few contents, it all sounds quite “déjà vue”. He is talking of food security- code name for supporting EU production and defends maintaining high tariff barriers to fend of Brazilian imports (community preference). Then he says a key role of the CAP is in taking our responsibility in feeding the world, which can be understood as keeping boosting EU exports and going on playing with the notion that Africa should be fed by French farmers rather than by African ones. So far, so Chiraquien. Then he talks about defending French traditions and landscape. This might be an opening to concerns over biodiversity decline and unsustainable land management, but sounds much more like keeping the subsidies for wine growers. Finally he jumps on the climate change band wagon, but what he clearly has in mind are biofuels, i.e. more public money to big cereal growers…

It is still early to judge and a new hand should always be given the benefit of doubt. He might still turn out to be a real reformer, and certainly pretending to be interested in radical change is still better than championing reaction as Chirac did. But I would advise some caution before popping the Champaign bottles.

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