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Jean-François Copé: France's place in Europe
When Jean-François Copé declared that David Cameron gave “one of the best analyses of the European situation”, one might think that the French right-wing opposition leader is betting on the wrong horse. At first glance, the Tory Prime Minister, known for his euro-scepticism, might not be the best partner to modernise Europe and lead further integration. What kind of Europe is Jean-François Copé planning on building? Which role would France hold in it? He delivered his vision of France in Europe at the London School of Economics and FranceinLondon highlights the main points he made during this conference.
Renegotiate Europe to fight against the rise of far right
Copé believes that David Cameron is perfectly "euro-compatible". A contradiction? Not necessarily. For a huge majority of French people, the UK may be an outsider in Europe, but for Jean-François Copé David Cameron’s strategy is a way to fight against the rise of extremism. In this time of crisis, Europe appears as a constraint to an increasing number of people who hence turn towards far-right anti-European parties. Renegotiating our relationship with Brussels would allow us to counter the rise of the French National Front or UKIP, according to Jean-François Copé.
Reforming France to be competitive on an international scale
Copé considers that France should undertake structural reforms to be able to counter Germany’s power. Amongst the major reforms he named the liberalization of the labour market and the reduction of state spending and the trade balance deficit. For him France has many assets, as it remains the world's fifth largest GDP, but the country suffers from wealth mismanagement. France is at a key moment in its history, and it may fall into slow decline if it is not going in the direction he proposes. Although not directly mentioned, the presidential election was clearly in Jean-Francois Copé’s mind, who came to present his vision of a strong internationally competitive France.
Gay marriage, immigration and the crisis in Southern Europe
Copé addressed the audience of the LSE as if he was preaching to the converted, yet some issues were quite controversial. One of the first questions was about the on-going debate on gay marriage to which Jean-Francois Copé is clearly opposed. He stressed that his fight was not against marriage but adoption, as he has a traditional view of family. Another theme that awakens tensions in Europe: austerity. A Spanish student of the LSE highlighted the woes of austerity in his country of origin, but Jean-Francois Cope does not seem overly interested in the Spanish case and stressed the urgency of structural reforms in France. Finally, a student raised the problem of French emigrants abroad, stressing the fact that France does not seem very worried about not generating jobs for them. Jean-Francois Cope said he was "determined" to push for a return of talent to the country.