In just over two months, French voters will elect their next
president. This election will be critical to the future of France
domestically and to its standing in the world. France has lost
significant economic and political power over the past decade and
needs reform and reinvigoration. The new president must also seek
to repair frayed ties with Washington. It is highly doubtful that
this would happen under Ségolène Royal.
Royal, the Socialist presidential candidate has outlined a
100-policy presidential pact "for France to rediscover a shared
ambition, pride, and fraternity." Royal is frequently touted as
the face of change, a breath of fresh air, a new start for France.
But almost the opposite is true: Royal represents the status
quo. She graduated from the École nationale
d'administration, the institution that has bred an entire class of
French political elites; she is instinctively protectionist and
virulently anti-globalist;and in true Gaullist spirit, she is no
friend of America.
Royal's Foreign Policy
A series of diplomatic blunders have left an indelible bad
impression of French foreign policy under a Royal presidency.
In trips to the Middle East, the Far East, and South America,
Royal could do no right on the diplomatic front. During her
high-profile five-day Middle East trip in December, not only did
she fail to react when Hezbollah legislator Ali Ammar compared
Israeli actions in Lebanon to Nazism, but she even thanked him for
"being so frank" when he described U.S. foreign policy in the
Middle East as "unlimited American insanity." Matched with other
serious errors of judgment--such as praising China's justice system
and calling for independence for Quebec--Royal has lurched from one
crisis to another in foreign affairs. As BBC correspondent Clive
Myrie observed, "Segolene Royal's campaign has
suffered a series of self-inflicted wounds."
It is highly unlikely there would be a thaw in U.S.-French
relations under a Royal presidency. In what can only be described
as an opportunistic attack inspired by pure anti-Americanism, she
pointedly criticized her closest rival for the presidency, Nicolas
Sarkozy, during his successful trip to Washington in September
2006. "My diplomatic position will not consist of going and
kneeling down in front of George Bush," Royal told the press.Last
month, she again harkened back to deep anti-American sentiment,
condemning Sarkozy as a "clone of Bush" and "an American
neo-conservative carrying a French passport."
Royal continues to snipe from the sidelines about Operation
Iraqi Freedom and advocates America's withdrawal from Iraq. She
believes that decisions about Iraq's transition should be made
solely by the Iraqi government, barely concealing her implicit
criticism of American involvement in the region. During her keynote
manifesto speech outlining her presidential platform, she not only
acknowledged the divisions caused by France's vocal opposition to
the war in Iraq, but even pledged to speak "louder and stronger."
She has also made diplomatically crass comments about President
Bush. "I do not mix up Bush's America with the American people,"
she has said. "The American people are our friends."
Royal was scheduled to visit Washington in December 2006 but
postponed the visit because she needed more time to "finalize the
programme." In reality, Royal has alienated not just
the current U.S. administration but even natural allies such as
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). It is therefore highly
unlikely that there will be a Royal visit to Washington of any
consequence before the French elections.
It is difficult to imagine a Royal presidency being anything
other than a recipe for tense transatlantic relations. Royal's
damaging international trips, matched with her failure to mend
fences in Washington, are a realistic indication of what a
Washington-Paris axis would look like under a Royal presidency.
Royal and the European Union
Royal's dedication and commitment to further European
integration are hallmarks of her political inclinations. In her
presidential pact Royal calls for a "reconstruction of a political
Europe," and like French leaders before her, she
is deeply wedded to Brussels' integrationist, protectionist, and
interventionist policies. She believes that a full and enhanced EU
constitution should proceed, including those elements inimical to
American strategic interests, such as a Common Foreign and Security
Policy, a single EU Foreign Minister, and an independent military
In fact, Royal's anti-Americanism drives her European policy as
much as her enthusiasm for Brussels. A key motive for backing the
European Constitution is to counterbalance what she sees as "the
American hyperpower."The Socialist Party campaigned in favor of
the European constitution with the slogan "A strong Europe to face
up to the USA." In line with Gaullist thinking, Royal
sees the European Union as a competing power to the U.S., not a
complementary ally. With the European constitution's lengthy policy
prescriptions and deep centralization of foreign policy, Royal sees
it as a way for France to project its power counter to the aims
ofthe United States.
Tied into this, Royal has also weighed in on the U.S.-U.K.
Special Relationship. Through her spokesman and foreign affairs
adviser, Gilles Savary, she launched an astonishing attack on the
U.S.-U.K. alliance in November in an interview with The Daily
Telegraph, demanding that Britain chooses between being
"vassals of the United States" or a fully integrated member of a
highly centralized European Union. Savary's comments amount
to a major affront to the sovereign foreign policymaking of a
European ally and illustrate the deep-rooted anti-Americanism
driving Royal's European policy.
The French Socialists are pushing an agenda in Europe that
represents a strategic threat to the United States. The Royal
vision for the European Union would make Brussels a rival to
America, rather than a partner. In contrast to the European vision
outlined by Margaret Thatcher at Bruges in 1988, Royal wants an
E.U. based on deeply integrated foreign and defense policies. This
represents a major threat to America's future coalition-building
prospects and an immense challenge to constructive transatlantic
As a major power in Europe and a medium-sized global power, it
is in France's interest to adopt a less combative and more
conciliatory stance toward the United States. But as a committed
Socialist and darling of the Left, Royal would steer a status
quo course for French politics that would continue the
disintegration of the Franco-American relationship and put even
more distance between the Elysée Palace and the White
For France to be heard in Washington, the French government must
adopt a new approach. This would not happen under
Ségolène Royal. She has shown neither the desire nor
the ability to craft a credible, conciliatory approach to
rebuilding the French-American alliance and has undertaken to make
Brussels, with France at the forefront, a rival power player to
Sally McNamara is Senior
Policy Analyst in European Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center
for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage
Adam Sage, "Royal Stumbles in Row over attack on Israel As 'Nazi,'"
The Times, December 4, 2006.
Adam Sage, "Canada Tells Royal 'don't interfere' over Freedom for
Quebec,'" The Times, January 24, 2007.
Roger Cohen, "In French Politics, U.S. Serves a Purpose," The
International Herald Tribune, January 31, 2007.
"Iraqi Foreign Minister Says Determined to
Disband Militias," Associated Press Worldstream, November 3,
Craig S. Smith, "French Contender Makes Her
Presidential Case," February 12, 2007.
Daphne Barak, "Interview with French Presidential Candidate
Mark Beunderman, "French presidential
candidates fine tune ideas for Europe," EUobserver.com, February
12, 2007, at euobserver.com/9/23473.
"Beyond These Shores," The Economist, October 28, 2006.