The rise of the far-right in France is no accident

Just 10 days before the first round of the presidential election, the AAPA met Dominique Reynié, founder of the think tank Fondapol, on April Fools’ Day.

Summarizing recent political history in France, Reynié dismissed the widely vaunted idea that each improved election performance by the far-right was an “accident”. On the contrary, “something was happening.” In its disappointment with the left, the working class had turned to the far-right.

And the Socialist Party has done nothing to win back its historic base, Reynié said. The difference between the 2017 and 2022 presidential elections was that Macron himself was outside the system and Le Pen was anti-system for the first time. This time Le Pen is still anti-system, but Macron “is the system.”

With a presidential victory behind him, it would be “perfect” if Macron’s party, now named Renaissance, and some allies won a parliamentary majority. “He would (at least) be able to govern, even if it is difficult.”

Reynié was not worried by the demise of the traditional left or right. Much more serious for him is the lack of any political party in France capable of functioning democratically. This means ensuring that all interests are represented among the candidates fielded for the legislative elections and the party manifestos.

Reynié was critical of governments right and left that had failed to tackle France’s huge public debt. The public reproaches governments for not reforming the country, but they «want reform that only affects their neighbor»


Paris 2024 Olympic Committee shows off its HQ

Our first meeting with the Paris 2024 Olympic Committee was held on Thursday, May 5, at their state-of-the-art, high-tech, sustainable headquarters in Seine St Denis, called "The Pulse." Tony Estanguet, President of the Olympics organizing committee, told us about the committee's three objectives: celebrating sports, engaging with people, and the legacy.

He said their 3.9-billion Euro operating budget was entirely funded by the private sector (organizations and individuals), adding that public funds were allocated only for infrastructure, 95% of which had been built previously.


Russia invades Ukraine: now what?

On Feb 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, we held an on-the-record discussion, Russia-Ukraine-Europe: What Now?, via Zoom with two experts:
Prof Marie Mendras, Russian specialist from Sciences Po, Paris and Prof Emeritus Douglas Webber, Political scientist & Europe specialist from INSEAD.
Prof Mendras opined that Russian President Vladimir Putin's shocking and unanticipated move into Ukraine was evidence of continued mental and physical deterioration.
Prof Webber said the invasion would have a tremendous and rejuvenating effect on the EU and NATO, and was concerned that potential Russian aggression into the Baltic states could be a defining challenge to NATO.


Freelancer seminar: avoiding payment delays

To help free-lance members develop a strategy for heading off such problems and for confronting them when they arise, the AAPA held a zoom conference on 22 March on recovering payments.
Leading the discussion were Hans de Keijzer, Group Head of Organisation & Change – Policy Management at Euler Hermes Group, and Caroline Harrap, a co-founder of the Society of Freelance Journalists, formed at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and now counting more than 2,000 members.
Hans de Keijzer reminded us that the cheapest form of credit comes from paying suppliers late and encouraged freelancers to lay down their own terms and conditions when starting work for a new client and agreeing on the rules for when to send invoices.
Caroline Harrap said the Society of Freelance Journalists https://freelancesoc.org/ includes an online forum for exchanging experiences and views between freelancers and provides some guidance on setting payment rates.


US Congressmen discuss Ukraine and US-France relations

More than a dozen AAPA members got to sit down with the two leaders of a US Congressional delegation to France on April 19th at the US ambassador’s residence.

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), who is on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Representative David Cicilline (D-RI-01), who is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told us their eight-member delegation had a busy two days in France meeting French officials, UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, the US ambassador to the OECD, and French groups welcoming Ukrainians fleeing the war there.

Ukraine was, unsurprisingly, the subject of many of the questions for the pair. Senator Coons called the Russian invasion “completely unjustified”.

There was discussion of weaponry being sent, and concerns expressed about Russian accountability for war crimes. UNESCO is documenting the destruction of heritage sites, they said.

Other topics raised included climate change and Covid. Despite our best efforts, they would not be drawn on the then-upcoming second round runoff of the French presidential election


Russian Sanctions: Economic Weapons

The unprecedented barrage of coordinated economic sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine is already having an impact on Russian quality of life and could ultimately undermine President Vladimir Putin politically, according to Sciences Po economics professor Sergei Guriev. He spoke to the AAPA via Zoom on March 24, 2022.

A former financial "insider" in Moscow, Guriev was Rector of Russia's New Economic School before emigrating to France in 2013. He served as Chief Economist for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 2016 to 2019 and is currently active in several international economic organizations.

Guriev believes Putin will face a serious domestic backlash when sanctions impact his ability to pay his soldiers and local police.

Additionally, he thinks the Russian leader was surprised that the invasion of Ukraine failed to be a "quick win" (a combination of bad intelligence and insufficient military power) and is determined to use all available means to stay in power, including the use of chemical or possibly nuclear weapons.

However, GURIEV believes a negotiated settlement remains within reach, and, when asked to compare Putin to Hitler, suggested that the lessons learned from the 1930s have prepared the rest of the world to stop him.


Who is cancelling whom? French sociologist, Michel Wieviorka, discusses the Woke craze in France.

WOKE: a nebulous catchall word that refers to cancel culture, "Islamo-leftism", intersectionality, anti-colonialism, etc. A concept supposedly imported from American universities that, according to some of France's highest authorities, is contaminating France, maybe quicker than the Covid virus. Hardly a day goes by that it is not referred to in French media, especially as we approach French presidential elections.

AAPA invited the internationally renowned sociologist, Michel Wieviorka, specialist in social movements, democracy, terrorism, racism and anti-Semitism, to speak about this word - and the ideas behind it. What is going on in France?

According to Wieviorka, much of the tension in French society today is due primarily to the question of Islam and immigration -how they are perceived by French citizens and how they have been exploited by politicians and the media. He rejects the idea of a "clash of civilizations" as described by Samuel Huntington. The French ideal of Universalism and "la République" are at odds with today's reality of multiculturalism and inherent inequalities. Intellectual debate has become polarized: "neo-McCarthyism" according to the right, "néo-réactionnaires" for the left. The question is, who is cancelling whom?

Wieviorka's attitude as a sociologist dedicated to research, is to reject both extremes. However he expresses concern regarding the present "droitisation" of French politics and the temptation of authoritarianism, though "the worst is not certain" he says.

By Thomas Haley


Presidential candidate Michel Barnier meets with AAPA

The Anglo-American press club met with former minister, EU Brexit negotiator and presidential candidate Michel Barnier on December 8. Fresh from the campaign trail, Barnier spoke of his enthusiasm for nominee Pécresse, and her ability to win the race. He says he hopes to be a part of her campaign and government.
We also discussed the fallout from Brexit, Franco-British relations and France’s upcoming presidency of the EU.


France plans new Terrorism Museum

Coinciding with the opening of the trial for the horrifying November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the AAPA was invited on 9 September 2021 to meet the man behind France’s upcoming museum on terrorism, expected to open in the Paris area in 2027.
Historian Henry Rousso previously helped create the Caen Memorial Museum on the WWII Normandy landings, and the Shoah/Holocaust Memorial in Paris. Now, he’s presiding over an expert group behind France’s future terror museum — one of only a handful existing worldwide.
France’s museum-memorial will focus on terrorist attacks on France since the 1970s from a dual perspective. “The goal of a museum is to explain events,” said Rousso. “while a memorial is intended to honor the victims.”


France's 'Monsieur Patrimoine' Stéphane Bern talks to the AAPA

Stéphane Bern, the ardent defender of France's cultural heritage, treated the AAPA to an hour of his insights into the post-pandemic state of play, progress on resurrecting Notre Dame Cathedral, the Christo stunt at the Arc de Triomphe, and more.
The ebullient journalist and author is a household name in France thanks to his hugely popular television shows, and is a darling of crowned heads and aristocrats.
“I never understood why they closed down the museums” during the pandemic, he said, noting that privately owned cultural sites were hurt the most as the public ones enjoy subsidies.
The man who rubs shoulders with royalty all over Europe – he remarked that he has known Prince Albert of Monaco for 30 years – was somewhat wistful about British attitudes towards cultural heritage compared to those of the French.
“Britain is still a monarchy, so in the collective unconscious it's not history, it's the present,” he said.
His opinion about the Christo installation? It gets people talking, it highlights the monument, and it's only ephemeral anyway!
Bern quashed any idea of alternatives to restoring Notre Dame’s spire to its original Gothic self. France is a signatory to the 1963 Treaty of Venice, first and foremost, which stipulates that damaged monuments must be returned to their last known form. Also on the spire, he said the finest oak was being sought out across France.
“It's pretty symbolic,” he said. “All the regions where there are lovely oak forests can glory in it. It causes a national élan in favour of the reconstruction.” And the timeline? “I’m sure we'll be ready for 2024” when France will host the Olympics.
On other subjects, he pulled no punches regarding wind farms, condemning them as counter-productive given the materials needed to build them, and divisive because they are a scourge for the generally rural people who live in their noisy shadow.
And Bern dished a bit -- but ever so diplomatically -- on the state of Prince Albert’s marriage, as his wife Caroline has been absent for quite some time. He said he is sensitive to the challenges of being a royal, pivoting quickly to the desertion of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.