While the presidential majority came neck and neck with the New People’s Ecological and Social Union (Nupes) in the first round of legislative elections on Sunday, June 12, members of the government are stepping up attacks on the left-wing alliance led by the leader of La France insoumise (LFI), Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Several ministers of Elisabeth Borne, the head of government, assured that the Nupes program would lead France out of the European Union (EU).
what they said
The Minister of Action and Public Accounts, Gabriel Attal, launched hostilities on Sunday evening. Candidate in Hauts-de-Seine, the former government spokesman said that Nupes wanted to “leave the European Union”.
On Europe 1, Tuesday, the Minister of Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, estimated that the Nupes carried “a program where we leave Europe, where we deprive ourselves of this European protection to go and throw ourselves into the arms of countries that are not very democratic”.
WHY THIS IS INACCURATE
In the Nupes program made up of 650 proposals, the chapter devoted to European policy was the subject of many disagreements and nuances, because of the very different attachments to Europe between the parties of the coalition, as recalled by the document preamble:
“Rebellious France and the French Communist Party are heirs to the left-wing no to the European Constitutional Treaty in 2005, the Socialist Party is committed to European construction and its achievements, in which it is a key player, and Europe Ecologie-Les Verts is historically favorable to the construction of a federal Europe. »
Despite these historical differences, the formations of the Nupes agreed on a common desire to reform the EU to “put an end to the liberal and productivist course of the European Union and to build a new project at the service of the ecological, democratic bifurcation and solidarity”. There follows a list of 99 proposals on the fight against climate change, the transformation of the common agricultural policy, tax evasion, social rights or the reception of refugees.
To carry out their program, the parties that make up the Nupes believe that certain European regulations (free trade treaty, free movement of capital, competition, etc.) constitute “serious obstacles” to the implementation of their program. They say they are “ready not to respect certain rules”, even if some parties only intend to “derogate temporarily” from the European treaties, while others are not afraid to “disobey”.
Defended by the “rebellious” from the presidential election, disobedience would not be without consequences. Any country in violation risks sanctions – which is extremely common. However, there is room for negotiation between France and the EU, especially if a reason of general interest is at stake, such as the protection of the environment or the climate.
The left alliance thus intends to use “existing leeway”, such as the use of safeguard clauses, or even to “negotiate with the Commission the adaptations of the law and derogations”. And, if necessary, go so far as to “cease to apply standards incompatible with the ecological and social commitments” of the program. Nupes also intends, in certain cases, within the Council of the EU, “to form alliances to obtain majorities on texts favoring social and ecological progress, to form blocking minorities on texts which are contrary to it, to oppose our right to veto free trade agreements”.
“In the end, nothing in the program or the speeches of the Nupes is equivalent to leaving Europe,” analyzes Tania Racho, researcher in European law at the Institute for Public Law Studies at the University of Paris- Saclay and member of the collective Les Surligneurs. “It is in particular a question of negotiations with the European authorities, by highlighting the national priority, which a very large number of States are already doing”, specifies the lawyer.
La Nupes cites as an example Germany, which derogates from certain rules “to avoid competition in the water sector”, or even Spain “to intervene in the face of soaring energy prices”.
Article 50 of the EU Treaty provides that a state can leave the EU, as the United Kingdom did. Until the procedure associated with Article 50 is initiated, a country cannot be excluded for non-compliance with the rules or disobedience of the treaties.
This positioning is relatively new for the “rebellious”, the majority force of the Nupes, whose proposals on Europe have evolved, at the risk of causing some confusion. In 2017, Jean-Luc Mélenchon was considering leaving the EU, which he summed up in the shock formula: “Europe, we change it or we leave it. The candidate then presented a project in two stages: a plan A involving a renegotiation of the European treaties in order to avoid any form of “social regression”, which he was sure could succeed; a plan B in case of failure, consisting in leaving the EU to prefer modes of international cooperation with European countries sharing the same objectives. This plan B is no longer relevant in 2022: it is now more about “disobedience”.
In summary, rebellious France had already changed its position before the 2022 presidential campaign. And Nupes, when it presented its common platform for the legislative campaign, did not hide the differences in position on this subject. It is therefore inaccurate to say that the left alliance “wants out of the European Union”.