In spite of the concern and pessimism about the arrival of a socialist president at the Elysium in a moment of deep crisis for Europe, the Presidency of François Holland will present, from different points of view, several points of continuity with that of the outgoing president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Jean Pierre Dernis, senior research fellow, deputy head of the Security and Defence department at the IAI, expounded this idea during a round table at the Institute on May 7th, the day after the run-off of the 2012 French presidential elections.
In Dernis’ opinion, the relationship between Germany and France will remain strong regardless of who’s in charge: after the country’s “presidentialization”, following the reform carried out by Sarkozy in 2008, the French government has in fact always been identified with the figure of the President. And the same will happen now with Hollande. The relationship with Berlin can be defined as “consubstantial” with the Presidency of the French Republic: both Merkel and the newly elected president are perfectly aware that political and diplomatic exchange between the two capitals must continue, regardless of public declarations (evidence of this is that contacts between the two had already started before the outcome of the elections and that Hollande’s first foreign meeting will be in Germany on May 15th).
On other foreign policy issues as well, the Socialist president is likely to take stands that are not that different from Sarkozy’s, from Russia to NATO and from the US to Iran. On the future relationship with the United States, nothing was said during the campaign (although a possible early withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by the new president could, in fact, cool relations with Washington). Hollande and Sarkozy seem to have the same ideas on the Middle East and Iran as well, even if the newly elected president, less prone towards interventionism generally, prefers not to stress, as his predecessor used to do, the need for an alliance with Israel, if the security of the Jewish state should be at risk.
In the opinion of Stefano Silvestri also, the scenario that lies ahead for France is not entirely negative. Holland is an experienced politician and has numerous figures around him, such as Jean Pierre Jouyet, who embody a valid expression of a certain French Europeanism. Thus, the social democracy of the new president does not seem to be completely incompatible with a wide-ranging European policy, starting, for example, with the greater openness shown by the newly elected president toward the possible entry of Turkey into the Union.