The Greens’ Opposition to the Budgetary Pact Divides the Left Majority

Pascal Canfin June 26, 2012
Photo: flickr.com/jeanfrancois beausejour

On September 22nd, the Ecologist Party Europe-Écologie-les-Verts (EELV) expressed its firm rejection of the European Budgetary Pact, with 70% voting no during the federal council of the party. The ecologists are part of the left-wing in the assembly, and they are the official allies of the Parti Socialiste (PS). The two major ecologist figures, Cécile Duflot and Pascal Canfin, are ministers in the government.

The vote was not a surprise. After several declarations of opposition from the ecologists, the participation of Duflot and Canfin in the government was quickly questioned because the ministers owe their government complete solidarity

The current alliance between the PS and EELV was built before the general elections. By signing a common political pact, the two parties pledged to support each other for the presidential and the legislative elections. Therefore, the ecologists in many ways owe their representatives in the Assembly and these two ministerial functions their unanimity and support.

The rejection of the European Budgetary Pact is now an enduring source of tension between the socialists and the ecologists. The latter believes that French President François Hollande is breaking his former promises. Hollande had based a part of his campaign on the rejection of the Pact, hoping the European Union would promote growth in addition to austerity. Hollande and his government eventually agreed to submit the Pact to the French Assembly, seeing progresses from Germany in terms of growth and support to the European countries in difficulty.

Inside the ecologist party, the issue is complex. Ecologists may reject the Pact with a sweeping majority when presented to the Assembly, but might vote in favor of the organic law of finance, which will contain the national budget and insert the European Budgetary Pact in French institutions. François de Rugy, an ecologist leader in the Assembly, mentioned the option and many people from both sides of the political spectrum questioned the coherence of such a paradox.

The opposition saw the situation as an opportunity to attack the left alliance. According to François Fillon, former Prime Minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, the responsibility goes to François Hollande who “got nothing” from Angela Merkel in exchange of his support for the Pact, implying that Hollande’s promises were only meant to attract more voters. He then added that he did not see “how the ecologists could stay in the government,” since the Prime Minister asked for a “massive” support from the majority.

For the right-wing opposition, the Pact must be voted because it is a legacy from Sarkozy, however, the current controversy is seen as a way of denouncing the alleged inconsistence of the left alliance.

Early in the morning, when the tension was at its highest point, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of the Women’s Rights and spokeswoman for the government, calmly but firmly called upon the ecologist ministers to show that they were responsible. She said on channel BFM-TV and radio RMC that “there is a principle in the government  … it is solidarity”.

Duflot’s appearence on France2 on Monday evening calmed the tensions: “I belong to the government.” She denied any intention of leaving Jean-Marc Ayrault’s government. She added, “My personal opinion is not interesting. When you are a member of the government, you express the position of the government.”

Before Duflot made her statement, the Palais de Matignon, the office of the Prime Minister, Ayrault declared that the question of the participation of the ecologist ministers “isn’t even raised”.

Both parties, socialists and ecologists, tried yesterday to prove that the controversy was not as big as the first problems of the day had made it seem. Nevertheless, the current debate, along with others regarding energetic issues, continues to widen the gap between these parties.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a symbolical figure of the EELV and the European Representative, disagreed with the party and identified this last controversy as a step too far. He officially announced on September 23rd that he was “putting aside” his participation with the EELV for the moment – another hard blow for the ecologists.

Trackbacks

  1. […] What is really at stake is the unity of the Left. The ecologists from Europe-Ecologie-les-Vertsofficial allies of the PS in the Assembly and the government, announced that despite their previous and sustained opposition to the treaty, their party was still open for discussion. […]

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