Europe is “the only region in the world to have depoliticised its politics and its economics”, according to Henri Guaino, chief political strategist to Nicolas Sarkozy.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Guaino said the French president’s mission was to bring back “political will” and pragmatism to government, both at home, after years of paralysis, and in Europe, which had become simultaneously technocratic and dogmatic.
Mr Guaino is thought to have more influence and a higher profile than many ministers in the French government. The Nouvel Observateur magazine even called him recently Mr Sarkozy’s guru – a label Mr Guaino dismisses as “stupid.”
However, as an old-style, eurosceptical Gaullist with an attachment to social justice, he is widely regarded as the inspiration for Mr Sarkozy’s more nationalist, protectionist and interventionist propositions, which blur the president’s image as a free-market liberal. The two men also share a deep disdain for technocratic government.
Mr Guaino insisted he did not question the need for rules in Europe but said they were being applied too rigidly.
“Yes, openness is better than restrictiveness. Yes, competition is better than a monopoly. But if you have a religious, dogmatic vision you are going to end up putting the European economy in a situation of extreme inferiority compared with all other countries.”
Similarly, the ECB “could not escape its political environment. The bank cannot live its life outside the European political debate, outside public opinion.”
Mr Sarkozy has strongly criticised the ECB’s hawkish monetary policy, comparing it unfavourably with the activism of the US Federal Reserve.
Mr Guaino suggested France might, in the longer term, consider a change to the ECB’s rules.
“For the moment there is no project to change the statutes of the ECB. But France wants to strengthen economic governance and to discuss this monetary policy because in a democracy we should be able to discuss everything,” he said.
Mr Sarkozy was determined to carry people with him on his reform programme. That meant understanding the aspirations and pyschology of the French people.
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