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Dear Monsieur President: Don’t Screw This Up

What is the Big Idea?

Dominique Moisi, a special advisor at the French Institute of International Relations, published a few words of advice for president-elect François Hollande inLos Echos.

His first plea: Let’s not waste the next five years.

It has been a tough ride, but you’ve won, thanks in part to your energy, tenacity and confidence. These qualities are essential for winning power — and even more so, for exercising it.

Your responsibility is huge and can be summed up by a slightly provocative plea: “Please don’t let us waste the next five years.” Neither France nor Europe can afford it. France because it lacks self-confidence, which is feeding populist shifts and protectionist fantasies; Europe because, today more than ever, the European Union is not the problem but the solution. It needs an open, inventive, creative and modern France — a France that, instead of being a source of worry, is one of hope and recovery.

So please do not set the wrong goals, means and methods in the first weeks of your presidency. France cannot afford the luxury to take the wrong track for two years before pulling itself together. Like the vast majority of the Western world, our country has been living far beyond its means for decades. It has to start over, a clean slate.

The challenge is as much an ethical one, as it is political, economical and social. Without extending social justice, dramatically changing our lifestyles would be simply unacceptable. Fairness and realism go hand in hand. Alas, justice cannot be the sole objective in our globalized, competitive real world. In northern Europe, where countries today serve as our role models, there is no contradiction between social justice and economic liberalism.

What is the Significance?

Moisi brings up some hard lessons the new president needs to absorb about the state of the national and global economy. “France needs dynamic, innovative companies that are able to conquer global markets,” writes Moisi. “The state cannot act as a proxy for them.”

Both Greece and France showed austerity the door by electing new leadership that rejects government spending cuts, which means Europe might be at the dawn of a new economic agenda. What France needs most right now is creativity, competitiveness and excellence, says Moisi, and government intervention and border control is going to hinder that. 

And here is where the next U.S. president needs to pay attention.

Europe and the U.S. needs to invest in its infrastructure and ramp up its innovation efforts in order to stay competitive with Asia. But when we take into account “the state of our finances and the reasonable and necessary constraints of the European Union, dreaming of simply implementing a big French or European “New Deal” is simply not realistic.”

China was not mentioned once during the debates last week. “It was as if the fear of Islam, or the denunciation of how this fear is exaggerated, was the only thing that mattered, instead of having a meaningful discussion about today’s world, of which neither Europe nor the United States is the center,” writes Moisi.

Read Moisi’s letter in English.


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