they want to protect us. Nobody else does so.
I heard these words so often. No couchsurfer, local or traveler I met would ever vote for Front National, that’s what they say first. And than they say: But at least they want to protect us. You know, no one else cares about the Frensh people and our economy. Nobody helps if all the industrie goes to China and when you can’t buy anything else but Chinese products because French products are too expensive.
If Julia could hear this, she would most likely smile and say that the Front National is the only voting alternative for her and people like her. Julia Abraham became involved in the Front National when she was 15 years old. She felt her identity was threadend and she’d have to fight for it. By now she is 20 years old, studying to become a German teacher and one of the youngest candidates for Front National ever. I met her in Mulhouse in a small Café, we had a coffee and she explained me that, in her eyes, the European project is alreay over. “For our politicians Europe is a tool to destroy our identity“ she said. She prefers a Europe of the Nations over a United States of Europe for sure.
Julia wants to protect France with the help of a protective tariff, which would make French products relatively cheaper, or at least same priced, as goods from abroad. Furthermore she want’s to control the unemployment, by telling the multinational companies that they simply can’t fire their workforces and have to adopt the French rules.
“I believe countries can control globalization” she announced.
Her words surprised me in a unexpected way. I assumed to get an outsider-opinion, but some parts of our talk, more precisely her economical believes, were really familiar to me.
On January 30 Rosa, a student from the Netherlands who’s political believes aren’t national at all, commented on my blog:
“[…] How nice would it be if we could just live next to each other, respect our differences, make clear trading rules, and do not participate in globalisation? […]”
And a week after meeting Julia Abraham I stayed at a couchsurfers home in Marseille. A really nice Latvian woman invited me to stay with her, her boyfriend and their three-month old son. The Latvian woman and her French-Catalan boyfriend met each other hitch-hiking through Europe. We spent hours on watching amazing pictures of their trip through countryside Ukraine. Later, while drinking wine and eating cheese, I asked them about their opinion towards the EU. Sintija didn’t really know what to answer. As most of the Latvians she isn’t sure if Europe will help their economy in the future. I told her about Tatjana Ždanoka and of course she didn’t like her (no Latvian will ever like a Russian politican) and didn’t agree to her plans for Europe. Her boyfriend Alex added: “I don’t care if Europe helped the Frensh economy on paper. It just doesn’t feel like this. I feel nobody cares if our industry moves to China and we lose our jobs. I wish we could control our borders and protect our economy a little bit more.”
So even if nobody who I met, and surely not I, agree with the positions of Front National, they seem to touch a raw nerve with the protectionism.
Assuming this is what the people want, is it possible at all to protect a nations economy? Would France be powerful enough to say: You have to follow our rules if you want to run a business here?
France’s media of last weeks gives me the perfect answer. The CEO of the American tire maker Goodyear wrote a letter to the French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebour saying that he has no interest discussing whether they want to close their factory in France or not.
The quotes will speak for themselves.
“Sir, your letter states that you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government,”
“Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs, you can keep the so-called workers.”
In my eyes this shows that France as a country doesn’t have the power to make the multinationals playing by the French rules. Which doesn’t mean that I’m a fan of unlimited free trade. In my opinion trade isn’t free and fair if the competition is about who pays the lowest wages and who cares least about human rights. I believe that France can’t protect their economy but Europe could.
After all the European Union is still the largest economy in the world and an important trading partner for everyone.
But obviously the people don’t believe the EU wants to protect them. A Frensh boy asks in Utalk if Europe could use protectionism more:
I’m here in France to discover the attraction right-wing populism has to people. Until now I’m relieved. I met a very few racist people and nearly nobody who really believes that death penalty or a law against homosexualtiy is a good thing. I believe a lot of the Front National success can be explain with the desire for safety. To disenchant the far rights Europe should maybe rethink their opinion about protectionsim.