French Socialists: Yes We Can/No We Can’t

There will be no fracking in France while I am President, says François Hollande (*) clearly hoping that such unequivocal words — delivered as fellow citizens languidly basked in a hot sunny 14 Juillet holiday — will finally put a hugely sensitive public issue to rest.

Champs-Élysées in Paris ready for the 14 Juillet parade (Credit: Wikipedia)

Champs-Élysées in Paris ready for the 14 Juillet parade (Credit: Wikipedia)

But this is an increasingly unpopular president, one with erratic form whom sceptical opponents accuse of flip-floppery and indecisiveness.

On the election campaign trail just over a year ago the Socialist Party’s chief executive was vigorously promoting a manifesto of 60 pledges to be delivered if elected. Le Figaro is keeping a running tab on his progress here as are others.

(To be fair fracking was not specifically mentioned but he amended that omission in September 2012 saying he: “would reject all fracking permits  during the five years of my term in office”).

Among  the famous 60 pledges was banking reform:  “On January 22, 2012, French presidential candidate François Hollande shook up the banks: ‘It has no name, no face, no party, it will never be candidate, it will therefore never be elected, yet it governs: that enemy is the world of finance,’ he said … well… A couple of weeks ago, after years of negotiations and intensive lobbying by the banks, the rules were finalized… in watered-down form. And implementation was delayed until 2019. A huge win for the banks“. Indeed by Le Figaro’s reckoning the diluted proposal means only 2% of banking activities are included in the reform. To see how Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici caved in to the banker lobby see the French News Online report Bring them to Book (2008) – Who’s Won (2013)?

So first banking and now perhaps fracking?  The opinion polls suggest the Socialist performance in office has been insipid and there are some commentators who even see in Hollande’s latest statement on fracking a parallel with the Denial of Peter.

One of these, Parisian-based Franco-American writer Laurel Zuckerman who edits Laurel Zuckerman’s Paris Weblog, was highly critical about the government’s green credentials.

(The Socialists included the French Green Party on their electoral ticket but having won a landslide majority in parliament now tend to sideline Green MPs. The latest snub was the abrupt dismissal of Minister of Ecology Delphine Batho for criticising cuts in her departmental budget).

This for Laurel Zuckerman smacks of a plot by energy interests: “Shale Oil Fracking (gaz de schiste – fracturation hydraulique) Say one thing do another? According to the French Minister of Ecology (until last week) Delphine Batho, she was fired because “certain economic powers did not accept my ambitions for the transition to other forms of energy” in particular on the question of shale oil fracking and the reduction of nuclear energy in France. (see Huffpost)

“Of course, what credibility could Batho have? After all, she was only the Minister responsible for these issues. In her version she was hung out to dry by Hollande who only paid lip service to environmental goals, but actually sided with the lobbies. Montebourg, by way of contrast, is an outspoken supporter of shale oil fracking. And despite openly defying the prime minister, he is still in the government… If Batho is correct, France will gradually and quietly change its official position to enable fracking to begin without ever actually saying so.

“Enter Arnaud Montebourg’s perfectly wacky proposal to create a nationalized company to exploit shale oil reserves. This would, he claims, not pollute water like in America because it would be ecological. Prime Minister Ayrault had to step in, as usual, to remind everyone that France’s official policy was no fracking, to which Montebourg responded by claiming he broke no government policy line. What does he mean? A suivre…”

The Montebourg (“Peter”) reaction above was the third time in recent months that he has denied official Socialist policy on fracking and yet he remains in office.

from Laurel Zuckerman's Paris Weblog

from Laurel Zuckerman’s Paris Weblog

Laurel Zuckerman didn’t go as far as calling him a Trojan horse for the fracking lobby but she certainly means her readers to know that she is sceptical about politicians’ statements on fracking given the weak presidential resolve shown to date and the money that shale oil represents to big business.

French News Online has been at the forefront in highlighting fierce grass roots opposition to fracking and concerns about its impact on terroir, tourism, farming , the environment and quality of life. See our selection of reports below.

*(President Hollande’s actual words as reported by AFP were: “As long as I am president, there were will be no exploration for shale gas,” Hollande said during a Bastille Day interview with top television channels.) 

Meanwhile the government faces fresh challenges on the energy front after Greenpeace activists stormed into a supposedly secure nuclear power plant at Tricastin, in the Drôme demanding an end to nuclear power generation in France and projecting various protest posters onto the plant’s buildings (see photo below).  Seventeen were detained for questioning according to France Inter and radio reports said the government had ordered a fresh inquiry into security across the country’s vital nuclear power plant network.

Greenpeace suggests Hollande presides over Catastrophy

Greenpeace suggests Hollande presides over catastrophe


Watch the video report of the protest here:

Story:Ken Pottinger

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