Four more weeks. In an address followed by more than 36 million French people, the President of the Republic announced that strict confinement was extended until May 11. Emmanuel Macron also started the post-coronavirus by embarking on an introspection on the successes and failures of crisis management. The head of state finally wondered aloud about the world after inviting the French, like himself, to “reinvent itself”. The deputy LR of Aisne, Julien Dive, also sketches what France should be according to Covid-19 and recommends to his camp to find the fundamentals of the social right. Interview.
France is entering its second month of confinement. What does this test say about us?
It’s a great test for all French people. Those who are confined, those who work. For artisans and traders who had to close shop. Everyone has been able to ignore their freedoms – and it is not easy – to protect the greatest number. I believe that the French have been able to respond to the challenge. This shows, once again, that there is no point in infantilizing the French. They know how to be responsible when necessary. We also see evidence of brotherhood, of solidarity between our elders and our young people. This is the very positive side of this crisis. This crisis then tells us that there is nothing more important than our health care system. And those who were tempted to turn to a privatized American-style model paid the price: just look at the havoc in the United States to show that ours is rather efficient and virtuous. This crisis finally sheds light on all of this courageous, silent, hardworking France that some people did not even look at when they went to work in the morning: garbage collectors, cashiers, firefighters, carers, etc. In short, all these French people who, in fact, hold the country at arm’s length. They are the first on the rope.
Has the political class been worthy?
We can always find bad apples, but overall, there was no vain controversy. Questions are normal to be asked. As a member of the opposition, it makes sense to wonder about the policy that is being pursued. But all of the oppositions did not hesitate to vote for certain measures which were a step in the right direction at this very special moment. We play the unit, but we control the action.
The President of the Republic has recognized “faults” and “failures”. What role will the Assembly play in the post-crisis to analyze these shortcomings?
The National Assembly is a sounding board for the expectations, the anger and the aspirations of the French in the territories. We were several MPs to have brought them up very quickly to the highest level in February: the absence of masks, respirators, the slowness of the decision-making process… A parliamentary commission of inquiry will be inevitable to make the light on the “failures” and draw up correction proposals. I can hardly imagine that we do not create a service for forecasting and anticipating crises, whether health, natural or social. And then I will ask why the state is not able to test and screen all French people? How do our German neighbors manage to do it and not us?
In 2017, with the election of Emmanuel Macron, commentators and politicians spoke of the “New World”. But, ultimately, is not the “New World” created by the Covid-19?
Beware of the excess of superlative which could lead to disappointments! In 2017, we were talking about a new world, we experienced a lot of disappointments as evidenced by the yellow vests crisis. However, we are not experiencing a parenthesis. We cannot pretend that nothing has happened. If we come back as before, without changing, it would show that our leaders have understood nothing of the crisis we are experiencing. We will have to turn pages, overturn tables: review our ways of consuming, of producing; rethink our public policies; correct the flaws in our health system. We will have to recognize the efforts of all those who are on the front line and whom I mentioned earlier, notably by reviewing their salaries. I say it: we must not make them pay for this crisis – or rather the crises, because after the health crisis, there will be the economic and social crisis. When I hear some imagine a drop in wages or a reduction in RTT, I tell them stop. This is not the place to target efforts. A triple pact must be made: a new social pact which values work; an economic pact focusing on strategic sectors (food, pharmaceutical industry); and a health and environmental pact.
You are therefore not on the line of the boss of Medef, Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, who asks the French to work more …
It is out of the question to make the French pay for the crisis. The question of debt is important. But there is no shame in talking about healthy debt: if it is an investment, for example to strengthen our health care system, it is acceptable. This crisis requires us to make a national effort, but also an ideological one: certain rules – like those of the 3% – are stupid, even if it is important to have a serious budget.
It is therefore necessary, as your colleague LR Aurélien Pradié suggested in Liberation, to question globalization. Should Republicans change ideological software?
Liberalism is the freedom to do business, to trade. It’s individual emancipation. It’s the ability to come and go. I am not questioning the ideology, but the rules that man has built and the tools he has built around this dogma. You have to question those who have done anything with these rules. The compass of liberalism is the place of man. Those who placed finance as a compass created a drift. It’s neoliberalism. You have to question tools like the WTO. It is all well and good to want to defend “doing in France”, but besides that, they are the same ones who will sign trade arms free trade agreements with unbalanced rules which harm our industry.
In 2017, the right had a candidate, François Fillon, who had a liberal program, in particular on health … LR must be self-critical …
Of course. It is a collective self-criticism. The health project that was defined at the time – Fillon had already started to moderate it – would have lost our candidate. There are sectors where you must not skimp with the means. And health is one of them. So yes, there have been positions deleted or strategic choices wrong … I am not accountable for mistakes of the past, but do not be afraid to do an introspection. We must return to fundamentals, to a social right.
Return to an original Gaullist movement before the liberal turn of the 1980s?
Always be wary of words. What is Gaullism in 2020? There have been so many politicians, from all walks of life, who have made a takeover bid on the word Gaullism, that they have tarnished its spirit. Gaullism, in summary, is built on three principles: the balance of power, economic projection and social recognition. We must return to these three pillars. We need a shock from decentralization: the crisis is showing us that in the territories, things are going well. The regions know how to adapt, get out of the devices and control what they need. I believe more in a guiding, guiding state than in a bulimic state. Let us be inspired by Germany and its Landers: it is a country with strong regions which quickly knew how to react, both in the tests and in the means made available to the sick. They have more cases than us and five times less deaths. Still in this logic of balance of power, we must give powers to citizens – to elected officials by extension. There are fed up with senior officials who decide. They must once again become political auxiliaries. Economic projection is not socialist or Soviet planning. It’s being able to make the right strategic directions. We cannot do everything. You have to choose the sectors where you invest because you are good and there is potential. Finally, we must enhance work with profit-sharing and participation, while recognizing the social utility of each profession.
“Let us know how to reinvent ourselves, me first. How do you analyze this presidential injunction that he wants to apply to himself?
This is not the first time that the President of the Republic has struck us down – already emerging from the Yellow Vests crisis – but very quickly the natural had caught up with him at a gallop. This time, the magnitude of the situation calls for great humility, no matter which political party, no matter what responsibility we hold. I hope that many of us will keep this humility to build the post-crisis.
Do you see sincerity in it? Or a calculation – we had criticized a martial tone at the beginning of the crisis?
The one who plays the comedy on his own person conceals his incapacity to manage a situation. I did not expect him to introspect us, there are other times for that. The French were waiting for a horizon, they got it with that date of May 11. We are now waiting for an explanation of the specific deconfinement strategy.
Should the right pre-empt other themes?
Two themes where we left the field free. Health. This is a sector that must be strengthened in the territories. The boom in telemedicine shows that it can be a key response to address medical deserts – there still has to be a connection. We also need to think about a real old age plan. In a country like ours, people pay 2,000 euros a month to live in a nursing home and to end their lives alone, it’s sad. The other field left fallow by our camp is the environment. This crisis silences all climatosceptics. We were present on this issue with the Grenelle of the environment in 2008, but we have left it fallow since then. We must tackle this issue without falling into the trap of a punitive ecology, but rather floor on an incentive ecology.
You are in favor of localism. But with the WTO and the European Union, is it not chimerical?
It’s not just about consuming products grown or created in your city. We have to think at national and European level. Food is the sector of activity that is most highlighted by this crisis: some have discovered that down their street, there were butchers, creameries. I support the development of food education – this is important for a society that has grown accustomed to eating ready meals. Knowing how to consume and having a food ethic are two important foundations for the future. We were talking about the excesses of liberalism: eating strawberries in December is one. Throw away food, too. We must also completely review our food network, so that producers are paid at their fair price. We often hid behind the subsidy to avoid the problems: but the subsidy must not support our farmers; they have to live from their work. Finally, we must think about the relocation of our industry. We have to go to China to produce masks because our factories have closed. I recommend going further on the Florange law and whistling the end of offshoring by developing a stronger tool of coercion.
France had, eight years ago, a Minister for Productive Recovery, Arnaud Montebourg, who made the same speech and who broke his teeth …
The times were not the same. The health crisis and the economic crisis will be more violent than in 2008. We went around … Countries like China are moving upmarket. And then there is an environmental awareness that emerges. Ordering masks in China, which China will subcontract to Africa, which it will have delivered from Africa to China and then export them to Europe via an Airbus, does not make sense. It is not because Montebourg has failed that we must abandon our ambitions.
What about Europe? She again showed the extent of her divisions …
This is a crucial moment for the EU. If it fails to manage the crisis, it could have a disastrous future. We can already see that nationalist hints are emerging in several countries. Europe is divided in two: those who advocate budgetary rigorism (the countries of the North and Germany) and those who cannot keep them. We must return to an EU on two scales – because Europe has grown too quickly, becoming a juggernaut that can no longer move. France and Germany have every interest in helping each other and we see that the German budgetary doctrine is evolving. We are at a turning point: if it negotiates it well, Europe can move forward, otherwise it will prove that it is nothing more than a common market with a single currency.
The French, as mentioned above, quickly gave up their freedoms. Is there not a dizziness in this abandonment for a democratic country?
They did it because the situation demands it. When it comes to deconfining, the French will resume their freedom. We remain a subversive people. And we will make sure of it. We are vigilant in the face of tools such as tracking so that we do not experience an abuse of individual freedoms. My role as a parliamentarian is to monitor government action on this. First, let’s put the resources on the production of masks and tests. Tracking is the red line that we have yet to cross. And I repeat, the French are responsible. They are not children.