Policy Making and Politics: Issues and Approaches
The political dimensions of everyday life for the citizen of, or resident in, France are complex and cross-cutting. Media reports tend to highlight political rivalry between competing ideologies or (increasingly) personalities. Protests, processions and soundbites make news reports and briefly highlight specific issues which may or may not be distinctively French. The problem of rising insurance premiums against medical complications which caused a strike of obstetricians at the new year in 2003 was common to most developed countries; the sharply rising birth rate in 2000 and 2001 (ascribed by some, in part, to the impact of the 35-hour week) which made the problems acute was particular to France (Le Monde, 4 December 2002) as was the administrative response, which required the regional prefect to inventory resources and requisition both hospital beds and specialists if necessary (The Guardian, 2 January 2003). But beyond the frequently ephemeral news items the resident also engages with politics and policies in innumerable almost automatic actions of daily life — for example, carrying an identity card, paying VAT on purchases, working for certain hours, or consulting a doctor. And certain political issues have, over the last two or three decades, proved to have a particular resonance. Moreover, this chapter argues, it is increasingly impossible to take France as an example of autarchic policy-making. However powerful the rhetoric of national politicians seeking to assert that the decisions they make are crucial and determinant, and it is both powerful and frequently justified, all member states of the EU now operate in an interdependent and pooled policy-making arena. This chapter therefore starts by examining France’s relationship with EU policy-making, and goes on to look at economic policy, at policy on the services publics and at immigration and nationality policy. These three selected areas provide the context in which the governmental and political processes described in the preceding chapters actually operate, and which are in turn affected by the outcomes of those processes.
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