France in 2025: Hollande hits back at 'Nostradamus' jibes
François Hollande’s government has hit back at jibes that its rosy predictions of life in France in 2025 are a “Nostradamus contest” by claiming that Nicolas Sarkozy “could not see beyond his next text message”.The Socialist French President on Monday received cabinet ministers for an end-of-summer seminar after ordering them to come up with their vision of France a decade from now.
There was much mockery after leaked documents from five senior ministers included such optimistic forecasts as “full employment”, no more red tape and housing for all.
Nadine Morano, a former Right-wing family affairs minister, likened the predictions to a “contest between the weather girl and Nostradamus”.
Laurent Wauquiez, the vice president of the opposition UMP, found them “surrealist” while conservative MP Eric Ciotti said: “I understand that they’d rather look to the future as this government doesn’t even know which way to go this autumn.”
Today, Harlem Désir, the chairman of President Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party, hit back, saying: “This makes a change from Sarkozy (the former Right-wing French President), who couldn’t see beyond his next text message.” Mr Sarkozy was famously glued to this mobile phone, once even texting during a meeting with the Pope.
Mr Désir told France Info radio: “All very big (French) projects — high-speed trains, telecommunications plans — had to be decided ten years in advance.”
Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French prime minister, insisted the seminar was just the beginning of a wider reflection on France’s aims for the coming decade, to be drawn up by the end of the year.
“Sometimes France doubts its own future to the point of becoming pessimistic,” he said. “Nations that succeed are those that project themselves into the future.”
Despite ministers’ utopian visions of France, Jean Pisani-Ferry, the man tasked with piloting a France 2025 report warned that in ten years the country will be “older, smaller and certainly less rich”. On the plus side, however, he said it will be “better trained, still excellently equipped and potentially attractive”.
With French growth this quarter higher than expected, Mr Hollande has spent the summer telling the notoriously gloomy French that “the crisis is behind us” and that a “dark decade” was at an end. He told Le Monde that taking the longer-term view would “restore faith to the French in their destiny”.
Critics, meanwhile, are demanding to know what Mr Hollande intends to do in the short term to plug the growing budget deficit, bring down record unemployment and to tackle essential pension reform. He promised answers not in ten years but “by the end of the month”