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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06PARIS3152 2006-05-12 12:12 2011-02-10 08:08 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
Appears in these articles:
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 003152 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2016 

Classified By: Acting DCM Josiah Rosenblatt for reasons 1.4 (B & D). 

(C) 1. Summary and comment: Former prime minister, 
Socialist Party heavyweight, current presidential candidate, 
and the EU constitutional treaty's most prominent French 
opponent Laurent Fabius used a May 11 meeting with several 
local embassy reps to call for more Europe as the solution to 
the failed referendum on the EU constitutional treaty and a 
key to the Socialist Party's 2007 presidential election 
chances, while offering little in the way of new ideas on how 
to achieve that. He judged that the Clearstream scandal 
currently rocking the French government, as well as memories 
of the 2002 elections when many leftist voters had opted for 
the radical fringe over the PS mainstream, had increased the 
likelihood of a PS victory in the 2007 presidential 
elections. Ironically, his indirect disparagements of 
current polling leader Segolene Royal unintentionally only 
underscored his own lack of appeal and inability to create a 
sense of promise and dynamism. In sum, Fabius himself did 
not appear truly to believe in his own presidential 
prospects, and said as much by conceding he was willing to 
serve in any PS government. End summary and comment. 

2. (U) Former prime minister, Socialist Party (PS) 
heavyweight and would-be PS presidential candidate Laurent 
Fabius met May 11 with Embassy reps from the U.S., UK, 
Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Canada and Russia to discuss 
his perspectives on the political challenges facing France 
domestically and vis-a-vis Europe in the run-up to the 2007 
presidential elections. 

Left's election chances improving 
3. (SBU) Commenting on the Clearstream affair involving 
alleged kick-backs for frigate sales used for political 
skullduggery which has rocked the government of Prime 
Minister de Villepin and even President Chirac, Fabius said 
that any normal democratic government would have resigned or 
been forced out by now. Fabius showed no hesitation in 
lumping the main victim, interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, 
together with alleged plot-hatchers Villepin and Chirac, 
calling the scandal an industrial affair that turned into a 
political manipulation, and was now part of a 
counter-manipulation. He had no insights into why his own 
name had made its way onto the list, nor did he appear 
concerned by it. 

4. (SBU) Fabius acknowledged that the scandal would improve 
the left's chances in the 2007 elections, unless it fails 
itself. He judged that the chances of splintering were 
greater on the right than on the left, adding that the 
experience of 2002 (when far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen made it 
to the second round instead of Lionel Jospin) had chastened 
voters against the ineffectiveness of supporting the small, 
radical parties. He expressed the hope that the elections 
would present voters with an authentic debate over competing 
visions, and assumed that Nicolas Sarkozy would be the 
candidate of the center-right UMP governing party. Fabius 
saw himself as the candidate best positioned to represent the 
united left. 

I love Europe 
5. (SBU) To the surprise of all, given Fabius' role as the 
first and weightiest PS opponent of the EU constitutional 
treaty, Fabius then focused on the European Union. He 
asserted that he had voted against the treaty precisely 
because he was so pro-European. Claiming that other 
countries would also have rejected the treaty had it been 
subjected to referendum, he asserted that voters no longer 
associated the EU with "protection and progress," and cited 
the usual litany of concerns about enlargement, illisibility, 
the crisis of representation, low economic growth, the 
inflexibility of eurozone monetary and budgetary policy. 
French rejection of the treaty, he said, only reflected a 
pre-existing crisis, it was not the cause of the current 

6. (SBU) Asked what he would propose to put the EU back on 
track, Fabius' response was equally formulaic. The EU needed 
an energy policy, a commercial policy, more equal competition 
and better social programs, but he offered no specifics. 
France needed to participate more freely in internal debates 
and not lord it over others, in particular the small member 
states. Franco-German cooperation would remain essential, 
and Fabius called for facilitating reinforced cooperation 
among smaller groups within the EU. He rejected Sarkozy's 
idea of closer coordination among the larger member states, 
but rehearsed familiar French calls for more resources 
devoted to technology, research, and energy. He also 
conceded that the Common Agricultural Program (CAP) swallowed 
up too much of the EU budget. 

7. (SBU) Fabius said that Europe needed to be able to stand 
on its alone alongside the U.S. and China. To that end, 
Europe needed to define its limits, and offer the Balkans 
states, Ukraine and Turkey enhanced partnerships in lieu of 
membership. He lashed out against the UK (and implicitly 
against NATO), saying that it still viewed European defense 
as creating tools on paper rather than using them in 
practice. On institutional issues, he said that European 
parliamentary elections of 2009 would be the key to pushing 
through a new treaty, added that France would need to hold a 
new referendum to reverse the one of last year. He concluded 
that the PS should make Europe a central element of its 
election campaign, by showing how it affects citizens' daily 
lives and economic growth. 

8. (SBU) Questioned where the EU would find the economic 
growth and budget resources to carry out the policies he was 
advocating, Fabius hedged and responded with familiar 
platitudes. France was capable of reform, but it needed 
stability in order to take risks and avoid "precarity." 
Other parts of the solution resided in changing the tax 
brackets, industrial policies, and unspecified 
"extra-budgetary" means. He noted caustically that debt in 
France, as well as in the U.S., had increased dramatically 
under so-called conservative governments. Responding to a 
question about why he was now more closely aligned with the 
far left than the pragmatic center, Fabius said that 
Mitterrand too had moved steadily leftward also while in 
office. He described himself as a "pragmatic" who had 
learned from past experience. 

The presidential stakes 
9. (SBU) Asked about the PS selection process for its 
presidential candidate, Fabius offered himself indirectly as 
the alternative to poll-leader Segolene Royal. He asserted 
that all the party heavyweights except her were in favor of a 
series of debates, adding that the PS was a party of ideas, 
not personalities. While Royal was talented, he had doubts 
that she could appeal to the party's left wing. He equated 
her centrism with a sort of "prestidigitation" that might not 
hold up under more sustained scrutiny, suggesting that her 
current crest in media popularity would inevitably take a 
tumble. Asked however about voters' desire to vote for 
candidates who offer hope and change, Fabius responded by 
abhorring gimmicks and noting his extensive governmental 

10. (SBU) Fabius, echoing Mitterrand, identified himself as 
the person who could best unify the left, and predicted that 
the left would win as long as it stayed united. It would 
also be necessary to develop broader "social momentum" and a 
sense of inevitability, rather than focusing on interest 
groups and calculating the PS message accordingly, since -- 
again quoting Mitterrand -- in politics 2 plus 2 equals 
either 5 or 3, but never 4. (Comment: This would appear to 
be precisely Royal's strategy. End comment.) Asked if his 
calls for unity also applied to himself, Fabius recalled the 
number of ministerial positions he had held in the past and 
said he would be prepared to serve again. 

11. (C) Fabius was disappointing, and came across clearly as 
a politician of the past, notwithstanding his tanned, relaxed 
and still youthful appearance. All those present were struck 
by his tired prescriptions for moving France out of its 
current malaise and his references to the positions he has 
held in the past rather than his plans for the future. It 
was odd to hear the EU constitution's most influential 
opponent claim it was because he loved Europe too much, and 
his call for the PS to make Europe a central element in the 
presidential campaign was unconvincing (perhaps signaling a 
bad conscience). Fabius appeared to disdain Segolene Royal 
for the very dynamism and common touch he recognizes is 
necessary but he himself lacks. In sum, he came across as 
someone who no longer truly believes what he is saying, or 
even in his own candidacy. 

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: fm