Corruption in France

This article in Prospect is a must read. It expalins you of the role of corruption in the political system, look at its causes, the role of the press, the judiciary, and French culture, gives you the history and whrere things stand at the moment I’d quote the key parts, but then I would have to quote the whole article. Go and read it instead.

In short it says corruption is systemic and all-pervasive, that Chirac and most of the political elite are deeply corrupt, and that it doesn’t look like things are going to get better anytime soon. It paints a pretty belak picture.

Via the invaluble Matt Welch

3 thoughts on “Corruption in France

  1. David – Thanks for that reference and link. A recent book on much the same themes is Jonathan Fenby: France on the Brink (2000). As the author, a widely published journalist, was made a Chevalier of the French order of Merit in 1990, he cannot be dismissed as marginal.

  2. Actually, things aren’t so bad anymore. What you refer to happened mostly in the 70s and 80s, before you had laws on party financing. Before that, political parties had no official way to be financed and thus used vehicles such as Urba to get large companies to “contribute”. This happened on all sides, and with the right in full power until 1981, they had more opportunities to squeeze public works, utilities and other countires depending on public contracts. Mitterrand played a big – if indirect – role in stopping that: first by starting decentralisation in 1981, which brought power – and thus corruption – to the regions and made it easier to uncover; and second by giving more independence to the media and the judiciary, which they used to bring such scandals to justice – and to the public. corrupt officials from all sides were brought to justice (Urba for the socialists, Carignon and Noir for the right and many more, including the communist party which was just as bad) and eventually new laws were voted (between 1991 and 1995) to provide official funding to parties and tighten controls on previously condoned behaviour. The good thing is that the press and the judiciary are much more aggressive nowadays. Chirac will be brought before a judge (3 actually, as there are 3 cases outstanding) the instant he leaves the Elysee Palace, where he benefits from temporary immunity, and everybody knows about it. (While mayor of Paris, among other things, he provided imaginary jobs paid by the Paris budget for lots of workers in his party)
    Now it is true that there still is this complicity between the political elite and the top journalists, but it is not as it used to be in the past – call it one of the side benefits of globalisation!
    If you are looking for more information on these scandals on a regular basis, you can read “Le Canard enchain?”, it is a satirical weekly (which unfortunately does not exist in electronic form) which has unearthed or made public most political scandals of the past 25 years. It is also one of the very few newspapers on earth to make money WITHOUT advertising – it is thus totally independent.

  3. “What you refer to happened mostly in the 70s and 80s”

    Sadly, there are many indications the malaise spred in Europe beyond then, not least to the EU Commission – the European Court of Auditors has refused to endorse the EU accounts for the last nine years in succession: http://www.guardian.co.uk/eu/story/0,7369,1090381,00.html

    Mme Cresson, a previous Socialist PM of France, became an EU Commissioner whose name featured much in news reports of the developments leading to the mass resignation of all EU Commissioners in March 1999 after an adverse report, by an expert panel, on maladministration, nepotism and fraud in the Commission: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/255053.stm

    We also have the case of what happened to Willy Claes, previously Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and Lord Robertson’s predecessor as Secretary General of NATO: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/241342.stm

    The Prospect report also alleges that Elf, France’s then state oil company, channelled funds to the Christian Democrat Party in Germany, which was one of the reasons for the Kohlgate inquiry:

    “Elf’s business practices also brought Joly closer to home: some of the bribes paid by Elf during the 1992 purchase and construction of the former East German refinery at Leuna had apparently gone to the German CDU, Chancellor Kohl’s party. It was alleged that Mitterrand, seeing Kohl slipping in the polls, ordered Elf to pay $15m into his election fund. Such accusations were too much for the French government, which lowered a curtain over Joly’s work: the matter was declared secret d?fense, a state secret.”

    There is more on that here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/622041.stm

    And there are indications the malaise has spread further in Germany:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1860381.stm
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4464469,00.html

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