The newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged to reform France, make it more competitive, and an important player again in the Global arena.

He will not succeed.

Why not? Because of two reasons.

The first is because, in France, Power is important. Power as in the form of Hierarchy (France scores 68 on the dimension “power distance or PDI”, of Hofstede’s model of cultural values). This factor shows in Mr. Sarkozy taking the center stage time and again, and wanting to stand in the limelight.

Whilst his counterpart in Germany, Ms. Merkel, is by far more successful in reforming Germany and giving the credit to her team (Germany scores a remarkably low score of 35 on this “power distance” dimension), and not herself.

The second reason why Mr. Sarkozy will not be able to reform France is the relatively high score on the dimension Uncertainty avoidance (France scores 86, UK 35). This makes the French relatively more reluctant to change (or more protective of their own interests) than the British. An example is the removal by Mr. Sarkozy of the EU’s commitment to “undistorted competition” from the draft EU summit declaration recently.

So much for Sarkozy “the reformer“. What he has done will split the EU right down the middle. It’s also an explicit attack by the French president on Gordon Brown’s vision for Europe – which doesn’t augur for European harmony in the months ahead. Apart from anything else, the promotion of competition has brought unmitigated benefits to European consumers, in the form of lower prices for all manner of goods and services.

There would probably be no Ryanair or Easyjet if it weren’t for EU competition policy. There would have been less pressure on mobile phone companies to lower their prices for using phones abroad.

My prediction is that there will be some changes in France, but not the fundamental changes that Mr. Sarkozy has promised during his presidential campaign.

 

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