TEXT OF INTERVIEW
MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Nicolas Sarkozy has been sworn in this morning as the new president of France. It signals a big change for that country with global implications as well. Philippe Chatenay is a reporter with the French newsweekly magazine Marianne. I asked him what obstacles Sarkozy will face in trying to carry out his pledge to create full employment and hike living standards.
PHILIPPE CHATENAY: Well first of all, the French economy is somewhat sluggish and has been for the past few years. One of the particular illnesses of the French economy is our high unemployment rate. Now presidents have always promised to do their best to get that unemployment rate down, however the obstacles remain, which are the French labor laws are pretty restrictive, it’s hard to fire people and therefore companies hesitate to hire them.
THOMAS: There’s a history of major strikes blocking past attempts at reform by right-wing leaders. Is there any reason to believe this is going to be different?
CHATENAY: Well Monsieur Sarkozy has already begun dialogue with the leading trade unions. I think method will probably be, work out a deal I think with the trade unions. However French trade unions, especially in the public sector, have a reputation for bloody-mindedness and obstructionism. But Mr. Sarkozy has managed both to appear as the champion of free market reforms and as somebody who’s going to unshackle the French economy from all the regulations and red tape which are strangling it. But on the other hand, he has promised workers in factories that are threatened by closures that he will keep their jobs in France.
THOMAS: Thanks so much Philippe.
CHATENAY: My pleasure.
THOMAS: Philippe Chatenay is a reporter with the French newsweekly Marianne.
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