At the turn of the first decade of the 21st century, the figure of Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the Union pour un mouvement populaire (UMP) – the center-right party born in 2002 from the union of political forces of Gaullist, centrist and liberal inspiration – and, since June 2005, Minister of the Interior of the government of Dominique de Villepin. In this role, Sarkozy had played a leading role in the suppression of the riots in the French suburbs of the autumn of 2005, becoming the ideal candidate for the succession of President Jacques Chirac.
In the first months of 2007, the French political debate, in view of the presidential elections in April, centered around the request for a discontinuity with respect to the political inaction of previous years: Sarkozy, a center-right candidate, proposed a revival of conservative values and national identity accompanied the promise to reduce taxes and unemployment and to tighten immigration laws. Given the lower than expected results of the nationalist and xenophobic extreme right of the Front national (FN), led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, and of the centrist François Bayrou in the first round of elections, Sarkozy and the Parti candidate challenged each other in the May ballot. socialists (PS) Ségolène Royal: the former prevailed over the latter with 53.1% of the votes and,
According to Shopareview, Fillon’s government saw the presence as ministers of some personalities linked to the socialists and the left. However, despite this openness to the opposition, the pension and public sector reforms proposed by the government provoked harsh protests.
On the initiative of Sarkozy, in 2008 a further revision of the Constitution was approved after that of 2001: it had as objectives – only partially achieved – that of providing constitutional recognition to relations between the president (who, starting with Charles De Gaulle, he had assumed a more important role than that attributed to him by the Constitution), prime minister and members of the government and parliament, as much as that of re-evaluating the role of the latter.
On the civil rights front, after the enactment of the law on secularism (2004), which had prohibited the wearing of symbols or clothing in public schools that flaunt one’s religious affiliation, in 2010 a provision was approved that prohibited the use of ‘integral’ veils in any public place: despite the criticism of international organizations, which saw in it a possible violation of human rights, and of the Muslim community, it entered into force in spring 2011. In general, Sarkozy’s presidency was characterized from a restrictive attitude towards immigrants, as demonstrated by the introduction of French language and culture tests as a prerequisite for obtaining a residence permit and the forced transfers and expulsions of hundreds of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens,of Roma ethnicity.
To cope with the economic crisis, starting from October 2008, the government issued measures to support businesses through subsidized bank loans, which were accompanied by other moderate tax cuts for less well-off families, increases in unemployment benefits and other measures. of welfare. In June 2010, the government decided to raise the retirement age: despite the opposition of trade unions and left-wing parties, whose demonstrations and strikes counted hundreds of thousands of participants, the measure was approved in November 2010. The economic crisis, moreover, it strengthened the link between the France and Germany led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom Sarkozy established the need for EU member states to include the obligation of a balanced budget in the constitutional papers, governance in the economic and monetary union (so-called Fiscal compact) which entered into force in January 2013, which contained a series of constraints for the countries of the eurozone (the ‘golden rules’).
With the progress of the crisis, the consensus around the figure of Sarkozy dropped significantly: in the first round of the new presidential elections (April 2012), the PS candidate François Hollande received 28.6% of the votes against 27.2% of the outgoing president, while Marine Le Pen, who succeeded her elderly father Jean-Marie at the helm of the FN, was close to 18%. In the ballot, Hollande prevailed with 51.6% of the votes and, having become president of the French Republic, he appointed Jean-Marc Ayrault as prime minister.
In September 2012, Hollande enacted measures that raised taxation for large estates – a measure later suspended by the Constitutional Court – and medium-high incomes, setting reductions for lower ones and making drastic cuts in public spending. In terms of civil rights, in May 2013, same-sex couples were granted the right to marry and adopt children. Catholic movements and conservative parties took to the streets to challenge the law, while far-right writer Dominque Venner committed suicide in Notre-Dame Cathedral (May 2013) in opposition to both the legalization of same-sex marriage and what he perceived as a trend to the Islamization of French society.
In the following months, the worsening of the economic crisis and the austerity measures necessary to deal with it, rising taxes and unemployment, as well as a series of scandals concerning the president’s love life, eroded the consensus on Hollande. After the defeat in the administrative elections of March 2014, in which the PS lost more than 150 cities, Hollande decided on a government reshuffle, appointing Interior Minister Manuel Valls as premier, welcome to the right. However, this measure proved to be ineffective and in the European elections of May 2014, the FN – benefiting from Eurosceptic rhetoric – emerged as the first French party, with 24.9% of the preferences. The UMP followed with 20.8%, while the PS, united with the Parti radical de gauche (PRG), fell to 14%.
In the following months, the consensus for the PS dropped further: in the elections for the renewal of half of the senators (Sept. 2014), the right-wing parties regained the majority in the Senate, where the FN also entered for the first time, with two elected representatives ; while the departmental elections (March 2015) led the center-right forces to control 67 departments (compared to the previous 40) against 34 of the left forces (compared to the previous 61).
On 7 January 2015, France was shocked by the raid of two armed men, the Franco-Algerian brothers Saïd and Chérif Koua chi, who declared themselves affiliated with al-Qā῾ida, within the Parisian editorial office of the satirical newspaper «Charlie Hebdo Accused of having published blasphemous cartoons against the Islamic religion. The two killed 12 people and fled. While the attention of the police was aimed at tracing them, the next day, in the town of Montrouge, Amedy Coulibaly, linked to the Kouachi, opened fire on some policemen, killing one. On 9 January, while the two “Charlie Hebdo” bombers were besieged in a printing shop in the town of Dammartin-en-Goële, Coulibaly barricaded himself in a Jewish supermarket, taking some hostages (he later killed four): the simultaneous raid of the French security forces in the two places led to the death of all three terrorists. While the international community gathered around the France, on 11 January millions of people paraded across the country: at the head of the parade in Paris, 50 heads of state and government and diplomatic representatives from all over the world.
In the international field, the France, in particular under the presidency of Sarkozy, gradually reconnected with the United States, as demonstrated, in 2009, by its reintegration into the joint command of NATO (after the exit desired by Charles de Gaulle in 1966). At the same time, the Franco-German bond was strengthened, despite the French intolerance for too rigid austerity policies and for the leading role that Germany had by now conquered in Europe.
Furthermore, France continued to act autonomously in some regions of Africa, continuing with the traditional Françafrique (term used to indicate the complex relationships, often of interference on the one hand and subordination on the other, between France and its former African colonies): in 2011, during the Libyan crisis, after recognizing the ‘rebel’ government and requesting a resolution from the UN to establish a no-fly zone over Libya, he autonomously took over the leadership of military operations against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in March 2011, then passed under NATO command; in 2013, the French army first intervened in Mali to stop the offensive of Islamist groups and, then, in the Central African Republic to restore the country’s security.