|Political Flair||7/ 10|
|Ability to connect with people outside Brussels||5/10|
|Likelihood of being approved by the EP||9/10|
|Overall rating||8 / 10|
A previous French Finance Minister, Europe Minister, MP, MEP, Enarque: what’s not to like?
His strengths are his weakness. He is the ultimate insider, a pol with polish, all the French qualities we need – but are not sufficient for our challenges ahead. He has European experience and an understanding of the European Project; he can talk fluently about the big stuff; he may also have the skill to take on France’s slipping attachment to the SGP and budgetary lapses. Doubtless he will run a ruthless and brilliantly organised cabinet with all the skills and administrative flair that only enarques can muster.
His main line was that growth and stability (code for austerity) are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps. But the devil will then be in the detail. The key is what budget cuts can lead to increased competitiveness and productivity- and what is the EU’s role in this? Furthermore, he paid homage to JCJ’s €300 bn investment plan– but how? where? what’s the thinking?
He dodged some close questioning about France’s recent budgetary dilemmas. One question drew attention to the apparent unilateral decision by France not to uphold deficit rules. Moscovici drew attention to the flexibility within the 6/ 2 Packs and that it is the Commission collectively that judges if the rules are broken. It was a deft dodge but what is the policy signal? It was a question that came back throughout the hearing. Moscovici claims France has not broken any rules; and that going forward he will treat all countries equally.
The wiggle room may be in the interpretation of flexibility and crisis status in deciding a budgetary position; the degree to which investment for reform may be allowed; and the stringency or not of country specific recommendations and their enforcement.
More personally, Moscovici started off as quite strong and directive. This is not a man who appears to be troubled by doubt or even the need to draw breath. As the proceedings developed, he mellowed a bit. On Greece he showed a willingness to share their pain and stressed his visits to Athens etc. He spoke mainly in French but when he dived into English was fluent and unflustered. He tends to speak admin and technocracy in English and the big stuff in French- except on tax and customs, which he seems to like- it’s bitty and detailed and probably more amenable to classic French technocracy than the minefield of Euro governance.
What do I think? He will be nominated. He will be a French business-as-usual Enarque. He will be smooth. Probably a good colleague in the college. Externally, to citizens? Not much reach. His brief is in the engine room. Big ideas? No evidence here. He suffers from deformation professionelle. He ended his hearing well, promising to be a team player and stressing Europe as part of a solution. He can only surprise on the upside.
Photo: CC License from Flickr – original source here.