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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05PARIS7360 2005-10-27 15:03 2010-12-01 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 007360 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/25/2015 

REF: PARIS 7195 

Classified By: Ambassador Craig R. Stapleton for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Former prime minister Michel Rocard received 
Ambassador Stapleton October 24. Fresh off the early-October 
publication of his new book, "If the Left Had Known," and a 
recent trip to China, Rocard sees the November congress of 
his Socialist Party (PS) as a historic opportunity. Offering 
a historical perspective, Rocard stated that the PS, unlike 
its main counterparts in Europe, has never cut itself off 
completely with the ideology and politics of "rupture with 
capitalism." When in power, dealing with the world as it is, 
the PS has been forced to modernize. This was particularly 
true during the five years (1997-2002) Lionel Jospin led the 
party and government. When out of power, it is pulled back 
by the romanticism of its Marxist roots. Rocard described 
his historic role in the party as that of the leader of the 
modernizers -- in the tradition of Jean Jaures, Leon Blum and 
Pierre Mendes-France. He was hopeful that at the Le Mans 
Congress in November, the Socialists would make the final 
break from the past and emerge as a unified Social Democratic 
Party. Rocard was reluctant to pronounce on the Socialists' 
stable of presidential contenders, but was skeptical that 
Jospin would emerge to rally the party to victory; too many 
can not forgive him for having deserted the ship when he 
abruptly announced his retirement the morning after his 
defeat in the first round of the 2002 Presidential elections. 
Rocard expressed the fear and loathing of Nicolas Sarkozy 
that is common currency on the left. Dominique de Villepin 
is a more acceptable alternative on the right -- even if he 
mistakes himself for Napoleon when he is in fact Cyrano de 
Bergerac. Rocard, who did not support the war in Iraq, said 
that if he had been President, he would have privately 
explained his views to President Bush, but then would have 
remained with the U.S. Rocard, long chastised by some as "the 
American in the party," pronounced anti-Americanism a 
minority sentiment historically linked to the Communists and 
Gaullists. He advocated a joint effort, in the form of a 
European/American think-tank, to identify and address common, 
emerging challenges. END SUMMARY. 

2. (C) Rocard, like former president Valery Giscard d'Estaing 
(reftel), believes that French history provides the keys for 
understanding French politics and France's policies. 
Rocard's point of departure is France's emergence as a 
nation-state. The history of other European nation-states is 
that of linguistic communities serving their trade needs. 
France created itself by destroying five cultures -- Breton, 
Occitan, Alsatian, Corsican, and Flemish. "We are the only 
European nation which is the military creation of a 
non-homogeneous State. This makes France difficult to govern 
to this day. This explains our difficulty in reforming, our 
slowness," he said. 

3. (C) The Socialist Party -- and its historic resistance to 
embrace Social Democracy -- is a case in point. Rocard 
contrasted the PS with European counterpart parties, noting 
that in most countries, a Social Democratic party can expect 
about 35 to 42 percent of the national vote. In France, 
however, the PS can only count on about 18 to 22 percent, 
with the Communists taking about 7 to 8 percent, and parties 
of the extreme left a roughly equal number. The need to work 
with the Communists, the far left -- and the unformed wing of 
the PS, makes it difficult to have "feasible, realistic" 
economic policies. Rocard pointed out that in the 25 EU 
member states, only the PS, among the main parties of the 
European left, had split (and a majority of its electorate 
opposed) over the proposed Constitutional Treaty. 

4. (C) Rocard stressed the importance of the upcoming 
November party congress. The French media insist on focusing 
on it only as it pertains to the fortunes of the would-be 
Presidential candidates. While the Congress will have an 
impact on individual candidacies, its significance will 
depend on its success in defining the program, even the 
identity of the party -- amidst debate and soul-searching 
stirred up by the referendum. Rocard listed three important 
questions for the party to resolve: Are we Social Democrats? 
Are we Europeans? Do we admit at last that the market 
economy is not only a reality, but a necessity? While he 
thought it possible (and in his view essential) that the 
Congress will answer each question in the affirmative, this 
is not a foregone conclusion. The party leadership had taken 
the right approach in deciding to address the policy issues 
before proceeding to the selection of a candidate. It has 
created an opportunity for the Socialist Party to finally 
emerge as a modern Social Democratic Party comparable to the 
SPD in Germany or Labor in Britain. Such a "clarifying 
result" would represent the break from the past that Rocard 
has long sought. That said, a more tepid result was possible 
given the strength of the traditionalists, including those 
now centered around Laurent Fabius. 

5. (C) Rocard clearly did not wish to be drawn out on the 
merits or demerits of the possible Socialist candidates for 
the Presidency in 2007. Replying to the Ambassador's 
question on how the PS could transcend its normal 
18-to-22-percent electoral take (in the first round of 
Presidential elections) and furnish a winning presidential 
candidate, Rocard cited the need for a charismatic candidate 
and an attractive platform. This winning combination would 
produce a sufficiently strong showing in the first round so 
as to obviate the need to negotiate with the Communists and 
far left -- thereby increasing its appeal to the moderate 
center in the second round. 

6. (C) Noting a media effort by allies of Lionel Jospin to 
position the former Prime Minister as the only figure who 
could rally the fissiporous left, Rocard was skeptical. 
Rocard, in a fair-minded assessment of Jospin, cited his 
historic contribution of opening up the party in the 
post-Mitterrand period, a modernization that was cut short by 
the defeat in 2002. He cited Jospin's honesty, but saw it as 
a political liability: "Jospin can't bear lying. He is a 
straight and honest man -- to the point of rigidity. He 
refuses to make unfillable promises to the electorate." 
Despite Jospin's virtues, his abrupt departure after his 
defeat in the first round of the 2002 elections was viewed by 
too many in the party and among its supporters as an act of 
desertion in the hour of the party's -- and country's -- 
greatest need. This would likely disqualify him for another 
run at the Presidency. 

7. (C) Rocard was more voluble when discussing the two 
Presidential rivals on the right. He compared Prime Minister 
Villepin favorably to Interior Minister and Union for a 
Popular Movement (UMP) President Nicolas Sarkozy. Even if 
Villepin had gained notice by his 2003 speech before the UN 
Security Council, not a pleasant association for the U.S. it 
is Sarkozy whom we should fear. Villepin "knows the limits 
of power." Sarkozy, by contrast, has traveled little, has 
minimal foreign language ability, and only a meager interest 
in international issues. He employs a language when 
addressing illegal immigrants that Rocard characterized as 
'borderline racist." In short, "Sarkozy is not safe in his 
respect for human rights. He's not Le Pen, but he's a danger 
to the balance of the French Republic in its practice of 
human rights." By contrast, Villepin shares our common 
values concerning human right. In addition, "he is someone 
who would never mistake those who are allies with those who 
are not" (sic). 

8. (C) Rocard, however, also expressed his "anger" at 
Villepin for the 2003 UNSC speech, which he thought had been 
counter-productive, particularly with respect to 
then-Secretary Powell. "We should have been supporting 
Powell; instead, Villepin pushed him into a corner." Rocard 
said that if he had been President of France at the time, he 
would have written a four or five page letter to President 
Bush at the outset, setting forth his misgivings over a 
military solution. The letter would have remained 
confidential. Once the U.S. decided to proceed against Iraq, 

however, he would have remained silent, and not led 
international opposition as Chirac and Villepin had done. 
Rocard joked that Villepin identifies with Napoleon, whereas 
he is in fact more a Cyrano de Bergerac character. He is the 
inheritor of a proud French oral tradition: "We like to 
talk; if you want a silent partner, you should be dealing 
with the Finns instead." 

9. (C) Rocard emphasized to the Ambassador the importance of 
not conflating the loud French anti-Americanism espoused by 
the Communists and Gaullists with the pro-American sentiment 
felt by most French people. "Please don't forget," he said, 
"that anti-Americanism has never won a majority here." He 
criticized the U.S., however, for not having listened to 
"friendly" advice in the lead-up to the Iraq war. The 
French, who lost two colonial wars, in Indochina and Algeria, 
he said, tried to warn the U.S. that it would be unavoidable 
-- "sociologically predictable" -- that the Iraqi factions 
would unite against the USG. He emphasized, however, the 
necessity for the U.S. to stay the course, warning that Iraq 
would descend into civil war if the U.S. left before 

11. (C) In response to the Ambassador's question on the 
consequences for Europe of the failure of the constitutional 
treaty, Rocard said he thought it "less important than many 
believe, and not too important to the U.S." There is indeed 
a resultant paralysis, but not of the functioning of the EU. 
Rather, it has incapacitated the creative energy and 
enthusiasm for the European project. "It kills the idea of a 
political Europe which you (the U.S.) were afraid of, and 
does not change a thing in the integrated market." He 
provided his assessment that the current Administration's 
support for Europe had been hesitant, and for two reasons: 
concern over the possible emergence of Europe as a military 
power separate from NATO/US; and, increasing conflict over 
economic and commercial issues, which was an unavoidable 
result of Europe's development as strong, unitary player in 
the international economy. 

12. (C) Rocard proposed a joint European/American think-tank, 
which might fill a current gap -- a place where Europeans and 
Americans can together consider the challenges of tomorrow. 
Speaking of the growth of India and China, along with all the 
other challenges confronting both of us, he said, "We need a 
vehicle where we can find solutions for these challenges 
together -- so when these monsters arrive in 10 years, we 
will be able to deal with them." 
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: fm