The French debate over the Bolkestein directive
Comparative European Politics
GB : Palgrave Macmillan
344 - 366 p.
service liberalization, France, Euroscepticism, constitutional treaty, EU referendum, Europeanization of party systems
Why did the services directive proposed by Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein lead to such virulent reactions in France? This article examines several potential explanations focusing on political economy, public opinion and the timing of events. While all of these elements contribute to the difficult political context, they are insufficient to explain the importance of the backlash against the directive in France. We therefore focus on party politics and argue that political elites had an interest in exploiting the directive in the context of a leadership crisis within the French socialist party. The case study bears lessons about the domestic potency of European policy issues: they can pose a real challenge to centrist parties, which have insufficiently addressed them in their party platforms.