Mitterrand victory raises question mark over Europe
Francois Mitterrand's election to the French presidency puts more of a question mark on France's European policies than on France's American and Soviet policies.
Mitterrand's accession knocks out the European Community motor of outgoing French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. It makes the urgently needed agricultural reform that much more difficult within the EC. And it adds a soupcon of ambiguity in East-West relations in having a French Socialist president who criticized Giscard for being too soft on Moscow -- but at the same time is beholden to the votes of the West European communist party that is most loyal to the Kremlin.
Foreign policy issues played only a minor role in the French campaign. Any projections are therefore subject to further clarifications by Mitterrand --and to the outcome of next month's National Assembly elections.
What can already be said, however, is that the close giscard-Schmidt relationship cultivated over the past seven years will no longer guide EC developments. In a congratulatory telegram to Mitterrand, Schmidt stated that French-German friendship will continue, since it is based on both populations rather than on the personalities at the top. But observers believe that it will take some time for the pragmatic Social Democrat Schmidt and the more ideological Socialist Mitterrand to work together well.
Mitterrand is not hostile to West Germany. He has not revived the remember-the-war anti-German theme as both the Gaullists and Communists have done in recent elections. It's more a question of the initiative that will be lost from a Giscard-Schmidt partnership that launched the European Monetary Fund two years ago and floated joint French-German loans abroad to help slumped national economies last month, and was expected to begin the overhaul of EC agricultural subsidies right after the French election.
Giscard had made no promises to Schmidt on taming the farm subsidies that eat up two-thirds of the EC budget.But the Germans, as the largest EC paymaster, hoped that Giscard would pay his many IOUs to Schmidt in this area once he had a French mandate.
Mitterrand, by contrast, has no debts to Bonn. And Mitterrand's agricultural spokesman has been even more unyielding than the pre-election Giscard in assuring French farmers of continued EC subsidies.
A contrary analysis also heard in Bonn suggests that Mitterrand will be no more obstructive to needed European policies than a reelected imperial Giscard would have been. In particular, Giscard gave some signs of carrying on his feud with Britain with a tough line on fish as well as food. Insofar as Schmidt is spared playing tough with London himself in order to accommodate Giscard, the EC may benefit.
Mitterrand may also spare Schmidt from playing the middleman between Paris and Washington, as Giscard sometimes forced Schmidt to do in the period after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and before the Soviet threat to Poland.
Mitterrand is known as an Atlanticist rather than a Gaullist. He has sought no special relations with the Kremlin, and the Kremlin has played Mitterrand simply as an instrument in its relations with the French Communist Party.
In security issues affecting NATO (France is a partial member) Mitterrand is expected by diplomatic observers to be more cautions than Giscard in dispatching emergency brigades to Chad, Zaire, or elsewhere. On procuring, Mitterrand should have no qualms about the potentially controversial rearming of NATO with new nuclear weapons. Unusually for a European socialist party, the French Socialists have always had a strong pro-military wing.
* Staff correspondent Daniel Southerland reports from Washington:
The clear preference of the reagan administration would have been Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
But now that Francois Mitterrand has won, he has left Washington with what one State Department official described as "a big question mark." President Reagan, however, expressed his "warmest congratulations" on Mitterrand's victory.
The State Department said that until the outcome of the June legislative elections and how Mitterrand goes about forming a ruling coalition, many questions contributing to this big question mark cannot be answered. Will Communists be brought into his administration at all? And if so, will they play only a token, low-level role?
Some officials here take comfort, meanwhile, in the fact Mitterrand has taken a relatively hard line toward the Soviet Union in recent years.
Asked whether the US would consider Communist participation in the new administration consistent with treaty obligations and US goals, a US spokesman said, "How France is governed rests with the French people alone. . . .Well will watch closely the evolution of events in France . . . and in particular the composition of a new government."
Bill Brock, chief US trade negotiator, warned against portraying the election result as a "swing to the left."
"I'm not surprised," Mr. Brock said at a breakfast meeting with reporters. "I'm not in the least bit surprised because they [the Socialists] used the right issues."