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Europe used to be a constant in French politics: no mainstream party questioned the benefits of further integration. This year the taboo has been broken. First François Hollande, the Socialist challenger for the presidency, said that if elected, he would renegotiate the eurozone's new fiscal pact. Then Nicolas Sarkozy declared France could pull out of the Schengen zone of border-free travel and threatened to take unilateral, protectionist measures on trade that would clearly be viewed as illegal in Brussels.
Last week's killings in Toulouse have also reignited fears - exploited by the far right - of French society under siege. The rise of anti-European sentiment, however, is just the latest "avatar" of a hostility to globalisation that has become a basic ingredient of political debate. In most developed countries, globalisation excites concern; in France, it is an obsession.
Each year 80m tourists visit France to sample the art de vivre for which the country is renowned. But the French themselves seem to have lost the formula: poll after poll, they appear more and more pessimistic.
Overwhelmingly, they attribute their ills to globalisation: two-thirds consider it "disastrous". This is despite the fact that the economies of Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands are all more "globalised" (taking the sum of imports and exports as a proportion of gross domestic product), while enjoying lower unemployment.
Yet globalisation is at the heart of the French malaise. French people find this spontaneous phenomenon, which no authority steers, deeply unsettling. French political culture, the legacy of absolute monarchy, Catholicism and the Jacobins - with a hint of Marxism - finds it hard to admit that something can be good if it has not been conceived to be so. Globalisation fits the Anglo-Saxon outlook - heir to Mandeville and Adam Smith - but is directly opposed to the traditional French view. For a people in love with concepts and theories, this matters.
France's problem is that it has imported many of the disadvantages of globalisation but few of the advantages. The biggest companies have benefited greatly from globalisation but this brings little to France itself: its share in world trade has fallen sharply and, over the past three years, CAC 40 companies shed 4 per cent of their French workforce while their global workforce grew 5 per cent. zealous executives show little interest in their home country while politicians give one signal after another, prompting companies and talented people to leave.
Worse: globalisation, which creates risks and opportunities everywhere, is exposing the injustice of the "French model". The promise of equality, central to France's republican pact, is visibly betrayed because it is always the same people who run the risks (especially that of losing their job) while others enjoy the opportunities (a good career and high salary). This reflects the social immobility of a country that puts too high a price on diplomas but where schooling perpetuates social division, with the routes to success almost closed to young people, women, ethnic minorities and those not born into "good families". None of France's big listed companies is run by a woman; deputies' average age is 57, much older than in Germany, the UK or Sweden. A tiny proportion of the 882 people elected to the Assemblée nationale or Senate belong to minorities. And while 80 per cent of British billionaires are self-made men, just 30 per cent of French billionaires are.
How can the majority of French people trust their representatives, or hope to hold power themselves, when no one in the elite looks like them? And should one really be surprised that they reject the risks globalisation brings, when they know its opportunities will go to others?
These problems have nothing to do with Europe or with globalisation; everything to do with France's closed economy and static society. This election battle should be fought on proposals to restore competitiveness, social mobility and equality of opportunity so that France can truly benefit from globalisation. So far, neither Mr Sarkozy nor Mr Hollande has any serious proposals.
So long as the election debate revolves around scapegoats - Europe or globalisation - there will be no discussion of the real causes of French people's pessimism. These have little to do with the rest of the world: they are "made in France".
The writer is president of Footprint consultants. His latest book is 'Le pays où la vie est plus dure'