In a country which loves controversy, the outstanding editors Les Echos has brought together today agree at least on three points: without competitiveness, there is no growth; without growth, there are not enough jobs; French businesses are currently not competitive enough. So we have to carry out in-depth reforms, plot a course, do so fairly, without believing we can change outdated rules and habits in just two years. It is to this task in the general interest that those who govern, or aspire to govern, must devote themselves.
Nevertheless, the difficulties encountered and the efforts needed to overcome them do not make France a nation in decline. The world’s fifth-largest economy, a permanent member of the Security Council, a global diplomatic, military and technological power, in decline? A country which, this year, 2014, won the Fields Medal in mathematics and the Nobel prizes in economics and literature, in decline? Come on!
French-bashers would probably retort that these honours are just a happy coincidence. I disagree: they reflect France’s influence and distinctiveness.
As head of our diplomacy, the number of kilometres I’ve travelled since 2012 equates to going once round the world every month. I note that our country is still expected to speak out and is listened to everywhere. To say this is to display neither blindness nor arrogance. It is to recognize a fact which the French themselves sometimes lose sight of, and fight “Franco-pessimism”, that strange tendency to run ourselves down and not have enough self-belief.
Here is a brief list – an incomplete one, for that matter – of what many countries envy us: our demographics; our infrastructure; our higher education institutions; a skilled and productive workforce; our major companies and leading brands; stable institutions and a competent administration; a successful health system; a magnificent history, language and cultural offer; and a heritage and a lifestyle that appeal far beyond our borders. While all these strengths do not cancel out our shortcomings, they are considerable.
If I had to choose a term to sum up our country, it would be “creativity”.
The creativity of our researchers, engineers, students and artists. The creativity of our artisans, traders, teachers and farmers. The creativity of our entrepreneurs, manufacturers and SMEs, who combine the exporting instinct with “made in France” expertise. Creativity that encompasses every sector and ranges from gastronomy to green technology, from aerospace to medicine. This creativity is France’s real hallmark.
“Creative France”: those two words are understood in just about every country in the world. They are the best possible banner for a France that wants to and can get back on its feet, unite and look to the future./.