Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister and General Secretary for the UMP (the party of the government) has spoken his mind for the first time on the issue of the CPE.
Villepins rival for the leadership of the centre-right going into the 2007 Predidential election can now be seen to be manoeuvring into a position of safety, out of the firing line, as this crisis deepens.
The following text is mostly drawn from an article by Le Monde.
Relatively discrete until now, the Minister of Interior Department has warned the government against "tensening itself up" and recommends "to catch up with wasted time". In Paris-Match, he also floats the possibility of testing the CPE for six months.
Nicolas Sarkozy suggests that it will be necessary to test for six months the CPE. "If there is a lack of understanding, it is because we did not engage in enough dialogue. Time wasted should therefore be caught up with and not wasted ".
He suggests a "six month experimentation" of the CPE, at the end of which the CPE would be subjected to evaluation, a solution allowing, in his eyes, that nobody loses "face". "If the CPE creates jobs, why fear it and why refuse it?" he says, "Let us test it! Let us evaluate in good faith with the trade-union organizations and the student bodies."
"At the moment, there are three solutions: either it goes ahead and in this case we keep it. Or it doesn't go ahead and it is obvious that we'd have to try something else. Or that we goes only half way and then we can modify, and have nobody lose face", argues the Minister.
According to him, "France is a country which accepts the change but it is necessary that this change is perceived to be fair."
"There is a danger that this effervescence of high-school and university students wakens the agitation in the suburbs, which remain extremely tense", predicts Sarkozy.