Mixed messages from Villepin

This evening French PM Dominique de Villepin has responded in a French television interview to the CPE rebellion.

Submitted by Steven. on March 13, 2006

The last week of protests and university sitins has seen up to a million on the streets and the violent crushing of a student occupation at the University Sorbonne.

Insisting that he was standing firm, he nonetheless announced three new 'guarantees' to complement his 'First Employment Contract' or 'CPE'. Hoping to reassert his authority he declared that "this law [CPE] that has been voted, will be enforced". In truth however, he is presumably hoping that these 'additional guarantees' will be enough to buy off some of the growing anger that CPE has been generating.

The three guarantees:
- a complementary dole/training scheme allowance
- the possibility to 'be accompanied by a referee' or guarantor
- regular periods of evaluation, to allow "a chance every six months to evaluate this contract with the two sides of industry"

These proposals were immediately dismissed by CGT union leader Bernard Thibault, who demanded that the CPE was scrapped immediately, "Villepins love of himself is getting the better of his political sense" he mused. The repeal of CPE was "not negotiable" and Villepin's offer "insincere".

Earlier, Villepin had tellingly commented "we had a crisis in the suburbs a few months ago, people forget that", refering to the rioting of suburban youth of last November - a symptom of a larger crisis which Villepin and his government have yet to tackle.

Villepin went on to deny being politically isolated and refused to accept that his handling of this crisis would make or break his ambitions for the 2007 presidential elections. We’ll see…

In the meantime, preparations are being made for large demonstrations expected this Thursday and Saturday, blockades of universities persist in some towns and no doubt many are regrouping for a second wave of occupations later this week.

As the bell is about ring for the third round, Villepin is bloodied but still standing.