The French Debate over the Bolkestein Directive

Cornelia Woll and Emiliano Grossman, Sciences Po, Paris

Why did the services directive proposed by EU Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein lead to such virulent reactions in France in 2005? While other countries witnessed heated discussions, they were mild compared with the massive protest and media attention the issue elicited in France. Examining the potential role of institutional, partisan and public-opinion factors in explaining this phenomenon, the project shows that public-opinion approaches do not suffice to account for the mobilization against the directive in France. Rather, it is the combination of the particular political context – the upcoming referendum – with the crisis in some sections of French party leadership that best explains why the issue became highly salient and the backlash against the directive was so substantial. Project duration: May 2008 to May 2010.

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