Business 101 for French politicians

By Pierre Briaçon, Politico

 

A French business lobby has embarked on a bold mission: teaching French MPs about the mysteries of that distant, alien economic concept — the private sector.

Set up to counter the effects of an overwhelming representation of public servants in the country’s National Assembly — the lower house of parliament — Entreprise et Progrès runs training sessions lasting a few days during which deputies can meet businesspeople, attend meetings, visit factory floors and get a better idea of the struggles and challenges that companies face.

The scheme is voluntary, and deputies from across the political spectrum have taken part. Entreprise et Progrès, created in 1970 by businessmen eager to foster better employer-employee dialogue to help avoid a repeat of the 1968 strikes, serves as matchmaker.

Sergio Coronado, a Green party MP, recently visited a huge data center in the north of Paris, a stone’s throw from the Stade de France. He listened to Emmanuel Amon, the CEO of financial software company Viareport, and Alexandre Lafond, the head of data hosting group Mediactive, explain the security challenges facing their industries.

“What drove me to this is curiosity,” Coronado told POLITICO. “We have to admit that we don’t know much about the private sector at the National Assembly.”

“In France, politics and business seem to be on two parallel trajectories that never meet” — Emmanuel Amon, CEO of Viareport

Amon didn’t seem eager to engage with the Green deputy on the big topic of the moment: the labor law reform that has brought thousands of people out onto the streets and forced Prime Minister Manuel Valls to use a special constitutional clause to ram the bill through parliament. Coronado was among those who voted in favor of a motion to censure the government over its actions — which was defeated.

“I wasn’t interested in talking daily politics,” Amon said. “In France, politics and business seem to be on two parallel trajectories that never meet. So anything that contributes to overcome distance and mistrust goes in the right direction.”

“Businessmen are interested in talking about their daily struggles, and that can in turn inform legislators when they pass laws or regulations,” said Stéphane Marchand, Entreprise et Progrès’s general director.

A life in politics

The program was launched in 2014 and 25 deputies volunteered to take part that year. That rose to 55 in 2015, and the hope is to top that number this year.

 

 

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Business 101 for French politicians