‘Only French Spoken’ law in Ile de France Public Building Projects.
Paris region orders labourers to only speak French on building sites
The Paris region has passed a new rule obliging labourers on public building sites to use French, copying action taken elsewhere in France to squeeze out foreign workers. Reports France 24.
The Ile de France region passed a “Small Business Act” on Thursday aimed at funnelling more local public contracts to small French businesses.
It includes a so-called Moliere clause which will oblige firms working on publicly-funded building projects, or in other areas such as transport or training, to use French as their working language.
“This clause is necessary and targets foreign companies who come with their teams, without any of them speaking French. These companies need to improve,” vice president of the region Jerome Chartier said afterwards.
The French government has long criticised EU rules that allow companies to bring in much cheaper foreign workers temporarily, often from eastern Europe, who undercut locals.
EU rules on public procurement prevent states from discriminating against companies from another European country uniquely on the grounds of their nationality.
Opponents to the Moliere clause, named after the 17th century French playwright, point out that it will disadvantage newly arrived foreigners living in France who are able to integrate via the workplace and learn French.
It also risks being difficult to monitor and enforce.
Other French regions Normandy, Hauts-de-France and Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes have also introduced rules requiring companies to use the French language on public building sites.
This law is already facing opposition:
La région Ile-de-France et sa présidente, Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains, LR), ont adopté, dans un « small business act », le principe de la clause dite « Molière », une mesure qui vise notamment à imposer l’usage du français sur les chantiers publics.
Let us leave aside the obvious point that no English speaker uses the term “small business act” (the nearest I could find in the 2015 UK, ‘Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act’) though the term has currency in the European Union, this is clearly not aimed at speakers of the ‘langue de Shakespeare’ (another French expression which it would be hard to find used by anglophones).
The measure was introduced by members of François Fillon’s Les Républicains,
It bears an uncanny, and not co-incidental, similarity to the Front National’s key policy of “préférence nationale” (sometimes called “priorité citoyenne). That is giving French citizens preference in jobs, education and a number of public benefits, such as social housing.
The present measure does not just affect building sites. As RTL points out, from public works, transport,training to council activities are affected if the rule is enforced. (“des travaux publics, du transport, de la formation professionnelle, des activités de conseil, etc.”)
Like Marine Le Pen’s wider idea, it is clearly discriminatory. And, as noted, hard to enforce, since it is difficult to see what level of French the “Molière Clause sets – the refined français châtié or (as they would say in my youth) in the manner of “une vache espagnole?
This ‘act’, by undermining the basic principle of equality of rights, it is unlikely to pass through either France of the EU’s legal apparatus.
But coming a few weeks before the Presidential elections this unpleasant gesture is another sign of ‘populist’ barrel scraping from French politicians.