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François Ruffin and Raphaël Glucksmann, between Amiens and Charleroi, two visions of Europe

2024-03-31 04:00:23
Raphaël Glucksmann, head of the Socialist Party list for the European election on June 9 with the cow muse of the Agricultural Show, in Paris, February 25, 2024. VINCENT ISORE / IP3 PRESS/MAXPPP

In January, the two rising figures of the left showcased their ideological differences through an epistolary exchange with speckled foils. In his missive, the deputy La France insoumise (LFI) of the Somme François Ruffin had compared Raphaël Glucksmann to “an elite that advances with arrogance”, « unconscious », according to him, of the ravages of the European Union on the industry, embodied by relocations, from Whirlpool to Delsey via Goodyear. The MEP, head of the Socialist Party (PS) list for the European election (EU) of June 9, responded to him a few days later, reproaching him for his « approximations » and his « caricatures ». Two months later, twenty-four hours apart and 200 kilometers apart, the duo delivered a new episode of this remote duel, this time on the ground.

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Tuesday March 26, it was 8:13 a.m. when Raphaël Glucksmann boarded the Thalys which took him to Belgium. His friend, the president of the French-speaking Belgian PS Paul Magnette, invited him to Charleroi to visit a local factory, recently renamed Wallglass. Wallonia, like the north of France, has been devastated by deindustrialization, and the unemployment rate is high. Paul Magnette wants to show that this is not inevitable. “Here is the good example”, praises the Belgian socialist. The company was bought in October 2023 by Pepe Strazzante, a former worker and union activist, specializing in the takeover of bankrupt companies. In a few months, Wallglass managed to reorganize itself and direct its automotive clientele towards the high end. She even rehired. The company is now studying its diversification towards the assembly of photovoltaic panels.

Pen in hand, Raphaël Glucksmann takes notes. “You lay out the assets, but what about the prices? », asks the MEP, aware that the market is 95% dominated by Chinese manufacturers. The company is counting on the European regulation for a “net zero” industry, supposed to promote clean energy, complementing the “Green Deal”. For Wallglass, the path is still strewn with pitfalls, but Mr. Glucksmann promises them that the Social Democrats will be there. “We don’t know exactly what it’s going to be like. It will depend on the elections”he swears.

“Deepening” the European Union

We now visit the production lines: Wallglass machine tools, used in the design of windshields, are invented and manufactured on site by in-house workers, a way of preserving specificity in the face of competition. This know-how arouses the admiration of the candidate, who dreams of repatriating all value chains to Europe. Like the production of polysilicon, the basic material for photovoltaic panels, now imported from China.

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