“When it comes to preventing conflicts of interest, there is no miracle solution”

Ehave we gone too far in regulating conflicts of interest? The question, to be orthogonal to the spirit of the times, nevertheless deserves to be asked, as the current tension on the subject leads to a situation largely detrimental to the interest of the country.

It is a fact that sensitivity to potential conflicts of interest, virtually non-existent until fifteen years ago, has become central to the French political landscape. The legislation and its application have thus been significantly strengthened in recent years and the High Authority for the transparency of public life [HATVP]created in 2013, has since opposed regularly the retraining of former members of the government or their teams.

However, this does not seem to be enough, as the air of the time is one of systematic suspicion whenever any professional or personal link exists between a servant of the State and the private sector. However, if it is legitimate to think that the paths of its actors can give keys to the ethos and the action of a governmental majority, the presupposition which underlies the essential of the media treatment and politics of the subject is much more questionable.

“We understand how the debate takes shape differently depending on whether we are talking about ‘going back and forth with civil society’, ‘revolving doors’ or even ‘monetizing one’s address book'”

First of all, the semantics used has its importance. We understand how the debate takes shape differently depending on whether we are talking about “going back and forth with civil society”, “revolving doors” or even “monetizing one’s address book”. It is the content, then, that is wrong. And for good reason: the question of the experience, and therefore of the competence, of administrative and political decision-makers is at least as much a democratic subject as that of conflicts of interest.

In this respect, one can legitimately think that the general interest requires precisely to facilitate the back and forth of those who wish to put their skills at the service of the community – and not to make them more complicated. Except, of course, to consider that only civil servants are suitable for occupying political positions of responsibility (remember that four out of five French people work in the private sector, according to the general management of administration and the civil service).

Read also our survey: Article reserved for our subscribers Conflicts of interest: the dangerous game of deputies who “slipper” in the private sector after their mandate

The recent increase in the phenomenon of back and forth is, moreover, only the consequence of one of the central promises of the candidate Emmanuel Macron in 2017: to allow all those who wanted to commit to bring to the State the richness of their backgrounds and their know-how. A promise largely kept, these commitments could only be essentially transitory, because it was not so much a question of bringing out a new political nobility as of recreating porosity – because distrust in the State also comes from its remoteness and because a fully professionalized political world can only make re-election an end in itself.

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