Bomb squads, searches, identity controls… A visit from a high-placed, sitting minister is serious business. He himself has taken on a serious air that has become “permanent” since he took office. This gives his words a tone and tenor of reassuring constancy. Not that his discourse is easy or monotone. You almost need subtitles to read the meaning of each carefully-measured word he uses.
“The fact that you cultivate quiet doesn’t mean you’re a misanthrope […] What I want is not to waste any breath.” Asked about the meaning of his appearance at ESSEC, the man known within his majority government as “the cardinal” intimated that he was weary of politicians who talk too much. “When you’re doing your job well, you don’t have time to waste trying to show that you are indispensable.” While Bernard Cazeneuve isn’t making the rounds of all the rostrums, he no less hopes to report on the reality of his actions, which in his opinion are too often caricatured. The minister abhors the press’s imprecision as much as he does the “outrageous statements” of the opposition, who feel that he is too lax, and the extreme left, which has denounced police brutality.
For several months now, Bernard Cazeneuve has been fighting on all fronts. The same day that he came to ESSEC, opposition parliamentarians were pressuring him to prohibit the Nuit Debout protest gatherings in Paris before his hearing with the Senate on extending the state of emergency. However, behind the scenes and on-stage, the minister remains imperturbable and answers all questions with calm determination. During the first half of the debate on the migrant crisis, he deplored the lack of a joint response by EU Member States. In the face of the rhetoric of certain “two-bit humanitarians”, he defended the measures put in place by the government, particularly in Calais, to combat human smugglers, control borders and provide a decent humanitarian welcome. Asked about the small number of requests for asylum in France, he simply gave a geographical explanation and skirted the subject of the country’s attractiveness.
Then the discussion turned to counter-terrorism. Concerning the risks inherent in hosting the Euro 2016, he was clear and precise in his language: “100% precaution but no zero risk.” By that time, the new outline of action and exercises done around the country will have further improved the effectiveness of the response. Bernard Cazeneuve explained how, after the attacks in January, he brought together the GIGN and RAID special operations units in the famous “Fumoir” briefing room and called upon them to put an end to the internal war between policing forces. He guaranteed that his exhortations will not remain just pretty words. Questioned by a student who was heckled during the 1 May demonstrations, he vigorously reaffirmed that he will accept no excuses should law enforcement fall short of their duty and he also reminded listeners that 18,000 officers were wounded last year.
At the end of the debate, the minister stayed for a cocktail and enjoyed talking with students. His chief of staff had to remind him to join the convoy that was waiting for him. His day was far from over and upon his return from Beauvau, a long night surely awaited him with Nuit Debout.