French Senator Olivier Cadic‘s views for a business-focused, well-managed Europe are challenged both at home and abroad.
As a good European who left France for England as a young entrepreneur in 1996 to grow his company, which was focused on the electronics industry, he now tours the world as a senator representing French citizens living abroad.
A successful self-made businessman, he transferred the CAD operator skills he learned in high school into a company that processed printed circuit boards and that eventually grew into a research center associated with some of France’s greatest technological achievements including the Rafale jet fighter, the Ariane rocket and the CNRS Mars probe.
His abandonment of France to set up his company headquarters in Ashford, England, less than two hours from Paris by Eurostar and 38 minutes from London, threw him into the public spotlight as a symbol of young, entrepreneurial French executives fleeing France’s higher corporate and social taxes. One newspaper went so far as to describe him as “the best-known Frenchman in southern England since William the Conqueror.”
“The excessive tax burden saps the competitive edge of French firms,” he said in one of the many interviews he conducted following his move. From circuit boards, he turned his attention to trade publishing focused on France’s electronics industry as well as launching an Internet startup that brought buyers and sellers of printed circuit boards together.
Once these ventures were sold, he branched into publishing the most famous Franco-Belgian comics (bandes dessinees) in English including titles such as Lucky Luke, Thorgal, Blake & Mortimer and Spirou. As his reputation grew, he formed the association “Free France…Free Enterprise,” which provided forums offering information and support from legal, fiscal, accounting and marketing experts.
In 1998, the association went so far as to rent a Eurostar train to take hundreds of entrepreneurs and representatives from all branches of the French media to Ashford for a day of conferences. Then-Minister of Finance and Economy Dominique Strauss-Kahn sought to put an end to such efforts by creating an “exit tax” with the 1999 Finance Act, demanding a financial guarantee from French businessmen wanting to leave the country.
The French newspaper Le Figaro called this measure the “Cadic Law,” and the association’s activities were suspended as the European Court reviewed the law and found France guilty of breaking EU rules. The court’s decision led to the “exit tax” being cancelled in 2003, and the association’s activities were transferred to the Union of French Citizens Abroad.
By sheer coincidence, Mr. Cadic visited Atlanta on January 24, the day that the U.S. press reported on President Trump‘s desire to impose “substantial” border taxes for companies with manufacturing operations outside of the U.S. as well as import duties. Similar “Brexit” measures in the U.K. appear to be aimed at the hearts of the enterprises of Mr. Cadic’s fellow French entrepreneurs, a development that he sorely regrets, he told Global Atlanta over lunch.
More recently, in his weekly blog, he reflected on the legacies of Robert Schuman, the French statesman who worked for economic and political unity designed to lead to the establishment of a “United States of Europe,” and Jean Monnet, a founder of the European Union.
In his opinion, the EU deserves to be sustained not only for maintaining peace among European nations but for advancing their economic development as well as assuming the responsibility of providing economic assistance to developing countries around the world.
Mr. Cadic’s center-right political party, Union of Democrats and Independents, remains committed, he says in the blog, to the creation of a united Europe with a common currency — the euro — by 2030, as well as common monetary and fiscal policies in addition to a common budget, border, judiciary and defense force.
“A stronger Europe means a stronger France,” he adds.
These views are in direct opposition to those of Mr. Trump, according to Mr. Cadic, whom he criticizes for inspiring the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential campaign, and dismisses both as purveyors of “Me First” politics.
During his first 28 months as a Senator representing French citizens overseas he has traveled to countries in Africa and South America. While visiting Atlanta in late January, he visited the Little DaVinci School and the Atlanta International School, two of the three schools in the U.S. Southeast that offer curriculum certified with the French national education system.
He also met with Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development to discuss economic relations and prospects between France and Georgia.
Additionally, he met with business leaders of the French company Asselin Inc., which specializes in traditional joinery and carpentry and the North American headquarters of Gravotech Inc., a French engraving and laser-cutting company.
During his visit at the Atlanta International School, he came across some of the Franco-Belge comics his company has translated into English and was reassured by the continued emphasis placed on the French.
He also learned from France’s consul general based in Atlanta, Louis de Corail, that there are more than 7,000 French citizens registered with the consulate in the Southeast, 2,600 of which reside in Atlanta. Georgia also is home to about 100 French companies located at 283 sites, representing some 15,500 jobs.