French in bid to play Tough-Guy role with AstraZeneca bosses
France has clearly had enough with being perpetually depicted as the lover and the artist, and is now trying to embrace a more tough-guy/bad-guy image traditionally occupied by Americans, Brits and Germans, or menacing types with amorphous Russian-esque or Middle-East-ish identities.
And it's with mixed results so far.
A succession of French politicians have started swaggering around, making veiled threats against AstraZeneca for falling short of its promised covid vaccine deliveries.
It started with former French executive and now EU commissioner Thierry Breton making a pointed warning to AstraZeneca's French-led board "to exercise its fiduciary responsibility." [There's no record as to whether he was stroking a cat at the time, but with everyone working from home, there's a likelihood.]
French Europe minister Clément Beaune picked up the baton this weekend, saying "we will defend our interests. There may be legal recourse. We are not ruling it out." [The camera lingered on his eyes as he chewed on a cheroot and a harmonica wailed in the background [this did not happen]].
He went on, however, to say that "Europe is not going to be some Carebear that sends money and expects nothing in return," in a fundamental misunderstanding not only of the tough-guy image, but also of Carebears.
Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher did much better today.
She again invoked the threat against the AZ board, and its CEO Pascal Soriot.
"In any business, there is a fiduciary responsibility, you have to be accountable," she said.
"The boss of AstraZeneca is in the hot seat, and he knows it."
And then, in her best De Niro impression, wielding a baseball bat, she added:
"When you do not honour a contract, this can cause problems, individual problems.”
[n.b. she wasn't wielding a baseball bat. Whether or not she was channelling De Niro's Al Capone is, however, open to interpretation, so let's go with, yeah, she was.]
Choosing French politicians to be the front-line enforcers here - with their Carebears analogies - may not be Central Casting's first choice, nor indeed was it the EU's. But having tried Angry Greek with a Contract, and Strategic Automaton with a Transparency Mechanism, maybe French Politician with an Array of Company Executive Duty Codes and Provisions is worth a try.