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Michel Rocard (born 23 August 1930) is a Frenchmarker politician, member of the Socialist Partymarker (PS). He served as Prime Minister under François Mitterrand from 1988 to 1991, during which he created the Revenu minimum d'insertion (RMI), a social minimum welfare program for indigents, and led the Matignon Accords regarding the status of New Caledoniamarker. He is currently a member of the European Parliamentmarker, and has been strongly involved in European policies. As of August 2007, he has accepted a mission in a Commission under the authority of Sarkozy's Minister of Education, Xavier Darcos.


He was born at Courbevoie (Hauts-de-Seinemarker) in a Protestant family, son of the nuclear physicist Yves Rocard, and entered politics as a student leader whilst studying at the Paris Institute of Political Studiesmarker (aka Sciences-Po). He became Chair of the French Socialist Students (linked to the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) socialist party), and studied at the Ecole Nationale d'Administrationmarker (ENA). A finance inspector (senior official) and anti-colonialist, he went to Algeria and wrote a report regarding the widely ignored refugee camps of the Algerian War (1954-62). This report was leaked to the newspapers Le Monde and France Observateur in April 1959, almost costing Rocard his job.

Having left the SFIO because of Guy Mollet's position towards the Algerian war, he led the dissident Unified Socialist Party (PSU) from 1967 to 1974. He took a part during the May 68 in France crisis, supporting the auto-gestionary project. He ran in the 1969 presidential election but obtained only 3,6% of votes. Some months later, he was elected deputy of the Yvelinesmarker département, defeating the former Prime minister Maurice Couve de Murville. He lost his parliamentary seat in 1973, but retook it in 1978.

In 1973-74, he participated in the LIP conflict, selling watches with the workers and participating, behind the scenes, in the attempts to find an employer who would take back the factory, which was on the verge of being liquidated .

In 1974, he joined François Mitterrand and the renewed Socialist Partymarker (PS), which had replaced the old SFIO. Most of the PSU members and a part of the French and Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) trade union — generally known in France as the non-Marxist, "Second Left" — followed him.

Elected mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in 1977, he led the opposition to Mitterrand inside the Socialist Party (as a candidate of the right-wing of the party). After the defeat of the left at the 1978 legislative election, he tried to take over the leadership of the party. In spite of his alliance with Pierre Mauroy, the number 2 of the PS, he lost the Metz Congress (1979). Being the most popular of the Socialist politicians (included Mitterrand himself), he announced that he would run for president but his "Call of Conflans" did not result in majority support within the PS, and he withdrew his candidacy. Mitterrand was the Socialist winning candidate for the 1981 presidency.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Michel Rocard's group inside the Socialist Party, known as "les rocardiens", advocated a re-alignment of French socialism through a clearer acceptance of the market economy, more decentralisation and less state control. It was largely influenced by Scandinavian social democracy, and stood in opposition to Mitterrand's initial agenda of nationalization, programmed in the 110 Propositions for France. Nonetheless, the "rocardiens" always remained a minority.

From the 1980s to today

Under Mitterrand's first presidency, he was Minister of Territorial Development and Minister of Planning from 1981 to 1983 and Minister of Agriculture from 1983 to 1985. He resigned from the cabinet in due to his opposition to the introduction of the proportional system for the legislative elections. He hoped, in vain, that Mitterrand would not run for his re-election in order to be the PS candidate at the 1988 presidential election.

After Mitterrand's re-election, he was chosen as Prime Minister (May 1988 - May 1991). Indeed, Rocard was popular and his position, in the right-wing of the PS, corresponded with the slogan of the electoral campaign, "a United France". He formed a cabinet including 4 center-right ministers. As Prime Minister, he led the Matignon Accords regarding the status of New Caledoniamarker, which ended the troubles in this overseas territory. His record in office also include a decrease in unemployment and a large-scale reform of the welfare state's financing system. He created a minimum living wage revenue, the RMI. Michel Rocard's poor relations with François Mitterrand, notably during his mandate as Prime Minister, were notorious. Besides, he was supported by a relative parliamentary majority.

In 1991, when his popularity decreased, President Mitterrand forced him to resign. However, according to Mauroy, who led the party, Rocard stood as the "natural candidate" for the following presidential elections. After the 1993 electoral disaster, he became head of the PS by advocating a political "big-bang", that was to say a questioning of the right/left rift. His speech did not have the desired effect.

In 1992 he was appointed an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), Australia's highest civilian honour, "for eminent service to Australian/French relations and the preservation of the Antarctic environment".

Rocard stood as leader of the Socialist Party during only one year, in part because of the PS's complete defeat during the 1994 European elections. The defeat was in part due to the success of the list of the Left Radicals Movement, which was covertly supported by President Mitterrand . Consequently, he was toppled by the left-wing of the party and lost his last chance to run for president the next year.

Having lost his deputy's seat in 1993, he became Senator of Yvelines from 1995 to 1997. His supporters within the Socialist Party became allies of candidate Lionel Jospin, who was Prime Minister in 1997-2002, and then Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Since 1994, he has been a member of the European Parliamentmarker, and chaired the Committee on Development and Cooperation (1997-1999), the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (1999-2002) and the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport. Michel Rocard is known for his hostility for the proposed directives to allow software patents in Europe, and has been an outspoken opponent of what he considers to be sneaky manoeuvres to force the decision on this issue . He has thus played an instrumental role in causing the rejection of the recent directive seeking to enforce software patents on 6 July 2005.

On the French political scene, Rocard presented himself as the political heir of Pierre Mendès-France, known for his moral rigour, and as the politician who "speaks the truth". After Mitterrand's death, he caused controversy when he said, about the former president, "he was not an honest man". An impersonator mocked him for his problems of elocution.

In the run up to the presidential elections in 2007, Rocard called for an alliance between the Socialists and the centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF) party of François Bayrou in an effort to defeat Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. Ségolène Royal, the PS candidate, rejected any such compromise, lamenting that she was once again obliged to face obstacles from within her own party. Rocard also publicly admitted, after the election, having asked Ségolène Royal to step down in his favor in March 2007, one month before the first round of voting .

Like other Socialist politicians, such as Jack Lang or Hubert VĂ©drine, who accepted similar positions, Rocard accepted a post on the Committee on the re-evaluation of the teaching profession, which was placed under the "high authority" of Sarkozy's Minister of Education Xavier Darcos . Criticized by Medhi Ouraoui, national delegate of the PS, Rocard claimed it was a "democrat's duty" to participate in such Commissions and that he was "not concerned" by the "game of the President of the Republic [consisting of making of such left-wing participations] political symbols" . He furthermore explained that he had accepted to speak before the Gracques' spring university (a group of senior left-wing civil servants who advocated a centrist strategy) because political parties were not suited any more to serious reflexion . Finally, he again claimed that the (Marxist) SFIO had been created in 1905 on a fundamental "ambiguity," that of which to accept market economy or to reject it .

Michel is a member of Collegium International, an organisation of leaders with political, scientific, and ethical expertise whose goal is to provide new approaches in overcoming the obstacles in the way of a peaceful, socially just and an economically sustainable world.

Political career

Governmental functions

Prime minister : 1988-1991

Minister of State, minister of Planning and Land Development : 1981-1983

Minister of Agriculture : 1983-1985

Electoral mandates

Member of the National Assembly of France for Yvelinesmarker : 1969-1973 / 1978-1981 (Became minister in 1981) / 1985-1988 (Became Prime minister in 1988) / 1991-1993

Senator of Yvelines : 1995-1997

Mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine : 1977-1994

Municipal councillor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine : 1994-2001

Member of the European Parliamentmarker : 1994-2009

Political functions

First Secretary (leader) of the Socialist Party marker : 1993-1994

Rocard's Ministry, 12 May 1988–15 May 1991

  • 22-23 June 1988 - Michel Delebarre succeeds Mermaz as Minister of Transport and Le Pensec as Minister of Sea. The office of Minister of Social Affairs is abolished, but Claude Evin enters the ministry as Minister of Solidarity, Health, and Social Protection. Jean-Pierre Soisson succeeds Delebarre as Minister of Employment, becoming also Minister of Labour and Vocational Training. Louis Le Pensec becomes Minister of Overseas Departments and Territories. Jean-Marie-Rausch succeeds Fauroux as Minister of External Commerce. Hubert Curien succeeds Jospin as Minister of Research and Technology. Jospin remains Minister of National Education and Sport. Michel Durafour becomes Minister of Administrative Reforms as well as Minister of Civil Service.
  • 28 June 1988 - Jack Lang becomes Minister of Great Works and Bicentenary in addition to being Minister of Culture and Communication.
  • 22 February 1989 - Michel Delebarre succeeds Faure as Minister of Housing and Equipment, remaining also Minister of Transport.
  • 2 October 1990 - The office of Minister of European Affairs is abolished. Henri Nallet succeeds Arpaillange as Minister of Justice. Louis Mermaz succeeds Nallet as Minister of Agriculture and Forests. The office of Minister of Bicentenary is abolished. Jack Lang remains minister of Culture, Communication and Great Works.
  • 21 December 1990 - Michel Delebarre becomes Minister of City. Louis Besson succeeds Delebarre as Minister of Transport, Housing, Sea, and Equipment.
  • 29 January 1991 - Pierre Joxe succeeds Chevènement as Minister of Defense. Philippe Marchand succeeds Joxe as Minister of the Interior.


In June 2007, Rocard was admitted at Calcutta Medical Research Institute, Kolkatamarker, Indiamarker where doctors found he had a blood clot in the brain and was operated. He was discharged from the hospital on 10 July 2007..


  • Michel Rocard, Rapport sur les camps de regroupement et autres textes sur la guerre d'AlgĂ©rie, Editions Mille et une nuits, 2003 (Report on regroupment camps and others texts on the Algerian War)
  • Michel Rocard, Le Coeur Ă  l'ouvrage, Odile Jacob, 1987
  • Michel Rocard, Entretiens, Paris, Flammarion, 2001
  • Ch. Piaget, Lip, Postface by Michel Rocard, Lutter Stock, 1973.
  • Collective, Lip : affaire non classĂ©e, Postface by Michel Rocard, Syros, 1975.


  1. "Ils voulaient un patron, pas une coopérative ouvrière", Le Monde, interview with Rocard, 20 March 2007
  2. It's an Honour: AC
  3. « Tout le monde se copie et c’est bien ainsi », Freescape, 30 June 2003
  4. L'ouverture politique Ă  gauche se poursuit avec Michel Rocard, Reuters, 29 August 2007 (13h22), mirrored by Le Monde
  5. Victime d'une hémorragie cérébrale, Michel Rocard se remet doucement, Le Monde, 3 July 2007

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