French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin all but declared war on the Parisian élite in an October interview with TIME, chastising French intellectuals for "not being open-minded enough about the world."
It's a problem previous governments have grappled with, but last week Raffarin's government launched a new assault on the ruling class's high temple: the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, the fiercely competitive, 58-year-old school that breeds France's best and brightest. As of 2005, the school will close its Paris campus for everything but continuing education and concentrate its activities at its Strasbourg headquarters.
While the school will still rank students, they will no longer all be bound to the same curriculum instead they can opt for specializations and everyone will be expected to intern in a business setting rather than exclusively in government. What's more, Public Service Minister Jean-Paul Delevoye has proposed measures to make it easier for the state to hire bureaucrats from the private sector.
Next year, he announced, the government will begin a plan to pay bureaucrats partly on merit rather than seniority alone. Getting there will require intensive discussions with unions entrenched in the French public service and opposed to change.