sarkozy everywhere

Posted on June 4, 2007


“I will defend my convictions while respecting others,” pledges French President Nicholas Sarkozy, declaring his guiding philosophy, as he plunges into his job with relish, giving an opinion on anything or everyhing.

This is a man who has the energy of a man half his age, seems like he is staying up all night thinking through all the biggest issues of the day and is keen to unleash himself and his ideas onto his first big international appearance, at the G8 summit in Germany this Wednesday, while simultaneously projecting the image that France is once again a major player in the world stage.

On the European Union and its role, Sarko has been urging that European leaders accept a new, simplified European treaty that will be ratified by member states through parliamentary votes rather than popular vote, which had sealed the fate of an earlier incarnation through rejection by French and Dutch voters. His philosophy towards the EU has also solidified around the idea of it wielding more power as an economic entity and less in political realms. But at the same time, he told the Financial Times he opposed EU’s trade policy, labeling it “excessively liberal”. It figures. Despite his reformist credentials, Sarko is at the core a protectionist when it comes to French industries, insisting on staying the course on French agriculture and justifying it by explaining that “the security of Europe’s food supplies was vital”.

On the incoming UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Sarko had this piece of advice. “Gordon Brown has advanced and modernized the British economy over 10 years. I hope that in moving from Number 11 to Number 10 Downing Street he understands that Europe is not outmoded.” But Sarko smoothly added, “Europe has need of the UK and the UK has need of Europe.” He further established the groundwork for a smoother transition in his dealings from Tony Blair to Brown, by telling the Financial Times that “I don’t think that everybody shares my opinion. I don’t have this arrogant vision. He is more liberal than I am.”

Sarko, who has long professed his admiration for the US, is also playing nice when asked about US President George W Bush, Iraq and Bush’s recently-announced environmental initiatives. Regarding Iraq, he pulled out the diplomatic card, professing to not being qualified to comment when he doesn’t have troops in Iraq and affirming French support in Afghanistan through continued troop presence. When it came to commenting on Bush’s environmental plan, Sarko called it an “encouraging evolutionary”. This guy looks set to have a great conversation on the sidelines of the G8 summit with Bush. Expect an invitation to Camp David in the mail for him soon.

But really, Sarko seems set to build consensus and make friends everywhere. It’s a smart move that will warm him to the leaders and create an easier basis for doing business. He was equally flattering about German Chancellor Angela Merkel, complimenting her on her leadership in the EU’s rotating presidency and expressing confidence of her ability to push for issues such as reform and the environment through.

The only person that might not get the full assault of Sarko’s charm is Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the latest hissy fit Russia is throwing about the US’ missile plan, Sarko said he plans to have a “frank and direct” discussion with Putin. Though professing to desire a strategic partnership and amicable relations with Russia, Sarko had came out strongly to condemn Moscow’s strengthening authoritarianism and human rights abuses in Chechnya while campaigning for the presidency. Russia is unlikely to forget that quickly.

So it looks like this upcoming G8 summit might be a little more than just boring business as usual with Sarko’s kinetic and involved presence. The attending heads of states will no doubt have to hear plenty of his opinions and contend with a French President with an assertive approach. While it remains to be seen if Sarko will wear them out, the media, especially the European ones, is still nursing its love affair with Sarko. You could bet on seeing, and hearing, a lot of the guy over the next few days.