As every week goes by, another country’s President declares opposition to Nicholas Sarkozy’s European leadership. The Irish led the way with their NO vote to Lisbon. The Czechs then joined in, voicing strong opposition. Then the Austrians. Then the Poles.
Even the Chinese are voicing their opposition to Sarkozy. LINK HERE. They are saying that Sarkozy is not welcome in Beijing, after his comments politicising the Olympic games, encouraging the demonstrations that took place in Paris.
Is Sarkozy the least successful political leader of all time, detested equally by his own people, and foreigner alike? Who else could rival him for his record of abject failure, and his unerring skill at offending the people he meets and has to deal with. Angela Merkel is another who allegedly cannot stand him, who hates his reckless approach to every crisis and who would prefer a quieter, more considered and mature path to guide the EU through its current troubles over Lisbon.
The FT ran an article on this political curiosity only yesterday, which starts –
The European Union is discovering what France has been experiencing for the past year: Nicolas Sarkozy is a politician in perpetual motion who combines radical promise with rash impulse. Declaring himself to be a convinced European, Mr Sarkozy has spent the first hours of France’s presidency of the EU berating its institutions. The European Commission, he says, should protect people from globalisation, not expose them to it. The EU’s excessively liberal trade policy must be reworked. The European Central Bank’s masochistic mandate should be rethought.
The French president is embracing the new-found object of his affection so tightly that he seems in danger of squeezing the breath out of it. Yet there remains the possibility that this one-man political oxymoron may yet unscramble France and help the EU unscramble itself too.
See the full article, titled ‘Sarkozy is Reckless, Radical and sometimes Right’ HERE, as the FT tries to put a positive pro-EU spin on Sarkozy’s interpersonal difficulties.
I think they’ve got it right. Sarkozy, although unpopular, might in the end give France the kick it needs to get herself going. And he might well act as the catalyst for the EU splitting into two sectors. I rather like the word ‘unscramble’.
The Lisbon Treaty is seriously stuck in the works after the Irish referendum NO vote. The German Constitutional Court has put their ratification on hold while it carries out further ‘deliberation’. In the months ahead, Lisbon will be going nowhere, and the EU might well find that there is no alternative to moving from a Treaty based on unanimity, effectively compulsion, to one based on opting in, with a split between ratifying and non-ratifying countries the inevitable consequence.
The unity of the EU is gradually coming apart, and Sarkozy must surely be seen as a key reason why that is hapenning.
The infighting between Mandelson and Sarkozy before the Irish vote, was certainly part of the reason the Irish were in rebellious mood. Mandelson’s attempts to defend his position alerted the Irish to the sacrifices their farmers were going to be asked to make. If Sarkozy had been of a different less combative temperament, Mandelson might have kept quiet and the WTO negotiations might not have become so public an issue.
The Centre For European Reform published a report a year ago written by Charles Grant, foreseeing the trouble to come with Sarkozy’s inconsistencies. He wrote,
The other worry about Sarkozy is the apparent contradiction in his thinking. He supports Thatcherite policies at home – he promises to slim the state, cut taxes and liberalise labour markets – but attacks the Commission’s trade and competition policies, as well as the monetary policy of the European Central Bank.
In his first speech as president-elect, he asked France’s partners “to hear the voice of the peoples who want to be protected”. In his recent book, I was struck by his vehement opposition to the foreign ownership of French companies (for my review of this book in Prospect, see http://www.cer.org.uk/articles/grant_prospect_march07.html).
I suspect that his support for economic autarky reflects what he really thinks, and that he does not say it merely to win votes. But its impact on voters should not be ignored. As Jean Pisani-Ferry of the Bruegel think-tank notes, “In a country where 55% of voters rejected the EU constitution on economic grounds and more than 70% see globalisation as a threat, a sure recipe for losing support is to wear the clothes of the Brussels-Frankfurt orthodoxy.” (See http://www.eurointelligence.com/article.581+M5c348ce2a46.0.html.)
If Sarkozy does try to combine economic liberalism at home with protectionism at EU level, he will be heading for a big clash with his EU partners – most of whom support the EU’s broadly liberal trade and competition policies.
Given Sarkzoy’s temperament and political contradictions, is it any wonder the EU is driving into a major crisis? We Europe-loving eurosceptics should be grateful to him, for at last unscrambling the former apparent unity, in fact sterility of the EU, and replacing it with a more real and human mess. Will Sarkozy, the guy who cannot keep his mouth shut, unwittingly become the agent of democracy’s rebirth in Europe? If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny.