Posts tagged ‘Sarkozy’
Fears of a new wave of immigration are stalking western Europe. The row between France and Italy is symptomatic of the tensions. Today’s meeting between President Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi was intended to calm the situation, and an agreement was reached to modify Schengen to allow for “exceptional circumstances”, but France is the clear demandeur that the Schengen agreement must be modified to allow stricter cross-border controls.
France argues that it already faces a major crisis. It took tough measures when the train between Ventimiglia and Menton, carrying Tunisian refugees who had been granted residence permits by the Italian authorities, was held up at the French border for seven hours. French officials refused entry for around 1,500 would-be entrants.
It seems that up to 30,000 people from Tunisia and Libya have already been registered by Italian immigration, most of them having fled via Lampedusa, and there is widespread concern that these numbers could swell in the backwash of revolutions across the Arab world, and especially the conflict in Libya.
All the emphasis is currently on France and Italy. Sarkozy must contend with the surging popularity of the Front National, while Berlusconi requires the support of the fiercely anti-immigrant Northern League to sustain his government. But of course the refugee issue has a political impact right across Europe.
Belgian immigration minister Wathelet has taken a tough line. The True Finns party in Finland, which has won 19 per cent of the seats in the recent elections, is calling on Finland to quit Schengen, while the prospect of Bulgaria and Rumania joining the Schengen agreement has become more problematic.
There are also major implications for the UK, although outside the Schengen agreement. British governments need no reminder of the squatter camps in northern France which refugees used as launching pads for illegal immigration to Britain. Indeed, it was Sarkozy, when he was a minister, who closed the camps – an act for which London is eternally grateful. If Italy is in the front line of the refugee pressure, France is not far behind. It is reported that already 1,000 refugees have gathered near the Gare du Nord for the Eurostar to London.
The European Commission is reluctant to accept that there is a refugee crisis and has turned down Italy’s request for special help – so triggering the decision to grant residence permits to the Tunisian travellers and send them on to France. Commission policy is to press the Tunisian government to speed up the homeward return of its nationals. Indeed, President Barroso has scolded Tunis for not doing enough to control the flow. A further €140m from EU funds is being allocated to Tunisia over three years to assist repatriation in addition to €257m already committed to help the country’s reconstruction.
The nub of Europe’s problem is that nobody knows how each of the Arab revolutions will turn out, nor what the implications will be for neighbouring countries. Civil war, for instance in Libya or Syria, could drive many thousands to leave their home countries, while economic stagnation in say, Egypt or Tunisia could cause other migrants to join those already travelling from sub-Saharan Africa in search of work.
The European Union must get its act together, supporting EU countries which face the biggest immediate challenges, and providing help for Arab neighbours (once it has identified their differing needs) to stabilise their societies and stimulate their economies, which is the only long-term remedy for the refugee issue.
Just 3 years ago, newly elected President Sarkozy named a broad-based government which included an unprecedented number of women, minorities and members of the opposition. This openness was one of the defining features of “Sarkozyism” which drove the President to power in 2007. When this election rhetoric was transformed into ministerial appointments, the new government was hailed by some at the time as the beginning of a new period of openness and cooperation in French politics, and heavily criticized by certain members of the majority UMP party, like Patrick Devedijan, a key member of the UMP inner circle, who mockingly urged Nicolas Sarkozy to “open up the government… all the way to Sarkozyists!”.
Jolting back to political reality, the most recent government reshuffle has signaled the end of an inclusive government and the return to insider rule. Nothing highlights this shift better than the departure of several token ministers including frontbenchers Jean-Marie Bockel, Fadela Amara and in particular Bernard Kouchner, who was one of Nicolas Sarkozy’s star signings. Now the only remaining survivor of bipartisanship experiment is Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand, whose presence in the government is as symbolic as his name.
This government reshuffle also means the return to power of the traditional right. The re-appointment of Prime Minister François Fillon is a telling indicator of this swing to the right. Although considered by some as a moderate, at heart he has more conservative tendencies, and will most probably use his next period as PM to continue his deficit reduction leitmotif. We have also seen the return of many of the grand old men (and women) of the Chirac era to government, as for example Alain Juppé, former Prime Minister under Jacques Chirac (and a recurring figure in right wing governments for the past 25 years) or the talismanic Michele Alliot-Marie whose political longevity is rivaled only by her dominance of the big four ministries (Defence, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Justice) over the last nine years.
The reshuffle also sees a restructuring of the power relationship between the Prime Minister and the President. Despite rumours that Francois Fillon might leave the PM spot, it is a sign of his growing power and popularity that President Sarkozy has reappointed him. To see how far Fillon has come, at the beginning of his time as PM in 2007, President Sarkozy described Fillon as a mere colleague whereas now Fillon is described by journalists as a sort of “Super Prime Minister”. Their roles, as well as their relationship, will be changing after the reshuffle. Fillon, who is more popular with the electorate and the majority representatives, will focus on domestic policy, including the final important reforms of the mandate. Even if President Sarkozy will still be actively involved in these issues, he will concentrate on international issues and will be preoccupied with the euro zone crisis, nuclear disarmament and France’s presidency of the G20.
This reshuffle can be seen as a capitulation of sorts by President Sarkozy, who has realized that he will not be able to push his agenda through parliament without the support of highly experienced key players on the right. The jury is currently out on whether this strategy will weaken or strengthen the President’s position and that of the majority UMP party with the 2012 elections coming.
The FH Paris team
It was evident from the beginning of the eurozone crisis that the only way to discipline recalcitrant member states in the face of enormous budget deficits was to involve the International Monetary Fund, an independent, external organization which was definitely not part of the family, a body which could lay down tough conditions for winning its support, and could pull the rug out if necessary.
So it was little surprise to see the forthright tone of the IMF team when they left Luxembourg on June 7, having completed their analysis of the situation. Their report makes quite a contrast to the gentle reassurances of the eurozone ministers at their meeting on the same day.
The IMF report doesn’t mince its words. It may be familiar language for failing economies in Latin America, but for the eurozone! Take a few phrases: “Policies need to move urgently from crisis management to fundamental reforms”, “strengthen economic governance of EMU” “longstanding problem of anaemic growth in the euro area must now be addressed”, “the euro area fiscal framework needs to be substantially strengthened”, “more ambitious changes are needed”. And so on, with detail. The fundamental theme is that European countries must transform their economies, slash government spending and drive for economic growth.
The eurozone ministers did formally launch the €440bn European Financial Stability Facility at their June 7 meeting, but that’s definitely “crisis management”. The EFSF has been established as a limited company under Luxembourg law and will work in conjunction with the IMF to guarantee support for eurozone members if their credit position should weaken.
The question still remains as to what the eurozone can do to strengthen its effectiveness and meet at least some of those IMF demands. An intriguing game of smoke and mirrors has been played since the Special Purpose Vehicle and the associated IMF support were announced on May 9, a game designed to convince the markets that Europe is getting a grip of its profound economic crisis. The reality is that everyone has a different idea of what needs to be done and what can be done in the longer term.
Economic government for the eurozone. That’s the catch phrase. President Van Rompuy has used it, French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde has used it and Chancellor Angela Merkel has almost used it – “economic governance” is the closest she has come (also a phrase used by the IMF). President Sarkozy has spoken of a Eurozone Council. But a closer look at how it would work reveals something like a beefed-up version of what already exists.
The argument that a European single currency can only survive if there exists a common economic policy, common fiscal policy and common budget policy may prove to be correct in the long run, but it is clear that this is not what Europe’s present leaders mean when they talk of economic government.
France wants a formal decision-making structure where heads of state and government agree on fiscal discipline and maybe impose sanctions on recalcitrant member countries. Germany in effect argues for a stronger commitment to the stability and growth pact (and has announced budget cuts of €30bn over the next four years to do its part). Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the eurozone group of countries, believes that eurozone governments should vet each other’s budget plans. But nobody contemplates the transfer of fundamental tools of economic management to a supranational European policy-maker. Maybe the IMF is a different matter?
So what of the euro crisis? At least the decline of the euro is seen as a positive, making European goods more competitive and – perhaps – boosting domestic demand within the crucial German economy. What is also evident is an increased determination to cut government spending sooner rather than later, reflected in the G-20 meeting. And of course these are not challenges faced only by the eurozone; the UK’s new coalition government has a massive challenge ahead in reducing spending and boosting growth. A poisoned chalice indeed!
The second in our now regular series of blog posts from our lovely French colleagues over in Paris…grrrrrrr.
After the announcement of the “No” on Friday, June 13, Dublin erupted in jubilation. But the next day, Ireland found itself in a situation comparable to the habitually sober citizen who has woken up with a raging hangover after having gone on an almighty pub crawl. A weekend national newspaper referred to an “Oh sh*t, what have we done?” vibe floating around. Opinion polls indicated that paradoxically most Irish support the EU, even if they voted no and found that almost 40 per cent of those who rejected the EU Treaty did so because they did not understand or were not “familiar” with it.
24 hours after the Bastille Day celebrations of July 14, the president of the European council, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy sparked a general outcry in Dublin by bluntly revealing an open secret… “The Irish will have to vote again”, he said to members of his party. And the media hype began. Immediately, the Irish started fulminating about such arrogance on the part of the Gallic elite. Suddenly, Sarkozy’s four-hour visit in Dublin on July 21 became a much more controversial topic for the Irish than the last Gaelic football game. It became THE story. Actually, to say the least, the reception of the French President could have been warmer…
On his way back to Paris, “the French gaffer” as he is called in the daily French newspaper Le Monde, denied having asked for a second Irish vote. In fact, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy is all too aware that there is no miracle solution to this institutional crisis at the present time. Irish events could be seen as a perfect introduction to a lecture on “sarkocism”. Lesson 1: raising the roof once more while pretending you are not. It is too early to say if this strategy is actually adapted to the present Irish versus European context. The forthcoming months will determine whether the answer is positive or not…
In what we hope will be a series of regular reflections from our colleagues at FH Paris on Bld Haussman during the current EU French Presidency, a mail arrives with this guest contribution from Clemence Choutet and Quentin Vivant. Here are their thoughts as the Sarko Show gets well into the first act…
President Nicolas Sarkozy has inherited a Union in disarray but he has grand ambitions at the helm of Europe. He intends to deploy all of his talents and diplomatic skills to pull off the job. In short, he has prepared grand plans for his EU presidency, which began on July 1st, to show that France is back in Europe.
Fastuous ceremonies and foreign guests
The inauguration of a flamboyant presidency was symbolized on June 30, 2008 by the Eiffel Tower lit a dazzling blue with gold stars, representing the EU flag. The festivities include “Europe Bastille Day Balls” and will continue throughout France’s six-month turn in the EU chair. With a budget of €190 million, France aims to dazzle the world’s eyes with stylish ceremonies and the classiest souvenirs, scarves, pens, small bags and other paraphernalia, ever to have been given away at EU summits. Beyond the pomp and style of the opening ceremonies, Mr. Sarkozy is to pursue an ambitious agenda of politico-cultural events centered on immigration, climate change, environment, agriculture, defense and energy. No fewer than ten international summits will take place over the following six months.
Review of the troops
The first and most spectacular event will be the Paris summit on July 13 for about 50 leaders from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East programmed to launch Mr Sarkozy’s pet project for a “Mediterranean Union”. Leaders of all 27 EU members, plus 17 Mediterranean countries, are invited to a jamboree on the eve of Bastille Day to launch a new Union for the Mediterranean. Soldiers from Mediterranean countries that include Libya, Syria and Israel are invited by President Sarkozy to march in a “Euro-Mediterranean Bastille Day” military parade with European troops. The parade is expected to be the biggest yet, and will be followed by a fireworks display and a concert. Sarkozy wishes to turn the Mediterranean summit into an occasion to demonstrate that one of his great ideas has started to materialize.
Sarkozy’s fast-track gambit may pay dividends
Nicolas Sarkozy plans to launch the EU construction projects more or less simultaneously instead of successively, a tactic which he has already employed for the instigation of French social and economic reform. His fast moves dazzle both friends and foe alike. He makes a practice of moving too quickly for his political adversaries. And whatever Sarkozy does, he does it with style. Despite the sarcastic comments made by his detractors, one cannot help wondering whether Sarkozy’s dynamic approach may finally pay off, providing the opportunity to break down the EU’s institutional paralysis and overcome the traditional obstacles which have marred its construction.
To be continued…
Shocking behaviour at the weekend as Hello Magazine pin-up Nicholas Sarkozy verbally abused an unfriendly bystander at the Salon International de l’Agriculture. When have French farmers ever deserved such treatment?
Happily, video footage of the incident is all over Youtube. The clip I saw already had over 200,000 hits – see below
A question – is it a good political strategy for politicians to lose their rag on TV? Remember the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Perhaps this is all part of a cunning plan to use the power of digital to boost Sarko’s flagging Carla Bruni-inspired ratings…
Another example: Type former UK Deputy Prime Minister “John Prescott” into Youtube, the first entry you get is the infamous “John Prescott Punch”.
As one Youtube comment put it: “I think there should be more public vs. minister fights. Imagine the TV ratings.”
In fact, the internet is awash with politicians behaving badly – mass Parliamentary brawls being ever popular with Youtubers. Bolivian, Indian, Jordanian and Russian MPs have all taken their differences a bit too far in the past. But absolutely no-one can match the carnage often seen in the Taiwanese Parliament – see this compilation:
Such a crying shame these scenes are never repeated in the EP. The only fun we have is when Berlusconi comes to town.