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Sarkozy and Brown broach the big issues

Latest update : 2008-03-28

In their initial summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown discussed the international credit crisis and the conflict in Afghanistan. (Report: C.Norris-Trent, S.Silke)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown vowed to hold more regular meetings to coordinate policy on the second day of the Franco-British summit in London.

"We believe that by working together France and Britain can be an even greater force for good," Brown said during a joint press conference with Sarkozy, adding that friendship between the two countries could soon be termed an "entente formidable".

The two leaders agreed to boost cooperation on such issues as opening up trade between poor and rich countries, clamping down on illegal immigration and tackling climate change.

Concerning the current economic crisis, Sarkozy and Brown called on banks to make full disclosure of the scale of damage to their operations. They said further talks were needed with the United States and other countries to ensure financial stability.

The French and British leaders chose to meet at Arsenal’s new London stadium — the location was chosen to represent a new page in the nations’ long history.

The success of Arsenal, a leading English football club with a French head coach and several French players, provides an optimistic backdrop to newly warmed ties between the UK and France.

Relations across the Channel, which suffered after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, have improved since the two leaders came to power last year, and both sides have promoted this amicable image during Sarkozy’s first state visit to the UK.

Speaking at a formal dinner at Windsor Castle Wednesday evening, Sarkozy likened the Franco-British relationship to that of two quarrelsome brothers. "Certainly, we fight sometimes, perhaps even often. But we have always treated each other with esteem and respect,” he said.

Brown struck a similar tone, telling members of parliament earlier in the day that London and Paris had "a good deal in common and a shared agenda for the future".

Working together in Afghanistan

As he addressed a joint session of the British Parliament on Wednesday, Sarkozy announced that France would bolster its troop numbers in Afghanistan — a move welcomed by both Britain and the United States — saying that the battle against the insurgents was entering "a crucial phase".

"We cannot accept that the Taliban and al Qaeda return to Kabul. Defeat is not an option, even if victory will be difficult," Sarkozy said.

Sarkozy reiterated his proposal on Thursday and said he had "no reservations" about holding a debate in the French parliament on the mission. Details of the plan are to be announced during next week’s NATO summit.


Economic ties

Sarkozy and Brown also agreed to intensify exchange of nuclear technicians and expertise. Britain recently decided to construct new nuclear power stations after a freeze of more than 20 years.

A nuclear cooperation deal between the two countries could give French companies privileged access to Britain, thereby boosting France’s economy.

While the deal may cause some controversy in Britain — where a strong anti-nuclear movement exists — Brown’s government claims that a new generation of nuclear plants will help Britain reduce its carbon emissions.

EDF Energy, the British subsidary of France’s national power company EDF, is keen to build four such plants in Britain.

On the first day of Sarkozy’s visit, Queen Elizabeth praised the increasing ties between the two nations during the formal banquet. “Well over a third of a million French people now work in Britain, while increasing numbers of Britons are choosing to live in France. Not only culturally, but also economically, we are doing so much more together,” she said.

Date created : 2008-03-27