Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns of further sanctions against Russia

    Read more

  • Experimental Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • IMF stands behind Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Chelsea’s Torres set for AC Milan switch

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • France shines in IMF list of world’s promising economists

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

  • First case of Ebola confirmed in Senegal

    Read more

  • Obama has 'no strategy yet' on potential Syria strikes

    Read more

  • Netflix to woo French with ‘House of Cards’ set in Marseille

    Read more

  • French businesses ‘hoping for a new Thatcher’

    Read more

  • Syrian refugees surpass 3 million, UN says

    Read more

  • West backs Ukrainian claims of Russian incursion

    Read more

  • Libyan PM resigns as Islamists set up rival administration

    Read more

  • UN says 43 peacekeepers captured in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • The deleted tweets of Manuel Valls

    Read more

  • Peru seizes record 6.5 tonnes of Europe-bound cocaine

    Read more

Six months of feverish French presidency

Text by Caroline DE CAMARET

Latest update : 2009-01-12

The Union for the Mediterranean, Georgia, the financial and economic crises... For the past six months, the EU's rotating president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been fighting on all fronts. What will be left of his mandate?

Things started off badly for French President Nicolas Sarkozy as he took charge of the EU presidency on July 1st 2008. On June 12, the Irish rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum, forcing the French to change an agenda that was supposed to focus on climate change, immigration, defence etc. Except these 'priority' issues never really saw the light of day.

First successes, difficulties

 
The Union for the Mediterranean, Sarkozy’s pet project and a key element of his agenda, was launched in auspicious circumstances on July 13th on the occasion of the visit of 43 heads of states and governments. It was a diplomatic success. But in the months that followed, the difficulties within the existing Euro-Mediterranean partnership - known as the Barcelona process - and the deadlock of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process caught up with Sarkozy’s ambitious project.

In the meantime, there were other pressing issues to attend to. Sarkozy put all his energy into finding an end to the Georgian crisis. The fighting stopped but the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan was not all that it seemed. The EU did not guarantee Georgia’s territorial integrity since Moscow recognises the separatist republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is no going back.

A victory of realpolitik


The French presidency went ahead, even if, given Russia’s expansionist tendencies, it rubbed some of the former Eastern bloc countries the wrong way. Three months after he put negotiations for a long-term energy partnership with Russia on hold, Sarkozy advocated a new start with the support of Italy and Germany, who both share economic interests and energy markets with Russia. Realpolitik or abdication? The Elysée is betting that the future will show France was right.
 
The last surprise guest in the presidency was the US subprime crisis, which turned rapidly into a world financial and economic crisis. This time, Sarkozy consulted his British counterpart, Gordon Brown. The latter made an unexpected and successful comeback and delivered a bailout plan for the European banking system worth 1.8 billion euros in guarantees.

After increasing pressure was put on the German chancellor, first perceived as reluctant, the same method was applied to the European stimulus plan - worth 200 million euros. The plan's success will be measured during the course of 2009, following its approval at the Dec. 11-12 European Council. As for the thorny climate plan, also adopted during the last European summit of the French presidency despite the reluctance of several member states put off by the crisis, it will no doubt stand as a major success for France's ubiquitous leader.

Post-Sarkozy

We know when the French presidency started, but we don't know how or, apparently, when it  will end. The president of Eurogroupe, Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, could not resist saying: “You want a unique and energetic EU president, you've got one!” Yes, but what happens next? Sarkozy is said to want to stay on at the EU helm and organise informal Eurogroup meetings throughout 2009 to deal with the crisis.

 

"What I have done these last six months has been absolutely fascinating. I have no regrets; just look at all that can be done in six months! We have brought  about a change in old habits!", said the French president, evidently pleased with himself as he addressed the media during the European Council's closing press conference in December, before ending with a passionate plea: "Europe deserves to be loved, to be embodied."



On paper, the Czech Republic, not a member of the eurozone and reputedly more eurosceptic, will head the EU for six months starting on January 1. The Czechs will inherit unsolved problems like the Lisbon Treaty, the economic crisis, relations with Russia but also the high expectations raised by their predecessors.
 

 

Date created : 2008-12-10

COMMENT(S)