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Sarkozy to assert leadership with euro crisis speech

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-12-01

The speech about the eurozone crisis Nicolas Sarkozy is set to deliver Thursday is a bid to show jumpy markets, watchful EU colleagues, and sceptical French voters that he is confidently navigating the economic storm.

Facing what will likely be a bruising re-election battle next spring, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is set to deliver a speech Thursday in a bid to show sceptical voters, jumpy markets, and other European powers that he is confronting the eurozone crisis head-on.

Sarkozy will give the eagerly awaited address in the southern port city of Toulon, where he spoke in 2008 about the global financial crisis and the need to “re-found global capitalism”.

The speech comes at a crucial moment for Sarkozy, with rating agencies pondering a downgrade of France’s “AAA” debt rating and a major European economic summit scheduled for December 8 and 9.

He is also fighting for his political future, with polls showing him gaining some ground but still losing in a hypothetical presidential match-up against Socialist challenger François Hollande next May. Sarkozy has not officially announced his candidacy for re-election, but is widely expected to do so.

Sarkozy, France’s ‘protective father’?

According to Bruno Cautrès, a political analyst at the Centre for Political Research at Paris’s prestigious Institute for Political Studies (“Sciences Po”), the speech indeed has certain electoral motives. “The official objective is to reassure the French, to explain the situation and the measures that have been decided upon,” Cautrès told FRANCE 24. “But the hidden objective is to gain the upper hand in public opinion and to kick off his efforts to re-conquer French loyalties.”

Sarkozy and other European leaders have pledged to protect the Eurozone economies from the debt crises that have already gripped countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain, but they have yet to agree on a coordinated approach.

France, struggling against stagnating growth and spiking unemployment, has argued for the introduction of the much mooted Eurobonds. But though German Chancellor Angela Merkel supports treaty changes that would allow Brussels to more closely monitor EU member states’ national budgets, she opposes the Eurobonds idea and strengthened European Central Bank.

Sarkozy and Merkel will face pressure to iron out their differences behind close doors and pitch a plan to other EU leaders next week.

Thursday’s speech is expected to provide hints at what this plan might look like, as fears abound that markets will tumble further if a strategy is not agreed upon by the end of the summit December 9.

Sarkozy’s budget minister, Valerie Pecresse, said before France’s National Assemby on Tuesday that France and its European allies will be working toward greater “discipline” and “solidarity” in the eurozone and would aim to implement “stronger institutions that can intervene more efficiently”.

In the meantime, Sarkozy hopes to use his speech to present himself as the “protective father” of the nation, Cautrès told FRANCE 24. “He needs to show that he’s not fatalistically accepting the situation,” Cautrès said. “He’ll try to communicate that ‘can-do’ spirit he was once known for.”

Date created : 2011-12-01

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