News

France's Sarkozy Will Leave Mixed Legacy as EU President

On New Year's Day France hands over the rotating European Union presidency to the Czech Republic, ending one of the most eventful six-month tenures ever as head of the 27-member bloc.  

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is known as a man of action - and he had plenty of issues to act on during France's six months at the helm of the European Union. France's agenda initially included launching a new European-Mediterranean partnership including North African and Middle Eastern nations, and to advance the Lisbon Treaty to reform the 27-member EU.

But unforeseen events worked to shape the French presidency into one of the most dynamic in EU history. First came the brief war between Russia and Georgia in August. President Sarkozy went to both capitals to secure a cease-fire agreement.

Then came the financial and economic crises.  Mr. Sarkozy called for a European summit for figure out a common strategy to tackle the meltdown - and pushed for a larger summit of the world's top economic powers in Washington.

In a farewell address to the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg earlier this month, Mr. Sarkozy dwelt on his tenure as EU president.

The French leader said he had learned tolerance and a certain overture in trying to address the problems of 27 nations. He had tried to change Europe, he said, but Europe had changed him. And he said the European Union was more necessary now than ever.

A number of diplomats and pundits have praised Mr. Sarkozy's energy, including European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Philip Whyte, a senior analyst at the Center for European Reform in London, also gives the French president good marks.

"I think Sarkozy on the whole has done quite a good job," he says. "Sarkozy is not someone who has a particularly coherent ideological view of the world. He's really a man of action rather than a man of ideas. And because he's a man of action, he's actually brought to the EU a lot of the energies that were needed at this current point in time."

Some analysts actually wonder whether Sarkozy has left a lasting mark on the role of an EU president because he has been so active these past six months. Earlier in December, he also managed to secure EU agreement on a climate change plan considered the most far-reaching to date. Still, the final deal was watered down.

"Maybe he's tried to fill a real political role, to show he's a political leader. It's not sure he succeeded in that field because on many issues he didn't get a major outcome," says French analyst Philippe Moreau Defarges. "One example, the climate/energy package. It's clear that agreement is not an historical agreement, it's just adding the 27 national visions."

Mr. Sarkozy's authoritative style has also managed to ruffle feathers - notably that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"The Franco-German relationship has always been the key relationship within the EU," says analyst Philip Whyte. "But I think Sarkozy's approach to diplomacy has always riled the Germans. And I think the personal relationship between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy is at an all-time low."

Mr. Sarkozy has scored political points at home. A poll earlier this month found 56 percent of French approved of his EU presidency. His popularity has also risen compared to earlier this year, when many French disapproved of his lifestyle and his tough reform policies.

But analyst Defarges points out that many French are more interested in issues facing them at home - notably the moribund economy and unemployment - than the European Union.

As for Mr. Sarkozy - he may be ending his European presidency, but he appears intent on keeping France a major world player.

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs