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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs