Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 13, 2008

December 12, 2008

Charles Bremner in Paris – The Times


The Germans see him as an excitable clown and he raises hackles in the East, but Nicolas Sarkozy wants to extend SARKOZY, ACCORDING TO MERKELhis reign as Europe’s de facto leader after his last summit in the EU chair, which opened yesterday.

The hyperactive French President is convinced that he has galvanised Europe with deft handling of the credit crunch and other crises during his six-month EU presidency.

The satisfaction in Paris is barely dimmed by the most glaring failure of France’s presidency: Mr Sarkozy’s cold war with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.

The subdued Ms Merkel, who loathes Mr Sarkozy’s bravura, has been watching videos of the late Louis de Funès, a manic comic actor and Gallic institution, for clues to understanding the ever-agitated President.

Der Spiegel says that the Chancellor sees Mr Sarkozy as an “unfeasibly vain jack-in-the-box”: “She has nothing to counter him apart from her eternal impassiveness. Her fist may be clenched but she keeps it in her pocket.”

“Super Sarko”, who does not claim modesty among his qualities, is telling colleagues that he has triumphed by steering Europe through the financial crunch – with Gordon Brown’s help – and creating a new political purpose in the moribund Union.

Jean-David Levitte, the veteran diplomat who manages foreign policy from the Élysée Palace, said that Mr Sarkozy had swung the balance of power in Europe by winning over second-rank members such as Greece.

As the Czech Republic prepares to take over the presidency next month, Mr Sarkozy’s team has been setting out his plans for maintaining French direction. Last month Ms Merkel scuppered Mr Sarkozy’s attempt to appoint himself chairman of the eurozone for next year during the EU presidencies of two non-euro states. But France has another 18 months as co-chair of an EU-Mediterranean Union that Mr Sarkozy launched last July.

His next plan, not yet announced, is a new “economic and security space” with Russia, Mr Levitte disclosed. Given anger in the West towards Russia’s occupation of northern Georgia, European leaders will be surprised to learn that Mr Sarkozy aims to offer a new security pact to Russia and hopes to bring in Ukraine and Turkey.

Another item to emerge from Mr Sarkozy’s team this week has been the President’s belief that Mr Brown will swap the pound for the single currency, thereby boosting the power of the eurozone. “Do you think that they enjoy seeing sterling in such a state?” asked a senior Sarkozy adviser.



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