Centre-right French presidential candidate Nicholas Sarkozy (currently the front-runner) has been doing a bit more to set out his attitude towards the EU. He’s already announced the that he thinks (fairly sensibly) that the existing EU constitution should be heavily revised, proposing a “mini” constitution to pass essential reforms this year, with further deliberation to follow.
Now he’s going into what looks like a bit more detail, with a speech attempting to shake off those suggestions of anti-Americanism (that were pretty much inevitable for any candidate coming from the same party as Chirac – or, indeed, any candidate who happens to be French…) as well as promising a new French approach to the EU.
He’s pretty good, this chap, as proved by the fact that he somehow manages to get in phrases that would normally seem utterly contradictory – some appealing to pro-EU types, some to the antis. (For my eurosceptic friends, check out his analysis of the current state of the EU in the third paragraph… You’ll doubtless take it as proof of everything you’ve been claiming about how wide-ranging the EU’s influence now is – but remember, that’s just, like, his opinion, man…)
I have two priorities, the independence of France and the future of Europe…
Our most urgent foreign policy priority is to resolve the institutional crisis opened by the French and Dutch ‘no’ votes…
After half a century of European construction, we are united enough for none of our members to be able to act independently, but not enough to be able to act together. Europe has a common space but no common power…
The friendship between Europe and the United States is vital for the world’s balance. The friendship between France and the United States is deep, sincere, I would even say indestructible.
But friendship means respect… it does not mean submission. I want a free France, I want a free Europe. I therefore ask our American friends to let us be free, free to be their friends.
In other words:
Meaningless soundbite platitude
Something needs to be done (but I don’t know what)
The EU’s lost its way (but I don’t know how to help it back on track)
I really like America, except for the bits I don’t (and yes, yes I have been watching Hugh Grant’s closing speech to Billy Bob Thornton’s American President in Love, Actually)
With another couple of months until the elections, will Sarkozy be able to keep up this superficially impressive sounding rhetoric that actually means precisely nothing? Can he continue to avoid committing to any definite policies when it comes to the EU?
Foreign policy has played a fairly major part in the election campaign so far – if Royal or Bayrou can hit on something that resonates with the voters, Sarkozy’s continued platitude-heavy prevarication could end up looking like indecisiveness rather than the cunning “all options are open and I just want to do the best for the country” approach he’s trying to present at the moment. He may be in the lead now, but anything could happen.
Ah – a tight election… It’s been such a long time since we had one of those in the UK that I’d almost forgotten what they were like.