Thursday, 27 March 2008
On the first day of his state visit to Britain, French president Nicolas Sarkozy called for closer Franco-British ties and for the UK to take its full place in Europe in order to bring along necessary changes to the bloc.
In a speech on Wednesday (26 March) to the joint houses of UK parliament, the French president said he wanted to "write a new page of our common history, that of Franco-British fraternity, a fraternity for the 21st century.
"I have always believed that Europe needed the UK. I have never reduced France's European policies simply to our relations with the Germans. The Paris-Berlin axis is at the essence, but it is not enough, and I have never ceased wanting to work in close cooperation with London," he later told BBC radio. In addition, as the president of a state which rejected the draft European Constitution in 2005, Mr Sarkozy said he had understood the main message of the French and more generally the European citizens at that time - that they wanted a "different Europe".
But in order to make this happen, London should take its full place in Europe, he said. "So, I want to say to the British: help us build this different Europe. But for this Europe to be different, you must be part of it," he said. "Who could imagine that we can build a Europe of the future without Britain and who could imagine that Britain could live, survive alone, outside of Europe? One cannot succeed alone, we need others," he added.
In particular, the French president noted, joint efforts are needed to keep the European economy competitive, to boost a common defence policy, as well as to tackle immigration. Mr Sarkozy, who is seen as the most Anglophile French president in the country's modern history, will today meet UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to also discuss cooperation on nuclear power development and climate change.
In addition, both leaders are expected to make a call on financial markets to be more transparent, following the recent global credit crisis. A discussion on UN Security Council reform is also on the agenda. Both France and the UK want a reform of the institution, making it more representative. The French president also recently called for a permanent seat to be created in the Council for Africa.
Trading CAP for defense?
As Mr Sarkozy hinted repeatedly about France's potential involvement in NATO missions around the world, starting with Afghanistan, he likewise suggested that the United Kindgdom has a role to play in this new European defense strategy. He mentioned that simply producing prosperity is not enough for Europe - security needs to be generated as well.
As a trade-off for British acceptance of this European path, he cautiously mentioned a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy - something that voices in the UK have been calling for.
However, it is to be doubted Mr Sarkozy would get much support in this from French farmers. Not to mention the view that 'NATO is enough' held in matters of security by many British politicians.
The NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania to take place between 2 and 4 April will be crucial for any possible agreement on these issues.