Sarkozy insults EU colleagues and US leader at lunch
17.04.09 @ 09:26
Nicholas Sarkozy, the talkative and not infrequently tactless French president, has once again been robustly, awkwardly blunt.
His style, which has seen the politician call impoverished suburban youth "scum" and tell a heckler to "sod off, asshole," normally brings a smile to the kind of conservative voters who find it refreshing to hear a politician abandon the langue du bois, or "wooden speaking style" historically used by the country's leaders.
But this time those whom he has insulted are some of his most important international allies, and they might have a different sense of humour to the politically incorrect man on the street.
At a lunch with 24 French senators and MPs from all parties invited to discuss the state of the ongoing financial crisis on Wednesday (15 April), the French president gave an update to his colleagues on the results of the recent meeting of the G20 in London.
In so doing, he described Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, as stupid, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, as simply following Mr Sarkozy's lead and Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, as "absent." By the end of the lunch, he had also cast the new American president, Barack Obama, as inexperienced and not up to speed on the issue of climate change.
The sole global leader that remained high in the French president's estimation was the equally unpolished Silvio Berlusconi, for his repeated electoral successes.
Mr Sarkozy had perhaps assumed that the private discussion would not be passed on by his guests, but among their number were not a few opposition politicians, and Liberation, the left-wing French daily, immediately published their reports of the meeting.
According to the politicians, the president said of his American counterpart: "Obama has a subtle spirit, very intelligent and very charismatic. But he's only been elected two months and has never headed up a government ministry in his life."
"There are a certain number of things about which he has no position," he said, Liberation reports. "I told him: 'I don't think you've really understood what we have done regarding CO2. You have talked, but one must act.' The [EU] climate-energy package that I got passed during the french [EU] presidency will see in 2020 a reduction of emissions on 1990 [levels]. We in Europe have sanctions against states and companies. He just wants to return to 1990 emission levels and there are no sanctions."
French magazine L'Express reports that Mr Sarkozy also joked about Mr Obama's saintly image in the context of a planned visit to France in June. "I am going to ask him to walk on the [English] Channel, and he'll do it," the French leader said.
Mr Sarkozy qualified the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, as "totally absent from the G20" and said of the German chancellor: "When she realised the state of her banks and her automobile industry, she had no choice but to take on my position."
The most piquant phrase came with dessert, for the Spanish prime minister. "One can say many things about Zapatero ...He's maybe not very intelligent," Mr Sarkozy said.
He added that intelligence is not a vital element in politics, as he knows many intelligent politicians who have failed to get re-elected.
He then saluted the Italian prime minister for being able to surmount such hurdles. "The important thing in a democracy is to be re-elected. Look at Berlusconi. He's been re-elected three times."
The 24 deputies are scheduled to be invited for another presidential lunch briefing on the financial crisis in June.