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1st Oct 2020

Irish commissioner critical of Sarkozy

Outgoing EU commissioner for internal market affairs - Charlie McCreevy - has said the French hold disproportionate power in Brussels, and are also masters at securing senior EU positions for their own.

In a speech to the Association of European Journalists in Dublin on Friday (18 December), the Irishman directed special criticism towards French President Nicolas Sarkozy, pointing to recent statements by the French leader as a "coming out" on EU matters.

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  • Mr McCreevy has watched over the EU internal market for the last five years (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

After intensive lobbying, France last month successfully bagged the internal market portfolio nomination - including control over EU financial services - for former French minister Michel Barnier. Mr Sarkozy promptly announced the decision as "a defeat for Anglo Saxon capitalism."

"President Sarkozy has laid to rest once and for all the myth that EU commissioners, certainly French ones, when they go to Brussels, are expected to leave aside their home member state national interests and political priorities and act exclusively in the community interest," Mr McCreevy told the room of journalists, reports the Irish Times.

"What President Sarkozy's statement tells us is that like many of his fellow countrymen, he does not see the European Commission as a commission for the advancement of European interests," he added. "He sees it as a commission for the advancement of French interests."

Fears that French helmsmanship of the powerful internal market portfolio would usher in an era of excessive regulation had prompted UK attempts to see financial services hived off into a separate portfolio. However commission president Jose Manuel Barroso ultimately rejected the idea.

Mr Barnier himself has sought to smooth the waters between London and Paris following Mr Sarkozy's controversial comments, while Mr McCreevy said he felt his new replacement would be able to stand up to bullying from Paris.

Suggesting the French commissioner would be expected to follow orders from the Elysee Palace, Mr McCreevy said: "I think Mr Barnier is strong enough to resist such pressures."

Despite the critical comments however, the Irish politician expressed a certain admiration for the French way of doing business in Brussels.

"The influence of France in Brussels is impressive, though. People forget that the Brussels bureaucracy was designed by the French almost as a copy of how the administration in Paris works," he said.

"This has over the years given the French a huge advantage in knowing how to pull the levers of power. And if you look around the commission you will see that the French have been masters in getting their key people into some of the most powerful posts," he added.

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