Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

Sarkozy: I'm not cut out to lead an EU institution

Forced to reflect that this week's EU summit might be his last as he trails in polls ahead of April elections, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he does not have the temperament to lead an EU institution.

"I don't think I have the qualities to be a good European Commission or European Council President," he said in Brussels on Friday (2 March) in response to a press question on his potential future career.

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  • Sarkozy at work in Paris. The French leader told press in Brussels he is not an EU kind of man (Photo: elysee.fr)

With the first round of elections taking place on 22 April, Sarkozy is polling 3.5 points behind Socialist contender Francois Hollande.

A second round vote, on 6 May, sees Hollande on about 56.6 percent, according to an Ifop poll published Thursday, compared with 43.5 percent for Sarkozy.

Sarkozy - known for his frenetic style and brusque put downs when irritated - indicated he is not cut out for running either the European Council (where the president has a largely administrative role) or the European Commission (which calls for collegial decisions).

He noted that Herman Van Rompuy - freshly re-elected as EU Council president for a second term - is a "good" president because he does not overshadow leaders.

"I am sure I would do it less well than him," Sarkozy noted.

He went on to damn Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the commission, with faint praise: "As to Mr Barroso, I can't compare myself with him. He is at the commission."

Cameron's letter

Sarkozy also had fun at David Cameron's expense after the British leader complained that growth ideas he laid out in a letter with 11 other leaders were brushed aside at the summit.

Sarkozy said he is glad that "our British friends love Europe so much" that they send letters.

The humour masked a continuing fundamental difference between London and Paris.

Noting that some 90 percent of Cameron's letter had been included in the final conclusions of the summit, Sarkozy said there are some elements that are "not possible."

These included the tendency - "always present among our English friends" - to further deregulation. The French leader said he would not countenance a new law opening up the EU services market - a move seen by critics as allowing a rush to the bottom in terms of social protection and wages, but by its proponents as potentially unlocking thousands of new jobs.

In the end, Sarkozy's will prevailed.

The summit conclusions speak vaguely about looking forward to the commission's report on the current services law. The letter of the 12 referred to the possibility of drawing up a new law in the area.

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