Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Sarkozy has support in Berlin, London and Brussels

Berlin, Brussels and London are quietly hoping that Nicolas Sarkozy, the centre-right candidate in the French presidential elections, will win on 6 May.

According to a report in today's Financial Times, German chancellor Angela Merkel, UK prime minister Tony Blair and Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, have privately discussed the idea of forming a "strategic partnership" with Mr Sarkozy.

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The French politician's pro-American stance - he remarked last year that he is happy to be called "Sarkozy the American" - would fit well with the pro-transatlantic outlook favoured by those three politicians.

In addition, Mr Sarkozy's proposals for economic reform are seen as more likely to get France out of the economic doldrums in the long run than those of Ms Royal, the socialist candidate, who he faces in the second round run-off in just over a week's time.

Mr Sarkozy has promised to cut taxes, deregulate the labour market by making it easier to fire people and replace just half of retiring civil servants. While he is not above protectionism, his programme fits better with the free market tendencies strongly pushed by the current European Commission.

For her part, Ms Royal has promised to up the minimum wage, increase spending on pensions and increase job security.

Mr Sarkozy also fits more comfortably into the current EU treaty schema being proposed in many capitals under which the draft EU constitution - rejected by French and Dutch voters two years ago - would be pared down and then put to national parliaments for ratification, rather than the more politically risky public poll.

Ms Royal, however, has said she wants to add to the treaty and said the French people should decide once again on whether to accept it or not - a move that would force other countries to follow suit.

Mr Sarkozy continues to lead Ms Royal in the polls. He came through the first round with 31.1 percent of the vote to Ms Royal's 25.9 percent, while three polls published yesterday (26 April) by Ifop, BVA and Ipsos SA gave the conservative politician a six point lead over his left wing challenger (53% to 47%) for next Sunday's second round.

But while some capitals may be secretly hoping Mr Sarkozy does win. It was not all plain-sailing with him in the past. As finance minister he riled Brussels by coming to the engineering company Alstom's aid when it was in trouble and promoted "national champions" as a way of protecting French companies from foreign takeover.

Meanwhile, last month, he reacted to the takeover of Arcelor, Europe's largest steel maker, by the Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, by calling it a "mistake" and promised to have a "real industrial policy" if elected - remarks that were greeted with dismay in Brussels' liberal headquarters.

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