Sunday

24th Jan 2021

France is 'back in Europe,' says Sarkozy

  • Mr Sarkozy received 53.06% of the vote while his socialist rival Segolene Royal got 46.94% (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU leaders have congratulated Nicolas Sarkozy on winning the French election while making it clear they now expect a reinvigorated and constructive France to come back to the European negotiating table on the bloc's future.

"France has always had a central place in the European political scene and it is not possible to have a strong Europe without a European France," said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in a statement released shortly after Mr Sarkozy's victory was confirmed.

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"I have complete confidence in Nicolas Sarkozy...to play a driving role in resolving the institutional question and consolidating European politics," he said.

German leader Angela Merkel, currently in charge of the EU and pushing to get a new European treaty off the ground, said "it is important to continue the close, trusting and intensive cooperation between Germany and France."

Mrs Merkel also said she was looking forward to soon meeting Mr Sarkozy, who comes from the same centre-right political family as both she and Mr Barroso, for a "first exchange of views" on Europe.

Mr Sarkozy's election as president is set to give European politics a renewed boost following almost two years of running on half-speed since France and the Netherlands rejected the EU constitution in referendums in 2005.

The shock votes by two founding member states sent Europe into a tailspin and saw France in particular step back from the EU stage.

In his victory speech on Sunday evening, Mr Sarkozy claimed that "France is back in Europe" adding that he was "delighted at the perspective of working together to reinforce the European Union."

He is expected to visit Brussels and Berlin soon after he is sworn in as president on 16 May as a sign of his commitment to Europe.

Mr Sarkozy's win is also likely to make it much easier for the gathering consensus among several member states that there should be parliamentary ratification and not a referendum on a new-look EU treaty to see the light of day.

He has long advocated a streamlined version of the rejected EU constitution that is not put again to the French voters in a referendum. If this political route is taken in France, it is likely to make it easier for other countries, such as the UK and the Netherlands, to use the same tactic.

But it still remains for Mr Sarkozy to reveal his true colours on certain aspects of Europe.

During the election campaign he indulged in a fair amount of Europe-bashing, saying the EU needed to do more for EU citizens and accusing Brussels of supporting unchecked free market economics.

He also called on the European Central Bank to be more interventionist in favour of creating jobs and growth, while complaining that the strong euro is harming French exports.

On Sunday, he returned to the theme of globalisation calling on other EU countries "to hear the voice of the people, who want to be protected" from its forces.

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