24th Oct 2016

Free marketism should not be Europe's 'creed', says Sarkozy

  • "If we agree to discuss only the subjects on which everyone agrees, the crisis of Europe lies not behind us but before us" (Photo: EUobserver)

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has outlined a vision for Europe that would see "untramelled" capitalism pushed far down the political hierarchy to be replaced by a focus on cultural and spiritual issues with more than a hint of European protectionism.

Speaking to an unusually full European chamber in Strasbourg on Tuesday (13 November), Mr Sarkozy said that despite recently fixing its institutional set-up, Europe remains in a state of "moral and political crisis."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The new Reform Treaty allows Europe to "take decisions and to act. But it does not say with what goals and with what purpose," said the president.

"Political questions still have to be dealt with," he said, adding that is why he is proposing the creation of a wise committee to discuss "without taboos" where Europe is going."

According to Mr Sarkozy, who has put France firmly back at the centre of the European stage since his May election, Europeans are having a "profound identity crisis (..) linked globalisation and the commercialisation of the world."

Noting that "economic values seem to win the day over other values," Mr Sarkozy said that it is a mistake to overlook culture.

"Europe can only be Europe in the eyes of all men if she defends spiritual values and civilisational values, if she gathers all her forces, all her energy for defending cultural diversity."

The French leader gave a lot of time to protectionism - a concept that has fallen out of favour in the EU since the more market-oriented eastern member states joined the bloc in 2004, coupled with the current European Commission with its strong liberal profile.

"The word protection should be not be outlawed," said the president adding that "we must be able to protect ourselves as much as others do."

"If others have the right to protect themselves against dumping, why not Europe? If other nations put industrial policies in place, why not Europe? If others defend their farmers, why shouldn't Europe defend its farmers?", he asked.

While Europe is "associated" with competition, it cannot be "alone in the world in making it a creed."

He went on to say that while Europe has chosen a market economy and capitalism, this should not give rise to "untrammelled capitalism."

His 30 minute speech - greeted with a standing ovation by MEPs - also drew to attention to the issues that France will focus on during its presidency of the EU in the second half of next year.

This is to include reform of the EU's farm policy after 2013, discussions on an eco-tax, and defence issues.

"How can Europe be independent (..) and have influence in the world if it is itself unable to guarantee its own security," said Mr Sarkozy.

But the French president, whose limelight-stealing activity on the European stage has both riled and charmed in almost equal measure, left one major topic out of his speech: enlargement and the issue of Turkish membership of the EU.

Some fear his wise group is front for halting Turkey's progress into the EU.

Since becoming president Mr Sarkozy has been credited with giving Europe the political impetus to agree a new treaty, he has also made suggestions for a Mediterranean union and has often spoke about the importance of European defence.

Meanwhile, he has caused friction in some quarters with his open criticism of the European Central Bank, falling back on promises to curb France's deficit and speaking of European industrial champions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity