Thursday

23rd May 2019

Sarkozy wants to choose own seat at NATO summit

  • The French president knows exactly where he wants to sit at the NATO table (Photo: NATO)

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to boycott the April NATO summit celebrating the 60th anniversary of the organisation, unless he is allowed to choose where he sits at the conference table.

The president appears not to want to follow the established rules whereby seating is arranged by alphabetical order. Instead, he has insisted he should be seated next to NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, according to a report in German Spiegel Online.

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Under a compromise deal, Mr Sarkozy would sit on Mr de Hoop Scheffer's right whenever TV cameras are in the room, while German chancellor Angela Merkel would sit to the left of the NATO chief.

Once the doors are closed to outsiders, however, the 26 leaders would switch chairs and be seated according to alphabetical order.

The secretary of the NATO council would then sit on one side of Mr de Hoop Scheffer, followed by the prime minister of Belgium, while the organisation's vice secretary-general, followed by US president Barack Obama, would sit on his other side.

France and Germany are co-hosting the April summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, during which Paris is expected to announce its return to NATO's military structures, after reportedly securing two senior command positions.

Parlez-vous Francais?

Meanwhile, Slate.fr - a French spin-off of the US online news magazine, which was launched earlier this month by a group of journalists led by a former Le Monde editor - last week focussed on the president's poor level of English and the difficulties it causes when talking with peers.

Mr Sarkozy - seen as the most pro-American French president in the country's recent history - will need a translator when he meets Mr Obama in April, Slate.fr wrote, citing "embarrased" advisors to the president.

In addition, the French leader's gaps in English mean he cannot participate in "small talk" with his non-French speaking counterparts during high-level meetings, and cannot freely give interviews to CNN or other English speaking media, unlike his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy or his predecessor Jacques Chirac.

As a student, Mr Sarkozy failed his diploma for the prestigious Sciences-Po - the Institute for Political Science - in Paris, due to bad grades in English.

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