Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Sarkozy cancels Sweden visit over Turkey

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has cancelled a visit to Sweden scheduled for next Tuesday (2 June) in order to avoid a clash on the question of Turkey's EU membership just days before the European elections and a month before Stockholm takes over the EU's rotating presidency.

Officially, Mr Sarkozy's office said the trip was cancelled "for agenda reasons."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • "We should avoid halting EU enlargement," said Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

But the French president, who is an outspoken opponent of Turkey's entry to the European Union, did not want to highlight the strong divergence of views on this topic with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Le Monde reported on Thursday (28 May).

Sweden favours further EU enlargement, including to Turkey. On Monday this week, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt told Le Figaro newspaper that the EU had "a strategic interest" in Turkey's EU integration and warned against "closing the door" to Ankara.

"If we judge Cyprus to be in Europe, although it is as in island along Syria's shores, it is hard not to consider that Turkey is in Europe," Mr Bildt said, referring to Mr Sarkozy's repeated statements that Turkey is not a European country and does not belong to Europe.

Additionally, Mr Sarkozy probably did not appreciate that Mr Bildt expressed views different from his on the economy, French newspapers comment.

In the Figaro interview, Mr Bildt said: "My vision of Europe is not as defensive as I observe it with other people."

In a reference to aid plans for the car industry - very much promoted by Mr Sarkozy - the Swedish top diplomat said that for him, "spending taxpayers' money to subsidise existing structures is a very good way of wasting money."

The French president's trip to Sweden was cancelled the day after the interview was published.

"Nicolas Sarkozy cancelled his visit because of the Carl Bildt interview," one minister told Le Monde.

"The president wanted to avoid a clash on Turkey and did not want that his visit to Sweden interferes with the elections [five days later]. There are [also] too many dossiers that are too important to prepare with the Swedish EU presidency to spoil that visit," another official told the paper.

The upcoming Swedish EU presidency is the real reason behind the cancellation, rather than the context of the European elections, according to Le Figaro journalist Pierre Rousseiln.

"Nicolas Sarkozy does not fear confrontation," he wrote in his blog, adding that defending his position in Sweden could even have been beneficial for Mr Sarkozy ahead of next Sunday's vote.

If he refused to go to Stockholm, he did it to avoid a clash just a month before the Swedish EU presidency starts and it is a sign that Mr Sarkozy is expecting a number of difficulties during Sweden's six-month term at the head of the bloc, Mr Rousselin wrote.

The French president's office is currently working on rescheduling the visit for another date before the end of June.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

EPP hits threshold to trigger Orban expulsion probe

At least seven national parties from Europe's biggest political alliance, the centre-right European People's Party, want the group's 'enfant terrible', Hungary's nationalist and authoritarian Fidesz kicked out - following Budapest's latest anti-EU campaign.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us