Sarkozy threat to pull France out of Euro?

Seems Nicolas Sarkozy, Global Dashboard’s favourite European leader, was in typically understated form during the recent Eurozone crisis summit:

Sarkozy demanded “a compromise from everyone to support Greece … or France would reconsider its position in the euro,” according to one source cited by El País.

“Sarkozy went as far as banging his fist on the table and threatening to leave the euro,” said one unnamed Socialist leader who was at the meeting with Zapatero. “That obliged Angela Merkel to bend and reach an agreement.”

Europe: don’t look to us when sterling collapses

UK reluctance to help with the Euro bailout has not gone down well at all:

Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the head of the French markets regulator, said sterling was bound to come under pressure on the markets given the delay in forming a UK government after last week’s inconclusive general election.

Mr Jouyet, a former Europe minister who is close to President Nicolas Sarkozy, indicated that Britain could expect no help from the eurozone.

“The British are most definitely going to be targeted given the political difficulties they have,” he told Europe1 radio. “If they don’t want solidarity with the eurozone, we will see what will happen with regard to the United Kingdom.”

Following its refusal to help its neighbours, Mr Jouyet said Britain had become a peripheral player in the bloc.

There was now a “three-speed Europe”, he said: “Europe of the euro, the Europe of countries that understand the euro, such as Poland and Sweden, and the British.”

Global Governance: a very French debate

This week, all the big ideas for the future of world order are coming from Frenchmen.  Here’s WTO Chief Pascal Lamy speaking in Brussels on how the EU should present itself in future G20 meetings (as recorded by Charlemagne):

“If one European takes the floor on one topic, and then another European takes the floor on the same topic, nobody listens. Nobody listens because either it’s the same thing and it gets boring, or it’s not the same thing and it will not influence the result at the end of the day….So the right solution, if I may, is at least to make sure that they speak with one mouth. Not one voice—one mouth—on each topic on the agenda. That would be a great improvement.”

If plodding Anglo-Saxons find this voice/mouth thing a bit too Gallic for comfort (they’ll be distinguishing the signifier and signified in EU policy next!) it’s really rather elegant: if lots of European leaders insist on going to G20 confabs they should “divvy up the agenda ahead of time, and agree that one leader would speak (and only one) on each topic in the name of the EU”.  In New York, meanwhile, President Sarkozy spoke on global governance at Columbia today, forsaking elegance for ambition:

“In the 21st century,” he said, “we cannot afford that only a handful of countries lead the way. India, Africa and Latin America represent 2.5 billion people, but have no permanent seats in the Security Council. On this trip, I am initiating a reform to have permanent members from every region of the world. We need this in order to tackle the global environmental and financial challenges we are facing.”

I’d like to tell you more about Sarkozy’s speech, but (i) he abandoned his prepared text, so we’re still waiting for a full transcript; (ii) almost every account of the event I’ve read so far has focused on how Carla looked.  Which was, if you must ask, good.

[Picture credit: Columbia’s Hoot.]

Update [David]: The Telegraph sees a conspiracy in something called asymmetrical translation:

The French version of the binding summit text, agreed on Thursday, used the original words “le gouvernement économique”.

To spare Mr Brown’s feelings, the English text used the more innocuous and less controversial term “economic governance”.

“There is no fundamental difference of view, but rather a sensitivity to certain words which has led to an asymmetrical translation,” remarked the EU president.

Incompetent multilateralism?

The Economist’s David Rennie asked a disturbing question last week: if Obama’s America can’t make soft power work, what hope does Europe have? His thesis is that Obama has followed just the sort of multilateral, engagement-before-confrontation type of strategy that the EU advocates, and been rebuffed by Iran, Israel, China, etc.  Meanwhile, Baroness Ashton and her fellow EU-builders still hanker after soft power…

But here is the question that I am starting to turn over in my mind.If our big bet in Europe is that speaking with one voice will make our norms-based, soft power approach work, what lessons should we draw when Mr Obama’s outstretched hand of friendship is smacked away? Because even in a perfect, parallel universe, in which the EU magically falls in line behind Catherine Ashton and the new EU diplomatic service, we will struggle to become one half as united as the American government is. Our 27 countries will always find it hard to match America when it comes to identifying and defending our interests. And though there can of course be differences in the messages sent out by the White House, the State Department, Congress and so on, in general America speaks with one voice to the outside world, in a way that the EU can barely hope to match.

And yet all that speaking with one voice, in defence of agreed, common interests, does not seem to shield the Obama administration from snubs.

This is an eloquent version of a problem that wonks who worry about multilateralism and transatlantic relations have been aware of for some time. The EU did a huge amount to sustain multilateral institutions during the Bush years, and benefited from playing good cop to Washington’s bad cop. Now Washington wants to be a good cop too, and European leaders feel vulnerable. If Obama’s strategy fails it won’t just discredit him, but the EU’s international approach since 2001 (or earlier).

Rennie quotes a European official who claims the problem isn’t the strategy, but the execution: the Americans are guilty of “incompetent multilateralism”. The implication is that, if only the U.S. applied its power with a little more European finesse, Obama would be in a better place right now. I’m not so sure. Continue reading

On the web: hung parliaments, Iran, the Euro’s plight, and the Queen as horizon scanner…

– With the UK election campaign under way in all but name, the FT’s Martin Wolf explains why he doesn’t fear a hung parliament – arguing that it might be just what’s needed to achieve fiscal restraint. “So poorly has single-party despotism governed the UK”, he suggests, “that I would welcome a coalition or, at worst, a minority government.” The Institute for Government, meanwhile answers all your hung parliament-related questions here, placing things in international and historical perspective.

– The Cable highlights the Obama administration’s key people on Iran. Richard Haass, meanwhile, suggests that the West’s strategy must do more to help the Iranian people – with the US and EU acting to “energise and lend rhetorical support to the opposition, helping it to communicate with the outside world”.

– Elsewhere, Der Spiegel profiles the five main risks to the Euro – namely Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, and Italy – assessing their economic woes. Charlemagne, meanwhile, interviews Cathy Ashton. And The Economist also has news that Dominique Strauss-Khan, current IMF head, is considering running against Nicolas Sarkozy in France’s 2012 presidential elections.

– Finally, this week saw a group of British Academy experts writing to the Queen about the failure to foresee the credit crunch – a follow-up to a question from the monarch at the LSE last summer. Their suggestion: the need for a better-coordinated government horizon scanning capacity – something that could take the form of a monthly economics briefing to the Queen, which would serve – as Professor Peter Hennessy has commented – to “sharpen minds” of officials. Read the full letter here (pdf).

“Just then, the state of British domestic political debate looked a bit shameful”

Last time we caught up with Charlemagne over at the EU heads’ meeting in Brussels, he and his fellow hacks were sniggering about some unfortunate new acronyms. As the summit drew to a close last night, he and the gang were still chuckling away (what a jolly place Brussels sounds to be) – this time at Gordon Brown’s breezy assertion to a joint press conference with the French President that “Nicolas Sarkozy is one of my best friends”.

Amid the general hilarity, though, his concluding observation was interesting:

Mr Sarkozy came across as the bigger man, full stop. At his worst, Mr Sarkozy can be maddening: playing fast and loose with the facts, bullying, cynical and boastful to the point of parody. At his best, he is a politician with a genius for seeing what is important, and detecting the moment for action.

The good Sarkozy came over today. A visiting political reporter from a British television station asked a question. Transferring money to the developing world to help them with climate change might be the right thing to do morally, he said to Mr Brown and Mr Sarkozy. But was it not time to be “honest with voters” about the cost of these measures, and their impact on growth and the economy, he asked, especially at this moment when the markets’ confidence in [Mr Brown’s] economic management was collapsing?

Mr Brown gave a defensive answer about new green services and industries, which would create 400,000 new jobs in Britain. Mr Sarkozy looked at the British reporter as if the man had just coughed up a hairball.

“What is the alternative?” the French president asked. “Think about it. monsieur. What if the richest countries do nothing to help Africa to develop… What if there were no deal at Copenhagen? You think that will not cost our economies dearly? Between Europe and Africa, the Straits of Gibraltar are 12km wide. You think we can leave them in that poverty? You think that won’t cost a lot of money? I’ll tell you what costs money, monsieur: it’s doing nothing. What causes a crisis, is the failure to act.”

In his obsession with costs, the television reporter was no doubt accurately reflecting a good chunk of British public opinion. His question will certainly not have surprised Mr Brown in the least, as was reflected in the prime minister’s reply about the profits to be made from green technology.

I admit that I am not always convinced by French arguments in favour of more public spending. But just then, the state of British domestic political debate looked a bit shameful: small-minded, chiselling, money-obsessed and generally lacking in strategic vision. Mr Sarkozy looked pretty unimpressed, and he had a point.

Europe: you’re either with us or against us

Honestly, how tedious enthusiasts for European integration are – almost as tedious as avowed Eurosceptics, in fact. Despite the fact that Euro-cheerleaders were among the biggest critics of President Bush’s ‘with us or against us’ approach to foreign policy, they seem wholly unable to recognise their own indulgence in the same fault when it comes to people’s views on the benefits of further European integration.

Case in point: the sources cited in today’s FT by Tony Barber, the paper’s excellent Brussels columnist, who writes that

Many on the Continent see [Euroscepticism] as a British identity problem that extends beyond some acute nervous condition of the modern Tory party. The UK, they say, is already a semi-detached player in Europe. It defends the City of London, but does not join the eurozone; it shapes EU foreign policy, but stays out of the Schengen border-free travel regime; it signs the Lisbon treaty, but secures opt-outs on justice and home affairs. No other EU member-state is so standoffish.

Oh for heaven’s sake. As I noted here a few days ago, I’m pleased that Lisbon finally looks set to enter into force because I think Europe badly needs to raise its game on foreign policy coherence. I’m a big enthusiast for the single market, and a fan of what Europe has achieved on climate change. But why does it follow on that I should be a supported of every possible facet of European integration? Continue reading