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Does Nicolas Sarkozy’s European project put the European constitution in danger?

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Nicolas Sarkozy, being a candidate for his own succession, offers ideas to enhance European integration. One of the examples is the renegotiation of the Schengen agreement on the tone of the ultimatum.
Source: Flickr

Nicolas Sarkozy, an accomplished but misunderstood European

Hélène Legay | translated by: Hélène Legay | 2012. May 15. 17:45

Arnaud Danjean, MEP, during the April 4th, 2012 conference organized by Dijon’s Young Europeans, announced that his and Sarkozy’s party, the UMP, was fully European. The verbal inflation characterizing this presidential campaign should not forget Sarkozy’s ideas and beliefs on European integration.

On March 11th, 2012 during his meeting in Villepinte, Nicolas Sarkozy announced two key measures for Europe: a revision of the Schengen Agreement and the establishment of new trade policies. Far from being "a step backwards", which would make Sarkozy a remote cousin of the Hungarian eurosceptic Viktor Orbán, the new policies - even though rather predictable, prove a certain level of voluntarism of the current Head of State in regards to European affairs.

*A necessary revision of the Schengen Agreement

Far from beating around the bush for which some European leaders are frequently criticized, the presidential candidate said that the Schengen Agreement should be "revised". Signed in 1985 between Germany, France and the Benelux, the first Schengen Convention established the free movement of citizens of member states within the signatory countries without undergoing any passport controls. Institutionalized at the European level by the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997, the Schengen area now gathers twenty-five countries. The revision, sometimes described as a "thunderclap", is not actually a new idea. In 2011, the influx of Tunisian immigrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa reignited the debate, revealing a lack of surveillance at the external borders. Reforms aiming at its reinforcement have already been undertaken. Nicolas Sarkozy can be criticized for running out of new ideas, but not for constituting a danger for the Union. Even though the tone of an ultimatum may seem slightly aggressive, it is only used "to make the States fulfill their duties", as Danjean stated. A reasonable question comes into mind; why should we show more tolerance for immigrants abandoning an European-supported movement of democratization of their countries?

*Pro-European trade policy

Nicolas Sarkozy also proposes a "Buy European Act", based on the "Buy American Act"; introducing a sort of community preference, however having nothing to do with protectionism. This measure would reserve a part of the European public markets for European companies instead of attributing them to non-European companies benefiting from subventions provided by their national governments. He mentioned an example of the United States that "have a law that requires commissioning a part of public commands to their small businesses". This aims to promote and protect, and certainly not weaken, the EU in the context of economic crisis and increasing competition in international trade.

*Enhancement of the European construction

Far from being a nationalist populist, as he is often portrayed, the presidential candidate calls for "a political government of Schengen similar to a government of the euro zone." These measures must be assessed in the light of the place occupied by Sarkozy on the European scene. In 2005, the presidential candidate strongly defended the eventually rejected Constitutional Treaty. Voluntarism of the current French Head of State regarding European affairs and his efficient cooperation with Angela Merkel prove his deep engagement in the Schuman’s project and make some accusations of his "anti-Europeanism" obsolete.

The misunderstood mode of the ultimatum caused controversies regarding the European project of the UMP candidate for the 2012 presidential election. However, the proposed measures, even though perhaps lacking freshness, are by no means alarming and they certainly aim to strengthen European integration- a mission that Nicolas Sarkozy has always supported.

Nicolas Sarkozy threatens the European construction in order to be reelected

Eve bourdillon | translated by: Eve bourdillon | 2012. May 15. 17:45

During his election campaign, Nicolas Sarkozy wants to appear as someone who will reform the European Union in order to make it stronger. However, to win the electoral competition, he must equally reassure his electorate to protect the French. As a result, his discourse is far from being pro-European.

Among the four major candidates in the French presidential election, François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy are known as ‘European figures’. This exaggerated qualification reveals the current wave of Euroscepticism. Indeed, instead of considering the other Member States, the European project of Nicolas Sarkozy mainly aims to seduce the French electorate.

*Renegotiation of the Schengen Agreement as a way of seducing the far-right

On March 11th, 2012, Nicolas Sarkozy issued an ultimatum. It required a renegotiation of the Schengen Agreement under the threat of having France reestablish controls on its borders. Individual actions imposing his preferences onto other member states are typical for impatient and demanding French President. More concerned about his popularity than the European construction, Nicolas Sarkozy decided to trouble the members of the Schengen area. His ultimatum could encourage other European partners to respond in a similar, stubborn way. This attitude may be understandable due to some obvious advantages. Indeed, the French have an impression that their xenophobic and Islamophobic fears constitute a sufficient argument to renegotiate a fundamental treaty of the European Union. However, this is not true. Leaving the Schengen area would be extremely complex. It is obvious that this "ultimatum" is nothing but a political trick to seduce both the Eurosceptic and xenophobic electorate. However, it seems that in France, not only these two groups frequently overlap but also they already have a political representation. Who goes even further than Nicolas Sarkozy and wants to leave the EU because of euro? It is Marine Le Pen. In France, this name has various connotations. For instant, it evokes the stigmatization of immigrants via accusations of stealing the use of French, undermining the culture and the cohesion of French society. Her close relations with the far right are obvious.

*Inappropriate context to renegotiate the Schengen Agreement

In addition, a renegotiation of the Schengen Agreement is very dangerous, as reaching a compromise had already been laborious. How could such an undiplomatic leader hope to find an agreement that would satisfy 26 different national interests? It remains obvious that treaties must evolve together with the European society. It would be foolish to freeze in spite of considerably changing conditions. However, the moment to do so must be chosen wisely. The current situation does not seem favorable. Europe is already facing the economic crisis, a dilemma between enlarging and deepening the European construction, a growing distrust of the people vis-à-vis the European institutions... Only a strong and consensual figure could lead such a renegotiation at this time – and Nicolas Sarkozy could only guarantee a decline.

*Opposition to Turkey - a mistake

Moreover, the President of the French Republic declared his opposition regarding the potential adhesion of Turkey to the European Union. Sarkozy, known for his homophobic position especially towards people of Arabic origins, however adopts a strange position. After many efforts to prove to the European Union its "Europeanness", Turkey cannot stand the humiliation of waiting. It wants to be a leader of the Arab world. Due to energy issues and its engagement in many regional conflicts, Turkey would have inestimable effect to the European Union. Staying in an opposition to Turkey’s accession, Nicolas Sarkozy became an enemy of many Arab countries. The EU would yet need more allies than rivals.

*From ideological to economic rigidity

Finally, as if an irresponsible foreign policy was not enough, Nicolas Sarkozy seems to confuse ideological and economic choices. Representing the hostile French right to an extensive governmental intervention, he prefers to lower taxes and reduce governmental spending. However, today, Europeans do not dare to spend for fear of running out of money the next day. As a result, the European Union is facing a crisis of demand. It would be logical to expect governments to supplement populations by increasing their demand. There is nothing more efficient than an increase of public spending, as currently companies are forced to produce less than they could. Unfortunately, following the ideology of his party, Nicolas Sarkozy prefers fiscal discipline and chooses a limitation of state spending. In the great debate between rigor and growth, the French president calls for rigor, even if European populations are already on the ground. This is a complete portrait of Nicolas Sarkozy, being firstly a presidential candidate, and only secondly the head of a leading member of the European Union.

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

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Nicolas Sarkozy, an accomplished but misunderstood European

Hélène Legay|translated by: Hélène Legay

Nicolas Sarkozy threatens the European construction in order to be reelected

Eve bourdillon| translated by: Eve bourdillon

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