Friday, January 23, 2009

Spectacular, If He Does Say So Himself

On nonfiction.fr, an interview with Guillaume Klossa, who was an advisor to Jean-Pierre Jouyet during the French presidency of the EU, reflects on that experience. The interview, conducted by Mathias Mégy, a member of EuroNova, of which Klossa is president and founder, is a pure exercise in self-puffery and would hardly be worth your attention if it weren't such a perfect specimen of the way in which the French presidency has been inflated to some sort of world-historical achievement that not only could not have been done without Sarkozy but also points the way to the future of the EU.

By Klossa's reckoning, France's performance was nothing less than "spectacular." Thank heaven, he seems to say, for the two crises that demonstrated the indispensability of an energetic executive. Of course not a word is uttered about the failure to address long-term issues plaguing the EU, issues that had been at the heart of the French agenda before Sarko's six-month term began. Agricultural imports? The Common Agricultural Policy? Rebalancing of structural funds? Democratic deficit? European defense capabilities? A strategy for the long term regarding aspirant nations to the east (Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey)? None of these things matter, we are asked to believe, because Sarko shuttled between Moscow and Tbilissi and between Berlin and Washington. This is nonsense on stilts, and it wouldn't alarm me if I thought Klossa were merely behaving as a publicity flack, but I think he might actually believe what he says, and that others in France might believe it as well.

That is not to say that the French presidency was a bust. Sarkozy did effectively demonstrate that an energetic president can galvanize the intergovernmental process. The problem is that the process needs to embrace an entire agenda, not just the issues that happen to command headlines during a single president's tenure. Europe's real problems are long-term and structural. (See today's earlier post about the propagation of the economic crisis for what it reveals about structural economic difficulties in Europe.) France was entitled to drink a New Year's toast to its reasonably successful EU presidency. But it's now time to empty the champagne glasses, sober up, and face the problems that were not dealt with between July and January. The Czech Republic isn't going to do it. Jouyet's resignation as soon as the party ended suggests that France isn't going to do it either. Klossa's backslapping is a sad reminder of what was left undone.

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