Friday, April 30, 2010

The EU, Greece, and Sarkozy

The Times notes the invisibility of EU's new leaders on the Greek issue. The Lisbon treaty, its ink hardly dry, has thus been shown to have failed in one of its major objectives, to create a new point of international coordination. But no one really expected much of the present leadership, especially in the face of German intransigence. The puzzle is Sarkozy, who in the past was not bashful about asserting leadership even when he had no legal claim to it. After the relatively successful French EU presidency, he even proposed to continue as "virtual" leader in the absence of a real one. Although he has said the right things on the Greek debt issue, he hasn't pressed his point as forcefully as we know he might. This suggests two things: real fiscal constraints and anxiety that the French electorate isn't as passive as it seems. A more vocal push in favor of a larger bailout might risk triggering a backlash--the populist backlash whose absence in France I noted the other day--among precisely those voters who are slipping away from him most rapidly, those who have little patience for supporting supposedly profligate foreigners and who may have voted FN or sovereignist in the past. Sarkozy is protected on this issue by an elite consensus, but he knows full well that the elite consensus on the EU does not reflect popular sentiment (remember 2005!). He is the one who pushed through the Lisbon treaty despite the prior referendum, and the deeper the skepticism of the EU and the euro, the more his identification with Europe will become an electoral liability. So he has lowered his profile, in my estimation.

For a different view of the crisis and the EU role, see Judah Grunstein.

1 comment:

FrédéricLN said...

Well, I wouldn't play the political psychologist I'm not, but I feel your analysis of Nicolas Sarkozy' motivation very likely true.