Friday, September 17, 2010

Astonishing Rebuke

Nicolas Sarkozy, under fire in the EU for his policy of expelling Roma from France, invoked the support of Angela Merkel:

«Mme Merkel  m'a indiqué sa volonté de procéder dans les prochaines semaines à l'évacuation de camps, nous verrons à ce moment là le calme qui règne dans la vie politique allemande.» «Je dois dire que j'ai été très sensible au soutien complet, total et entier une fois encore d'Angela Merkel sur cette question comme sur tellement d'autres», a-t-il ajouté.

The problem is that this statement was a lie, according to Merkel. In an astonishing public rebuke, Merkel's spokesperson issued the following statement:

n'a pas parlé de camps de Roms en Allemagne avec , «ni lors du Conseil européen, ni lors d'entretiens en marge», a déclaré le porte-parole de la chancelière allemande jeudi soir à Berlin, récusant ainsi les les propos tenus par le chef de l'Etat français, à l'issue du sommet européen qui s'est tenu à Bruxelles. L'Elysée n'a pas souhaité réagir, peu après l'annonce du démenti.
 This open disavowal of the French president by the German chancellor is simply flabbergasting. The idea that Sarkozy would simply have invented an exchange with Merkel and that he would have invoked her "total and entire" support without having cleared it with her beggars belief. A president who behaves in this way permanently discredits himself. Plummeting in polls, attacked for human rights violations, chastised by the Pope, sued by Le Monde, and now slapped in the face by Merkel, Sarkozy seems to be coming unhinged, prepared to say anything and do anything to retain his increasingly tenuous hold on power. How long before an open revolt breaks out in his own party?


Passerby said...

It's a bit quick to assume that Sarkozy "made-up" the story. He has tendency to speak too fast, but he has been long enough in politic to know that it doesn't fly easily to put words in another leader's mouth.

I find it much more plausible that Angela Merkel told him "off the reccords" that Germany also had Roma issues and would like to get rid of the camps. Of course, not expecting that Sarkozy would turn around and make it a public announcement.
Given Merkel's weak position in Germany, plus her country's sensitivity on human right issues, she wouldn't want to pay the political price of acknowledging what she told Sarko.

I wasn't in the room with these two, so I can't know what was said. But this look more like another blunder to me than a pure invention.

brent said...

to Passerby's point:
Whether Sarkozy simply invented his remark, or quoted an off-the-record remark of Merkel's without permission (and I agree that the latter is more plausible), the distinction is small: in either case it's an astonishing breach of protocol bordering on mental instability (as Fidel Castro of all people seemed to notice).
What seems more significant to me is that a head of state can execute such a gaffe (along with his many other recent lapses) and be rewarded by an increase in popularity, as seems to be happening. We are seeing this in the US with the blatant lies and misrepresentations of the far right, which seem to promise them big victories in the fall, but I somehow hoped for better from the French electorate.

Boz said...

I agree. Both statements seem aimed a domestic audiences, and the fact that Sarko's put Merkel in a tight spot and Merkel's did likewise to Sarko was the international collateral damage. If Sarko's becoming unhinged, it's not because he's going back to the immigrant thing, which is his tried and true MO at home, but that he'd so easily trash his relations with the Germans over it.

Anonymous said...

The bigoted sectors of any electorate have a proven record of forgiving a lot in the way of "gaffes" from a leader who's willing to play to their tribalism. In fact the "gaffes" become a feature, since they're transmuted in the ears of the followers into folksy plain talk of the kind that those fusty elites -- too snooty and intellectual and above-it-all to pander to chauvinism and nativism -- don't like. If Sarko is benefiting, it's from this kind of doublethink.

Squiggle said...

But his popularity is still very low. He's picked up a couple of percentage points from the far right, but that seems to be about all.
A larger proportion of the French seems to be unhappy about the EU's criticisms (for now) but that doesn't mean that they're liking Sarkozy any more than they did. A majority almost always reacts that way to outside criticism (and in this case some might disagree with the forms the criticism has taken while agreeing that there is something to be criticised).

Anonymous said...

Attacking a journalist from Le Monde and his sources is a gift that keeps on giving:

Apparently the president has become a "volcano".
Did he make things up? Did he merely exagerate, or "take his wish for reality" as the French say?
Barroso was quoted in the news for saying that Ms.Reding apologized for an exageration and there are SOME (pointed look and tone) who'd be better advised following her example.
Not to mention my friends in other European countries got a news report about the "heated words" between Barroso and Sarkozy.
It seems that more people believe Merkel than Sarkozy on this.
The Guignols summarized: "without us French, the Portos would have remained a bunch of mustache-wearing bricklayers so Barroso better apologize to me!"
I did notice how he used "I" and "France" quasi one for the other, and that reminded me of Louis XIV, whose court is soon going to be immortalized by the writers and producers of MadMen.
la france c'est moi.


Squiggle said...

According to new polls:

54% of the French attach 'une grand importance' to the criticisms by the EU (85% on the left)

71% think that the image of France has been degraded

Anonymous said...

A French politician fibs (if Merkel is right) and you are flabbergasted? I am flabbergasted at your naiveté.

Anonymous said...

of ourse Merkel lied
She's already expelled 10000 Kosovo Roms and still 10000 more to expell, she doesn't want that the medias focus on Germany

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous posting at 12:19 (and coming from another anonymous not bothering to log in) - The Kosovar Roma were not Citizens of EU member states and did not theoretically have the guaranteed and automatic right to reside in the EU.
The Roma expelled from France predominantly came from Romania (if I recall rightly). Though citizens of Romania, like many of the other recent entrants to the EU), still are not fully covered by the freedom of movement provisions of the EU, my recollection is that the Romanian Roma do still have somewhat more rights on this issue vis-a-vis the Kosovars who have no freedom of movement guarantees.