Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sarkozy's Private Session in New York

Europe1 has obtained a recording of Nicolas Sarkozy's private meeting with bankers and businessmen in New York. His remarks can be read here. The most interesting is perhaps his assertion that larger European states must be given more power than smaller states:

L’Europe s’est construite en disant à 27 pays, petits moyens et grands : vous avez les mêmes pouvoirs. Ca ne peut plus marcher.

On ne peut pas avoir un système où 27 pays doivent attendre que le 27e soit d’accord pour que les 26 autres puissent avancer. Ce système ne peut plus fonctionner. Et qui peut mener ce leadership ? Les grands pays : l’Allemagne, la France, l’Angleterre, notamment, qui a toute sa place en Europe.

Mais l’Europe va devoir changer énormément sa façon de se construire et de décider. Ca sera le changement ou l’état de gouffre.
This is not a particularly surprising view from a former French head of state. It enforces a view of Europe as a Franco-German duopoly imposing whatever bargain it achieves on "lesser" states. This will meet with resolute opposition, as it should. Sarkozy is right to claim, as he also does in this interview, that Europe has been slow to recognize its relative loss of status with respect to emerging powers. But he persists in his own failure to recognize that the Franco-German duopoly, for all its preponderance in Europe, is no longer the proper lens with which to view Europe's future. The continental economy needs to be rethought as a whole, with fewer national biases and greater emphasis on international complementarities. Europe suffers right now from inherent structural inequalities, but these inequalities can also be seen as an opportunity if industrial organization evolves to take advantage of them, and in the process to reduce them. It would take a much longer essay than I have time for to substantiate this point, but to my mind Sarkozy's remarks, though worth paying attention to, represent the perpetuation of a classic vision of Europe that is no longer adapted to the state of the global economy.


Anonymous said...

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Art,

I haven't yet read the whole article but I am not altogether unsympathetic to what Sarkozy is saying here about France and Germany as the key players in Europe. As a practical matter, Germany and France are Europe. Certainly they have been the dominant players in European affairs ever since Germany was created and, if you count the Germanic states, then the competition between Germany and France goes back centuries.

The Twentieth Century was probably the most blood-soaked hundred years in all of recorded history and an awful lot of that blood was spilled because German and France both wanted to be the dominant power in Europe. So all that matters to me about European integration is contained in the Élysée Treaty of 1963 that effectively ended the struggle for hegemony in Europe and began the process of healing centuries-old wounds.

In my mind, the single, vital purpose for which the European Union was created was so that Germany and France would no longer contend to become the European hegemon. I believe that is why Charles De Gaulle invited Conrad Adenauer into his home at Colombey, and I believe that is why Adenauer went. All other aspects of European integration, economic restructuring and, most especially saving the euro, must take a backseat to preserving the friendship between France and Germany.

The riots and protests that greeted Angela Merkel during her recent visit to Greece reminded me of something that Mario Monti said a while back about how the eurozone crisis could lead to the disintegration of Europe itself. Monti said: "The Eurozone crisis has indeed brought about quite a bit of misunderstandings and the re-emergence of old phantoms about prejudices between the North, the South of Europe, and a lot of mutual resentment."

Before the eurozone crisis, Europe was democratic, peaceful, reasonably united and very prosperous. Now look at the place. The idiot leaders of Germany and the ECB turned a minor recession into a nightmare. Democratically elected governments have been ousted by supranational organizations originally designed to achieve minor improvements in coordination and efficiency. Anti-German feelings on the rise. Anti-EU feelings on the rise, too. Along with the rise of the fascists in Greece and the East (soon elsewhere, too) and the rekindling of all the old ghosts we thought had finally been put to rest. I do not care about closer integration. I care about staving off the apocalypse.

FrédéricLN said...


you make very good points in this post imho.

Moreover, Germany and France don't understand each other. (As a matter of fact, I'm presently part of a Franco-German research project, and the relatioship there is a pity).

They need the lotharingian circle around in order to be able to move together.

And then, indeed, the UK, Nordic countries, Spain, Poland and so on, can find their way.

But I wonder whether Nicolas Sarkozy can understand the Belgian either.