He was President of France for barely a month when the socialist newspaper, Liberation, called for Nicholas Sarkozy to give up jogging because “it is a capitalist pastime designed to undermine serious thought and democracy.” This gave rise to a national outburst of blogging on whether running was, in fact, right wing. The French magazine, Marrianne, took aim from another angle. It published side-by-side portraits of Sarkozy and Napoleon III. The inference was obvious. The Emperor of France from 1852-1870, Napoleon III was an authoritarian figure who practiced relentless self-aggrandizement. Some pundits have begun to wonder if Sarkozy, who seems to share those character traits, is angling to become the first Emperor of Europe. He is certainly a man on the run and that grandiose job title is not just a wild-eyed flight of fancy.
An article in the July 4th edition of The Guardian, England’s left leaning broadsheet, proclaimed “Emperor Sarko Leaves PM to be just a messenger.” The Prime Minister to which the headline refers is Francois Fillon, the former French Labour Minister. He was the man responsible for the French retirement system and the implementation of the boom busting 35-hour work week policy. Just as the British press loved to tag Tony Blair as George Bush’s poodle, Fillon (who — it must be said — now jogs daily with Sarko) is already being called a “puppet.” Low riders call him Sarkozy’s “mini-me.” The article asserted that Fillon comes out only to deliver speeches dictated by his boss, and then returns to the shadows (although how long could they be?) cast by the hyperactive and short “Super Sarko.” Yet another French publication joined the linguistic fray by coining the word “Tsar-kozy” to describe the new President’s governing style. Then, striking real fear in the hearts of militant secularists, Socialist leader Francois Hollande went on a tirade before the French Parliament accusing Sarkozy of exhibiting downright godly qualities. He lashed out at Sarkozy as being: “omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, decides everything, talks about everything, intervenes in everything and is everywhere.” Now a word in your ear about Hollande. After the Socialist party candidate — the fetching Segolene Royal – lost the Presidential election to Sarkozy, she dumped Hollande. He was not just her domestic partner (French for common-law wife), she is also the mother of his four children. Socialist family values.
The accusation that he is everywhere came just after Sarkozy participated in his first European Union meeting in June and then took his first non official, non- European trip, to visit Algeria and Tunisia. For those who were absent from class that day, Algeria was once a French colony and there are lots of hard feelings about the split. More than 1.5 million Algerians died fighting against France for their independence. Again Sarkozy wowed an unsuspecting world with a real grandstand play. He came to state that French industries were now poised to invest — big time — in Algeria. He spoke of future joint ventures in power production — traditional gas reserves, biofuels, and “civil nuclear energy.”
Next came the topic of immigrant labor. Since all Polish plumbers and carpenters have presumably left for England, and they are running low on Turks in Germany, Europe is facing a shortage of low level jobbers. Sarkozy seems to favor opening the gates to legal immigrants — from Muslim countries — to fill the expected gaps in Europe’s workforce over the next two decades.
But wait. There’s more.
Before the press could catch its breath, Sarkozy announced that it was time for “La Mediterranean Unity” (MU) which is to be an extension of the EU model. Sarzoky forged ahead and unilaterally invited Southern European and North African leaders to a get together for some alliance-shaping in 2008. The Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, stood next to Sarko during this press conference, smiling broadly.
When someone did manage to ask Sarkozy if he was inclined to apologize for the colonial misdeeds of France, he said more than just NO. Algerians today, he explained, “are looking at the future. They do not want their leaders to put everything on hold and engage in self-flagellation for the mistakes or mis-steps of the past.”
Sarkozy also made an unprecedented appearance at the annual meeting of ministers for the Euro Area (known as the Euro-Group) on July 9th. Since they created the Euro currency, it seems that NO European head of state ever came to a follow-up meeting to hammer out the details. Not one of them. They voted to go Euro and then left the details to financial wizards who probably studied economics at Hogwarts.
Is it magic that it now costs $1.35 to buy a single Euro? So what’s up with Sarkozy nosing his way into this meeting? It is rumored that Sarkozy has his own ideas about how the European Central Bank does business. He also believes that certain trade policies have to be finagled (love that word) to benefit those countries, which signed on to the Euro concept. Can you spell “subsidies?” He is also poised to intervene in a stalled joint European venture involving the manufacturing of airplanes. Alors!
A few weeks ago, speculation had it that Tony Blair was going to become the first President of the European Union. He and Sarkozy were seen exiting a Paris eatery, arm in arm as comrades do, which was interpreted as Sarkozy wanting Tony to become top boy at the EU.
This past week, the European Commission Chief, Jose Manuel Barroso, floridly proclaimed: “The EU is not just any old international organization, nor is it a super state, but it might just be an Empire.” To which he added for emphasis: “We are a very special construction, unique in the history of mankind.”
On Bastille Day, (Saturday July 14th) Sarkozy led the traditional parade down the Champs Elysees. Escorted by mounted regiments of the French Republic Guards, he stood up in the back of a French military vehicle as it passed around the Arc de Triomphe. Behind him — at his invitation — marched troops from the 26 other European Union nations. It is the first time such a military display was ever coordinated.
For some time there has been chatter about creating an EU Army. Just days before this major French holiday, Sarkozy gave a speech to a gathering of European defense ministers and military officers. "The basis for a European defense exists. We must make it grow," Sarkozy said, "I want Europe to be capable of ensuring its security autonomously." Emphasis on the “I.”
"It was a parade of armies but it is peace that we want to celebrate," he explained.