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Sarkozy: "oh yes, I forgot, there is the Europe of defence"!

Stunning! …
Friday, end of the European summit, the last of the French presidency (normally!). The traditional press conference arrives. The current president, Nicolas Sarkozy arrives flanked by the Prime Minister (Fillon), the Minister of the Environment (Borloo), the President of the Commission (Barroso) and the High Representative of the EU (Solana). An exercise – at which he excels and which, visibly, he adores – which looks more like a one-man show. Most of the personalities on the platform will not speak, except Barroso, the French president's polygotto stooge.

Solana deprived of speech. The President of the European Union sets out all the priorities (successful of course): the Lisbon Treaty, the financial crisis, the climate package, everything is included. He greets his collaborators: Borloo (who has “cleared the ground), Koucher (“an indispensable partner and friend”), Jouyet (whom we will “regret”), Fillon, etc. Then, Barroso, in the role of “Monsieur Loyal”, whose task is to be as boring as possible, launches into an anointing reading of his notes… Surprisingly, Javier Solana, the chief diplomat, will not be allowed to speak, even for one minute. Which is more than a lack of courtesy, a diplomatic mistake. But Sarkozy doesn't care. He can't wait to move on. Throughout Barroso's speech, he taps his fingers on the desk, chats with Fillon

“Ah yes I forgot to tell you”… Before throwing the microphone to the reporters, the most exciting part of the press conference, he changed his mind and said: "Oh yes. I forgot that on European defense, there are extremely important conclusions. Excuse me, but there are so many things.”… That's all. One of the four priorities of the French presidency is sent to a corner like a shameful package. The result, however, is not negligible (see here). And progress has undoubtedly been made, “in small steps”. But the president apparently doesn't want to dwell on it. However, he has things to say...

“Don’t be a dwarf when it comes to defense.” Responding to a question from a journalist, he found a way to describe his vision: “Europe must exist, be ambitious, stop being naive, shake up the changing world. (…) This is what Europe has lacked: ambition, the desire to carry the European model, without aggression towards others, including European defense. It doesn't bother me at all to say: in cooperation with NATO, with our NATO friends, but Europe must have its own defense policy with its allies. But Europe cannot be a dwarf in defense matters and a giant in economic matters. It is not possible. On subjects of this nature, we really found perfect agreement. This is progressing".

“I have the next NATO summit in Strasbourg in my mind”. The idea is noble but imprecise. Returning to the charge, I ask him to specify in what way, for him, it is a success? Answer : “It is a success to see that, now, no one sees European defense policy as an aggressive policy towards the United States. But it is monumental progress. Even President Bush said at the last NATO summit in Bucharest that the European defense policy was necessary. (…) We must move forward. Our English friends are ready to move forward. Our Polish friends will play their full part in it. All Europeans understand that it is not: either friendship with the United States, or the independence of Europe's security. We can do both. We must also do both, together. »

In the end, a vision that remains very Atlanticist and very European. That's all. But it's pretty clear. Two options: either the president has not worked on his files and there is no one around him to tell him some details... Or the president has another vision of defense Europe, than the one that we are currently presenting. A much more Atlanticist vision – which moreover sticks more to his conception of politics – than communitarian. In other words, what matters is above all the reintegration of France into the operational commands of NATO (with the April summit in Strasbourg – Kehl), its dialogue with the United States to build (together?) a European pillar within it. And not really to develop an autonomous European defense. A policy that is also more in line with the needs of the Americans. Because Sarkozy has taken over something that does not belong to him. Bush's intervention at the Bucharest summit cannot be credited to the French presidency and European defense. First of all, it took place well before the French presidency, at the beginning of April. And it responded, above all, to an American internal concern for the reorganization of the army and American defense (which intends to restructure its bases, partly leave
Europe). A reflection initiated across the Atlantic for several months (years) already…


Also read on: the intervention in the Congo. and the closing of the base in Ivory Coast

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).