Rene — The Future of Europe?

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Rene — The Future of Europe?
ed. note:
These three articles outline two “rising stars” in European politics, in Germany and France respectively. Hard to imagine that given the popular resistance to the war in both those countries, what may follow from the debacle in Iraq, the continued fears over America’s unilateralism are two candidates that are characterized as “pro-America.”
0. Rising stars plan Franco-German strategy
1. Transcript of Angela Merkel interview
2. The talented Mr Sarkozy
0. Rising stars plan Franco-German strategy
Rising stars plan Franco-German strategy
Kim Willsher in Paris
The Guardian
Tuesday July 19, 2005
Two politicians viewed as the rising stars of European politics will
meet in Paris today in a new twist to the Franco-German alliance.
France’s would-be president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Angela Merkel, who
is likely to be Germany’s next chancellor, are expected to discuss
the future of the EU and cooperation between their countries.
It is the first meeting between the pair – both pro-Britain and
admirers of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair – since Mrs Merkel won
the leadership of the Christian Democratic party.
She is tipped to become chancellor after elections in Germany in
September. She holds a clear lead over the current chancellor, the
Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder.
Mr Sarkozy, France’s interior minister and the head of President
Jacques Chirac’s UMP party, has been outspoken in his criticism of
the French leader, and intends to stand for president in 2007.
Mr Sarkozy and Mrs Merkel are meeting as heads of their parties. But
the occasion is widely viewed as a get-together of two of a new
generation of European leaders who intend to change the face of
politics at home and abroad.
“Both have the same approach – to overthrow the old guard – and
both are looking like rising stars,” said a political analyst in
Paris. “They represent the new political generation who have broken
away from, you could even say betrayed, their mentors, Chirac in
Sarkozy’s case and [Helmut] Kohl in Merkel’s, and want to shake
everything up, starting with their parties.”
Mrs Merkel, who celebrated her 51st birthday on Sunday, grew up
in communist East Germany, the daughter of a Lutheran priest and a
teacher. When the government of the then chancellor, Helmut Kohl,
was thrown out in 1998, she was appointed secretary general of his
CDU party. In a scandal over party financing which followed, Mrs
Merkel was publicly critical of Mr Kohl, her former mentor, and in
2000 she became the first female leader of the party.
Mr Sarkozy, who turned 50 in January, has risen despite having failed
to attend the École Nationale d’Administration, normally a prerequisite
for France’s administrative and political class. A lawyer and formerly
one of the country’s youngest mayors, he was a protege and friend of
Mr Chirac until he backed a rival in the 1995 presidential race.
Unlike their countries’ current leaders, both are pro-America and
believe in a market-led economy. They are both admirers of the British
economic model and have publicly complained that their countries are
being run on outmoded and inefficient policies.
However, while London might welcome a less frosty relationship with
its neighbours than it does with Mr Chirac and Mr Schröder, analysts
say a Sarkozy-Merkel rise to power might breathe new life into the
ailing Franco-German alliance, relegating Britain to the sidelines.
Unlike Mr Blair, both Mr Sarkozy and Mrs Merkel are opposed to
Turkey joining the EU, and support state-backed industrial and social
Yesterday Mr Sarkozy was accused of trying to “wreck the government”
in which he serves. In a television interview, the president of
France’s national assembly, Jean-Louis Debré, said the interior
minister needed to calm down.
“With his endless criticism and denigration of the president, Sarkozy
is wrecking the government’s programme,” he said. “Does he want to
show his indignation at not having been made prime minister? Does he
want to stop the government succeeding?”
1. Transcript of Angela Merkel interview
By Bertrand Benoit and Andrew Gowers
July 20 2005 18:45
The following is an edited transcript of the FT interview with Angela Merkel,
Christian Democratic Union leader.
Angela Merkel: I was in France. I spoke to the president, the prime
minister and to the interior minister, but in the last case I was
speaking to him in my capacity as chairwoman of the party — we
are parties that are also linked by a partnership. I think that
the bundling of the forces of the centre-right in France in the
form of the UNP has been a successful step. For this reason, it was
productive journey.
FT: Do you get on as well with Tony Blair?
Angela Merkel: In Europe it is particularly important that we build
good relations to everyone who holds political responsibility because
Europe can only be build together. The majority of decisions in
Europe are done by unanimity . That’s why it is important to be to
have good relations with all parts.
I believe that, just as the French-German friendship has traditionally
been an important pillar of the EU, the Anglo-German relations
should also be amicable and open. I can say on behalf of the CDU that
this is something that we want to promote. Although the Tories, our
British counter-parts, are not in power, so one has to try to work
out something with those that are make British politics.
FT: Let’s assume that you win the forthcoming elections, what will
you expect from the British EU Presidency? Do you think, for example,
that the budget debate can finally be sorted out?
Angela Merkel: We are of course working towards winning an election
— but we still do not know whether there will be an election or not.
We have of course expectations from the British presidency. On the
one hand, the financial projection is on the agenda — we will see
if this problem can be resolved or not. I think it is a right idea
to stage a special summit, which would deal with the question of
priorities of European politics. As politicians we have to react to
the fact that many people do not feel that they can relate to the EU.
I think that the EU with the Lisbon agenda has put the right emphasis
on growth and employment. Above all it is important to point out
that we can only maintain our prosperity in Europe if we belong to
the most innovative regions in the world. Today we are amongst the
most innovative regions in some areas but not in sufficient areas.
Thus, the focus on this main political goal must become more visible
in EU politics and to achieve this, we need a political impulse. It
must be clear what the priorities on the agenda are. Personally,
I think that for example the chemical directive in its present form
does too much damage to the chemical industry — especially the medium
sized businesses — and will hurt our worldwide competitiveness. As
Europeans, we cannot put ourselves in the position where we put an
additional burden on ourselves and then wonder why we are not winning
the global race. This has to be carefully measured and I therefore
think that this special summit would send out this message and this
is something that I would welcome.
FT: Mr Blair thinks, before we talk about the European programme
and the constitution, that the national governments have to do their
homework as far as local economic reform is concerned.
Angela Merkel: It is a fact that, if I single out Germany, our rate
of growth is too low and we have very high unemployment. This is
especially deplorable since it is Europe’s largest economy. That is why
part of our government programme is to show the alternatives over here.
At the last summit the heads of state and government have agreed
on a period of reflection. Thus, there are other jobs to take care
of now. This period cannot be a time of inactiveness. I have just
explained my idea of how a constructive period of reflection, one that
would send a clear message to the citizens of Europe: You should now
what our priorities are. For Germany this means: Unemployment is one
of one of our biggest problems.
FT: Can I ask a few questions about the current government? What do
you think were Schröder’s main mistakes and what have you learnt
from them?
Angela Merkel: Herr Schröder has conducted two electoral campaigns,
and he is doing it again now, by not telling people what is really
necessary. He keeps avoiding the difficult and uncomfortable issues,
those that imply changes and therefore provoke discussions. People
have become used to the broken promises of Schröder’s government. His
own party basically did not support the government’s policies because
they had always relied on what was promised in the election campaigns
and then were surprised that other measures were taken. From this
experience we have learned that in a big party it is important to
have the necessary and often controversial discussions on policy
issues such as the health system while in opposition. This allows us
to come to decisions which will be part of our electoral programme
so people now what to expect, once we are in power.
FT: A frequent argument is that Germans are not capable of reforming
Angela Merkel: I would say this is utter nonsense. The people in
East Germany have lived through so many changes in the last 15
years like never before in the country, and they did this often
with great enthusiasm. But in the West we also have a high degree
of transformations. Everyone who is able to work today does so under
very different conditions. The willingness to learn new skills is very
high. If you ask people what they are prepared to do in order to adapt
to globalisation they say “I am willing to learn new skills”. Parents
today do no longer expect there children to come and work in the
family business but they urge them to go for new careers.
It is nonsense to say that Germans are unable to change. The reason
why we do not have the Transrapid high speed train in Germany is not
because Germans would not accept new railways to be build. It has to
do with the political environment and the very slow decision making
process. In this respect politicians can change a lot to deliver
changes much faster to the people. The question is not whether we are
able to change but whether we are changing fats enough. There is still
some convincing to be done. That is what we want to do in the campaign.
FT: Do you think that on of the problems are the lobby groups who
keep talking the country down?
Angela Merkel: The problem is, of course, that these interest groups
are all asking for changes, but their enthusiasm for change rapidly
disappears when it affects the core of their own interests. Everyone
wants a more simple tax system. But if this means that certain tax
breaks have to be cut, people are no longer so enthusiastic. That
is why everyone in politics, and we do it, must make sure that they
do not depend on one single interest group. A good compromise is one
where everybody makes a contribution.
FT: Do think that German politician needs to distance themselves
more from all these lobby groups which are stronger here than in
other countries?
Angela Merkel: Politicians have to be committed to people in equal
measures. The unemployed have the weakest lobby. That means their only
lobby are politicians so we must make sure we have as few unemployed
as possible. On the other hand we see how many people withdraw from
the unions and employers organisations. As politicians we have to
make sure that we remain to be a party with a broad public appeal.
FT: Should you not warn the public that it may take up to three years
to create jobs so that people do not expect change to happen now?
Angela Merkel: I am not one of those who said that there would be
instant results — neither in relation to Hartz IV nor our own
government programme. In the case of Hartz IV, we had always said
that Hartz IV would not create jobs.
FT: Economists say that by dropping the cost of wages by one per cent,
there would be an increase of around 150,000 new jobs. What do you
think about this?
Angela Merkel: I find it interesting. But I also think that people
over estimate how accurate such prognoses are.
FT: In East Germany, wages are lower and the working hours are more
flexible, the trade unions are weaker. At the moment, West Germany is
used as a benchmark against which to measure East Germany. Why don’t
you turn things on their head and say: “Those who invested in the East
— Porsche, BMW etc — did not only go East because of subsidies —
that was obviously a reason — but there were other factors. Why do
you not take East Germany as a model for what Germany could be like?
Angela Merkel: I do not want the national level of income to sink
to the level in the East. We are still at the same stage we were at
at the beginning of the nineties, when people told us: “Unity is the
equalization of living standards in Germany.” The past fifteen years
have shown us that change has also been on going in the West.
2. The talented Mr Sarkozy
Tuesday July 19, 2005
The Guardian
Not for nothing is Nicolas Sarkozy the unchallenged holder of the
title of the most interesting man in French politics. The charming,
media-savvy leader of Jacques Chirac’s centre-right UMP party, who
is also deputy prime minister and interior minister, never misses an
opportunity to score points against his former mentor, whom he now
openly aspires to replace in the Elysée Palace in 2007.
Last week the man universally known as “Sarko” struck again, flaunting
his relative youth and dynamism and taunting the president’s hauteur
and immobilisme to undermine just how much credibility he has lost
since May’s disastrous referendum on the EU constitution and London’s
victory over Paris in winning the 2012 Olympics. To suggest on Bastille
Day, of all days, that the president of the republic has nothing new
to say would have been jaw-droppingly insolent if directed against
a political opponent, let alone a member of the same party.
It is hardly surprising then to see the beginnings of what may
be a backlash against Sarko’s brash, self-promoting style. Some
critics are suggesting that in attacking Mr Chirac so relentlessly
he is insulting the same high office to which he aspires, as well as
launching his presidential campaign far too early – and perhaps even
spoiling his chances.
Sarko’s appeal is based to a large extent on his ability to articulate
what Chirac and the bitterly divided opposition socialists fail to
acknowledge: that a France that is obsessed with its decline but
paralysed by a status quo that includes 10% unemployment badly needs
to change. It must, he says, adapt its cherished “social model”
to withstand the buffeting winds of globalisation and an enlarged
Europe – represented by the mythical “Polish plumber” who figured
so prominently in the EU referendum campaign. On the downside, his
habit of scoring opportunistic political points – such as calling
for the expulsion of radical imams, or opposing Turkish membership
of the union – is worrying.
Popularity at home has won him admirers abroad, especially among
British ministers who like his pro-Americanism, his call for an end
to reliance on the old Paris-Berlin axis – and have had enough of
Mr Chirac. His meeting today with his fellow conservative Angela
Merkel, likely to beat Gerhard Schröder in September’s elections,
may give us a sense of how the EU will look in future if they are
both in charge. Sarko-watchers hope it marks the start of a period
of statesmanlike discretion and an end to headline-grabbing antics
that might one day turn out to be a faux pas too far.