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France's Distinctive President, Nicholas Sarkozy

By Hicham Ghizlane  Posted by Stephen Fox (about the submitter)     Permalink
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     Nicholas Sarkozy, having succeeded Jacques Chirac on May 16, 2007, has
been the President of France for almost two years. Observers in France view as unprecedented his ubiquity As Head-of-State in the international scene. He has been extensively covered by the mass media, chiefly in Europe.

      While some depict him as "impulsive," others believe he’s actually helped Europe regain its "image de marque" as an active decision-maker. The Chinese government even accused Sarkozy of transgressing China’s domestic affairs after meeting in Gdansk, Poland with Tibet's spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on December 29, 2008.

    France is confronted by serious challenges in its slow economy, declining
purchasing powers, and increasing rates of unemployment. According to the most recent statistics issued by the US Bureau of Labor, the unemployment rate in the US (%8.5) is lower than that of France (%8.8). France has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the old continent, even though it decreased from %9.0 in 2006 to %7.2 in 2007. Promoting the economy requires circumventing the complexity of time-consuming administrative and bureaucratic procedures, which scare away many interested investors.

    Famous for his "ultra-liberal" views and ambition, Sarkozy went through different stages in his life: from selling ice-cream and flowers to pay his college tuition to being one of the youngest mayors in France's history, to being the Minister of the Interior, to becoming the 23rd president
of France.

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    Many praised his appointing to Foreign Minister his former political rival, Bernard Koushner. Unlike predecessors Jacques Chirac, Francois Mittèrrand, or Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Sarkozy craves being the center of attention and was nicknamed "Rock Star" for the unprecedented exposure of his personal life. According to Angèlique Christaphis's March 20, 2008 Guardian article, Carla Bruni accused a reporter of using inauthentic sources, and Sarkozy sued Le Nouvel Obseravateur for using false documents and publishing a dubious text message to his previous wife, Mrs. Cècillia, a couple of days prior to his marriage to the famous Italian model. The message ostensibly said: "If you come back, I’ll it call it all off." Yet, he dropped the case after reporter apologized to his wife. "Some say he’s been exposing his flamboyant personal life at the moment the French want him to deliver on his promises to improve the country."

    When Sarkozy got a room in an Egyptian hotel during a visit, he was fiercely criticized for sharing a bed with Carla Bruni in a nation where extramarital sex is prohibited. In the eyes of French Socialist MEP Giles Savary, Sarkozy’s "'excessive personification' has negatively affected the spirit of the community." Notorious for his tough views toward immigration and his willingness to decrease the number of unskilled immigrants in France when he was Minister of The Interior, Sarkozy required non-EU immigrants to learn the elements of French to facilitate their integration to the French society and ensure their productivity.

    There are about 6 million Muslims living in France; Islam constitutes the second largest religion in France. On one hand, Sarkozy, during his visit to the Great Mosque in Paris, gave his word to French Moslems that he would  protect their unalienable rights. In his words: "Islam is an integral part" of France. On the other hand, Sarkozy's efforts partially resulted in the prohibition of crucifixes worn by Catholics, caps worn by Jews, turbans worn by the Sikhs, and scarves worn by Moslem girls in French public schools. Sarkozy helped create The Union of French Islamic organization to act as an intermediary between Muslims in France and France's government.

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    Most of his economic political views reflect a discrepancy between his discourse and his acts. Sarkozy’s controversial decision to make France a complete decision-maker in North-Atlantic Treaty Organization mesmerized the international media. Although France has remained a member in NATO and as such has served in Kosovo and Afghanistan, it has been absent from the organization’s decision-making for more than forty years, after Charles De Gaulle ordered the eviction of NATO troops and bases from France, resulting in their relocation to Brussels, Belgium.

   The same day the decision was made, Sarkozy said this: "When a new world is opening up before our eyes with the ongoing turmoil, we need to rethink our policies." While he was internationally acclaimed for this political major step, others, like his rival in Presidential campaign in 2007, Segolene Royal, believe that France would lose its independence in the international political scene. Sarkozy advocates the idea that French troops should be kept in Central Asia only for a specified period of time. The French President has been hailed for his active role in world affairs. Two weeks after becoming President, he  made it possible for the Mediterranean Summit to take place, an awesome opportunity for Europeans with Middle–East and North African leaders getting together to discuss their sensitive mutual policies.

    Not only did Sarkozy have a major role in reaching a cease–fire agreement between Russia and Georgia after Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, but also he was the primary mediator between Israel and Palestine. Sarkozy believes in a two-state solution to the problem that lasted since 1948. He took a trip to both Israel and Ramallah on January 29, 2009, condemning Israel's "disproportionate use of force." He met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, former Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

     On February 28th, 2009, Sarkozy said that he will ask the World Trade Organization to ensure that Obama’s stimulus plan to prevent the auto industry from sinking doesn’t transgress any international trade rules. Yet, he, himself, was accused of violating the very same rules in his attempt to provide financial assistance to Renault and PSA Peugeot/Citroen. The Czech Republic accused him of "protectionism." Sarkozy believes that overseas French car production should stop and new financial incentives should be given to French car companies. Czech Prime Minister Topolanek, responding to Sarkozy’s statements, said that "it is a completely legitimate and voluntary decision of these companies" to help EU members grow and prosper.

     
    There is tension between Paris and Prague since the Czechs presided over the EU from January 1st of this year. Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to cancel his trip to the Czech Republic was considered by the Czechs as an interference as  by France in the Czech presidency of the EU. Chinese companies are getting more business in Africa; trying to regain France’s influence in this continent, Sarkozy took a recent trip to Central Africa to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Niger. Accompanied with a large business delegation, Sarkozy altruistically said that he wants to promote peace and business opportunities in these countries plagued by violence.

     However, in my opinion, Sarkozy is merely looking for a dependable supply of oil in Kinshasa and is interested in investing in the telecommunication and hydropower sectors. Central Africa is fraught with mineral riches; Arevu, the French state owned nuclear energy group, recently signed a uranium mining deal with Congo.

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    Sarkozy went even further with his praise of Congo’s President, Joseph Kabila, for lessening bloodshed between Uganda and Rwanda. Sarkozy believes in order for these countries to live peacefully and democratically, they should foster economic development of sectors like "energy, transportation, and telecommunications." He added that, similar to the EU, his aim is to create the so-called "Simple Market" in Central Africa. However, Sarkozy pledged a departure from France’s old “policies of turning a blind eye to corruption and authoritarianism."
   

     I conclude with a comment on the outcome of the G20 Summit that took place recently in London. Just two days before the summit started, Nicholas Sarkozy made an empty threat that "if things do not go forward in London, there will be 'la chaise vide,' [empty chair]", reminiscent of the decision made by Charles De Gaulle to leave the European Economic community in 1965. However, De Gaulle only six months to return to the EEC. Similarly, Sarkozy expected the leaders of the 20 countries to wave a magic wand to allow them to find efficient ways to deal with the world’s current economic crisis, the first of its kind of the 1930’s. Critics note the pressure he's been under from increasing unemployment rates, a struggling economy, and even managers taken hostage by furious French workers. Sarkozy, in threatening to walk out, wanted to win the support of the French. Philippe Morreau Desfarges, the famous French political analyst, said Sarkozy "is overacting like a child with a tantrum."

   Sarkozy is in favor of an international "financial regulator" in order, according to him, to avoid any future economic recession. He advocates the urgent long–term changes in the infrastructure of the global financial system.

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