The World from Berlin How Friendly Will Sarkozy's 'Entente Amicale' Be?
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy returned to Paris on Friday after a successful two-day visit to the United Kingdom. German newspapers reflect on the new "entente amicale" and what the historic visit signifies for UK-French relations.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, went to London this week to meet the neighbors. It was the first such state visit by a French president in over a decade.
Even the reprinting by British tabloids on Wednesday of a nude photo of Bruni-Sarkozy from 15 years ago failed to dampen the mood. Throughout the visit, Sarkozy made references to the noble historical bond between the UK and France -- and to how working together will be necessary for the future of Europe as a whole.
"In the name of the French people," Sarkozy said, "I have come to propose to the people of Britain that together we write a new page in our shared history, that of a new Franco-British brotherhood -- a brotherhood for the 21st century."
Sarkozy addressed both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday evening. In his speech, he reminded lawmakers of the French-British axis as a powerful force for European and world progress, in issues ranging from climate change initiatives and nuclear power to UN reform and Afghanistan, where the NATO alliance plays a key security role.
Sarkozy said that the French would bolster their Afghanistan troop numbers in the coming months. "France will propose, at the Bucharest (NATO) summit, to reinforce its military presence," the French president said. "We cannot accept a return of the Taliban and al-Qaida to Kabul. Defeat is not an option."
The summit at 10 Downing Street on Thursday between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Sarkozy addressed the two countries' immediate concerns over the expanding international banking crisis, an energized cooperation in the defence and atomic-energy industries -- particularly regarding civilian nuclear power -- and the future of NATO and the EU.
Speaking about the EU, Sarkozy noted that, since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, Europe can now "devote all its energy to concrete projects: the struggle against climate change, energy, immigration, and the development of security and defence policy."
The two countries also agreed to pump up Europe's military might, put more funding into research and development projects, and tighten border controls. They also agreed to meet four times per year to discuss urgent concerns.
As for Germany, the third main actor in European politics, Sarkozy said on Wednesday night before Parliament that the relationship was "indispensable." He also said, however, that Germany alone was "not enough" to keep the European Union invigorated. For that, the French president said, "We need this new Franco-British entente."
It was the last point that caught the attention of many German newspapers on Thursday and Friday, with many taking the longer view of Sarko's historic trip across the Channel.
SPIEGEL ONLINE writes:
"In the end, Nicolas Sarkozy remains French. The president poured chivalrous compliments upon his British hosts. They were praised for their 'dynamism' and their economic reforms, thanked for Great Britain's withstanding a world war with Nazi Germany and for freeing France 'with their blood.' Sarkozy leaves no doubt that there is an Atlanticist at the helm of La Grande Nation."
"Do other Europeans, namely the Germans, have to dread the British-French hug-fest? Sarkozy struggled with questions about this and noted the 'excellent relationship' that both countries have with Angela Merkel's Germany."
"Naturally the French are realists enough to know that British scepticism towards the EU, bondage to America, and enthusiasm for war makes working closely with them just as difficult as working with Germany."
The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"The state visit by French President Sarkozy is nothing more than a ceremonial (and somewhat mundane) event. Its political sizzle has to do with the fact that the relationship between Paris and Berlin has yet to find its true form, nearly one year after Sarkozy was elected. German partners see the president's foreign policy as a bit erratic and egocentric. A lot was started -- the new ordering of relationships with America and with NATO, a variety of EU initiatives -- but it's not clear where it's all headed. With the British, it won't be any different: they're also curious to see what Sarkozy wants to do."
The center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote on Thursday:
"Long before the Germans were thrust into the role, the English were the hereditary enemies of the French. They established that reputation during the Hundred Years' War, when they burned the national hero Joan of Arc at the stake."
"On both sides of the Channel, there is clearly a new awareness that an ancient European problem lingers: it's true that Germany is too small for hegemony, but even without global political ambitions, it is sometimes too big for its neighbors' comfort. Sarkozy makes no secret of the fact that France is not exactly happy about being pushed to the periphery with every additional expansion of the EU, while Germany, due to its geographical location, stays in the middle."
On Friday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung returned again to Sarkozy's visit:
"One needs to say it again and again: Europe needs the UK and vice versa. Nicolas Sarkozy, who with his usual haste compressed his state visit into 36 hours, wants to make everything much better. But the new 'Anglo-French brotherhood' he proclaimed in the Houses of Parliament and at Windsor Castle won't do it. He wants to write an important new page in the collective history books. So he's trying to win over the EU member on the other side of the Channel as a partner -- not just in order to work together on atomic energy, defense and business, but also for a collective leading role in Europe."
The conservative Die Welt writes:
"A lot of what Nicolas Sarkozy put forward in London has to be tested first -- 'the proof of the pudding lies in the eating,' as the English proverb has it. The Frenchman wants to help put a cap on EU agricultural market prices? Let's wait and see. France's return to the integrated NATO command structure? Very welcome. But at the price of diluted European centrality and responsibility? Probably not with the Brits.
"What is both groundbreaking and already decided is closer cooperation between Britain and France on atomic energy. In this area German policy is being left behind, if not already dismissed as fatally backward-looking. Talleyrand said it best: Nations don't have friends; they have interests. And Nicolas Sarkozy shows how existing interests can be deepened by friendships."
-- R. Jay Magill Jr., 12:30pm, CET