EU presidency: A leader emerges.
Nicolas Sarkozy has proved that EU governments can act collectively and that the institution is still greater than the sum of its parts, said The Guardian in an editorial yesterday. Excerpts:
Even if it is being said through gritted teeth in London, the French presidency of the European Union, which ends this month, has been a success.
This is not a column which has devoted many inches to praising Sarkozy. But as a man who can take the helm of an institution in crisis, the EU has found a new leader in him. Consider what happened in the last six months: Georgia attacked a breakaway province and Russia invaded. Few believe Sarkozy's claim to have talked Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, out of going all the way to Tbilisi, but at the time, the dialogue between the two men was the only game in town, and the means by which the Russian columns withdrew, albeit partially. European diplomacy, so easy to dismiss, stuttered back to life.
Then came the global crash. Again, the stimulus package amounting to "about" 1.5 percent of EU GDP had much of its voltage reduced by Germany, and was in any case little more than a bundle of different national responses. But to achieve that, Sarkozy knocked together heads both in and out of the euro zone, and showed that the EU was capable of taking collective decisions when it mattered.
Nor did the two crises derail an already packed agenda. Climate change and the Lisbon treaty emerged relatively unscathed. What if two major international crises had happened during the presidency of a smaller member nation, like the Czech Republic, which takes over for the next six months? Sarkozy proved that EU governments can act collectively and that the institution is still greater than the sum of its parts. In acting like a leader of the EU should, Sarkozy provided the best possible argument for replacing the current rotating presidency with an elected president.
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