The election of 2007 brought up a new man on the political scene of France, a former leader of UMP (centre-right party) has been elected president.
Today, looking back and summarizing his two years in the office we can certainly conclude that his presidency has certainly brought a change in the style of French foreign policy. Sarkozy’s longpolitical apprenticeship shaped his approach to the politics and relations in the multipolar world. He learned to maximize the support of his party and attract the attention of the media. He cultivated relationships with powerful and the less powerful ones. Last, but not least he did not hesitate to break off relationships at crucial moments.
In the first year in office, Sarkozy hasemployed all of these tactics in order to accumulate as much power in his hands as possible and to advance his foreign policy agenda, even though it often seemed that he did it to “limit” the power of his own prime minister.
He has launched initiatives on many fronts: with the European Union, to win approval of the Lisbon Treaty; with Libya, to free the Bulgarian nurses held captive there, securecontracts with the government, and enlist Qaddafi in his plan for a Mediterranean Union; with Russia, to discuss the supply of gas to Western Europe; with Africa, to initiate a new relationship with France’s former colonies; to China, to negotiate economic issues and the sale of nuclear reactors; with Lebanon, to register French support of the new government; with the United Kingdom, to convince theBritish with the notion that France under Sarkozy had become more England-friendly; with Germany, to smooth differences with Angela Merkel; with NATO, to begin consideration of full French integration into the military command structure; and with the United States, to signal a more flexible French position vis-à-vis American military engagements abroad.
But, which of these initiatives isSarkozy really committed to attain? Which of them could be understood as the priorities of the recent foreign policy of France? In my opinion, with Sarkozy it is difficult to say and it is clear that inconsistency is the word that would characterize his approach. And even though, in December 2008, he was ranked on the 3rd place in Time Magazine just after Barack Obama and Henry Paulson. But theinternational press also made some critical remarks about his ambivalent politics. For example, Sarkozy as a clear Atlantist, was criticized of inviting the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to discuss the Union for the Mediterranean, even though the American ostensibly oppose talks with states that are backing terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah. But, this approach might be also a sign to enhance theposition of France as a regional broker. These complex maneuvers however show Sarkozy as a mere showman, who is interested in everything with the main purpose to gain more public attention. For example, the images broadcasted round the world while leading the Bulgarian nurses out of the desert. In my opinion, the approach is more complex and his moves more complementary. Losses – the disapprovalof Merkel to participate on the Union for the Mediterranean initiative could be sacrificed for gains in other fields.
In the French policy as in many others, there is one area of particular importance, the domain of economy. Here, the president does not hesitate to negotiate to sign contracts, for example to secure future energy resources. From the beginning he approved the merger of theFrench gas company GDF with Suez, he has been keen to secure gas supplies from both Russia and North Africa. He is also committed to the promotion of nuclear power along with the state-owned firm Areva, a global leader in the nuclear industry. The deal he brokered with Libya included a promise of Libyan uranium for Areva along with a Libyan commitment to purchase nuclear power plants from the...