Stanley's blog

The whirlwind state visit of President Nicolas and Carla Sarkozy to the UK is over. What are its lasting implications? The rhetoric on these grand occasions is not necessarily converted into action. It is especially difficult to interpret the nature of Sarkozian initiatives and their durability.

The President clearly seeks to bring France closer to the US and the UK. That in itself is a good thing, whatever the motive.

What it means for Franco-German relations is hard to say. Sarkozy must recognise the importance of this alliance, whatever the differences in policy, style and personality of its leaders. He would be unwise to try to convert this into a threesome, as he could find himself the odd one out. However, reminding Angela Merkel that he has influential ‘friends’ may well be in his mind. I don’t agree with Dominique Moïsi and David Manning (Financial Times 26 March) that only with a “Club of Three” will Europe be taken seriously in the world.

The opportunity to strengthen the Common Foreign & Security Policy (CFSP) and European Security & Defence Policy (ESDP) has clearly arisen. Certain practical steps were agreed, such as pooling aircraft carriers and maritime aircraft for national, European-led or NATO operations, and a single contract to maintain the new Airbus military aircraft.

But with neither Sarkozy nor Brown great European enthusiasts, to what extent is their vision intergovernmental? Remember Sarkozy’s preference for a directorate of the six big Member States running the show.

The Joint UK-France Summit Declaration of 27 March is worth reading, as it is a substantive document, light on bureaucratic verbiage. The opening paragraph pledges the two countries “to act together, bilaterally, at European level and at international level, to contribute to shape globalisation” and its “new economic, social, environmental and security challenges.”

The two leaders agreed “that the UK and France will intensify cooperation and regular contacts, working together as a partnership of pioneers leading the global response to new international challenges. They approved joint work on a range of initiatives covering international institutions, foreign and defence policy, development, migration, climate change and energy, and global prosperity, including the promotion of practical responses to such challenges.”

The intention to hold more frequent summits and to strengthen collaboration between ministries is welcome: the current difference in the quality of the Franco-German and Franco-British relationships is huge. The value of the ‘habit of cooperation’ should not be underestimated.

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  1. What I see between the lines is that there is no hope that the UK and France will give up their seats in the Security Council and give it to say, the EU and Japan. If these two big member states will act bilaterally in world politics that means that the EU will never have an own voice. But I am not surprised at all.

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