Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Germany's Merkel Goes to Paris and Makes Some Encouragingly "Anglo-Saxon" Noises

Angela Merkel, the leader of Germany's centrist CDU party, who is still in with a decent chance of becoming Chancellor in September, jets off to Paris to pose for some pictures and show her statesmanship.

She is gruff enough with President Chirac, France's morally-challenged head of state, and informs him that the German-French "Axis" is all wrong in its oppositionism to the USA, its wish to sell arms to China, and its constant sidelining of other EU countries.

Then she rushes off to "flirt" - as much of the media insists on dscribing it - with Nicolas Sarkozy, the supposedly more Anglo-Saxon minded presidential candidate in the wings.

It would be nice but naive to think that Nicolas Sarkozy - should he succeed to the French presidency in 2007 - would temper France's traditional de haut en bas relations with the USA, with Israel, with the other EU countries (especially the smaller ones), and allow a more market-driven France to champion reform of the EU. But experience tells one that as soon as Sarkozy slips his elegantly-shod feet under the Elysee desk, he will be just as protectionist and chauvinistic as his predecessors.

The primacy, for both Sarkozy and Merkel, of their national power bases - for all the powerful and baleful vested interests of French farmers, German unions, and so on - is far from being a bad thing: if it didn't apply to them, it wouldn't apply to the hardline federalists either, with disastrous consequences for us all.

It does mean, though, that the "statesmanship" of these as yet unelected leaders is premature, even bumptious, and both of them should beware that it won't be stillborn.

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