WASHINGTON — In an interview posted on the Web sites of French embassies around the world, recently inaugurated French President Nicolas Sarkozy began to outline how his administration can be expected to shape a new era for France’s foreign policy.
Most noteworthy, however, were remarks Sarkozy made about his position toward two of the countries with which France’s relations have been strained in recent times: the United States and Turkey.
In the interview, published initially in the May 2007 issue of the quarterly French magazine “Politique Internationale,” Sarkozy also offered hints about the role his government may be expected to play in response to growing geopolitical tension over Iran’s nuclear program.
The interview appeared in two parts on the site of France’s embassy in Washington, the first covers a broad range of topics, while the second focuses exclusively on foreign policy.
Sarkozy, whose alleged coziness toward U.S. President George W. Bush was used against him during his campaign for the presidency, apparently now feels a need to show some distance between himself and Washington. While he asserted that the friendship between Europe and the United States is “deep, sincere and unwavering,” and “a necessity for global balance,” Sarkozy also said the definition of friendship includes “being capable of telling them the truth when they’re wrong . . . not submission.”
He criticized the United States’ impact on global warming, saying that he’d like the superpower “to shoulder its share of responsibility.”
On Turkey, whose accession to the European Union France has long opposed, Sarkozy stood vehemently against ever admitting Turkey as a full EU member. Saying that “the EU’s absorption capacity isn’t infinitely extendable,” he declared that Turkey was not a part of Europe, but rather part of the Euro-Asian and Mediterranean areas. He did not say exactly what excludes Turkey from being European, as 3 percent of its landmass is in continental Europe.
Since unanimity is required in the decision to vote a nation into the EU, France’s holdout could completely rule out Turkey’s accession.
Sarkozy’s objections to Turkey were articulated as pertaining to the solely geographical restrictions of the Copenhagen Criteria — a set of guidelines for potential EU members laid out at the 1993 European Council in Copenhegen. While the criteria mainly focused on the need for potential members to embrace democracy, human rights and free markets, a geographical element did not include Turkey within the boundaries of Europe.
Previous objections to Turkey’s accession had been on the basis of humanitarian issues such as capital punishment, which Turkey banned in 2004 in an attempt to endear itself to the European Union.
France and Iran
On Iran’s nuclear program, Sarkozy repeated previous calls for increased sanctions to be levied against Iran by the United Nations Security Council. He reaffirmed France’s commitment to the United Nations, stating that “it alone has the necessary legitimacy and efficacy to deal with certain problems.”
Sarkozy also said that in order to “safeguard the United Nations’ effectiveness, the Security Council’s authority must be indisputable.”
The United States has also maintained the Security Council’s jurisdiction over the Iran matter to date, calling for sanctions as opposed to any avenue of enforcement outside the United Nations. In a statement posted on the Web site of the U.S. State Department late last year, Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, stressed the need for cooperation among Security Council members in their action toward Iran.
Ben Rothenberg is an undergraduate senior at the University of Michigan. He is serving as a summer 2007 international news intern for WPR and his dispatches will occasionally be featured on this blog.