July 5, 2007


Is Sarkozy an old-style Gaullist in disguise? (Katrin Bennhold, July 5, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

[I]n recent days, criticism of Sarkozy's interventionist language and unapologetic intent to ignore EU budget rules is mounting. The question that Eurocrats, central bankers and fellow politicians are asking is the same they asked three years ago: Is the man who wants to shake up France's labor market and ignite economic growth with a flurry of tax cuts the liberal European he claims? Or is he an old-style Gaullist in modern disguise?

The answer may be more mundane, says Elie Cohen, an economist at the National Center for Research and Studies. Sarkozy's election program, which includes some €13 billion, or $17.7 billion, in tax cuts, is not compatible with a commitment by Euro zone countries to balance the budget by 2010, heralding more clashes in the months and years ahead.

"There is a fundamental contradiction," Cohen said. "He is respecting his campaign promises and that is getting him into trouble with Brussels. He has put himself into a bind."

This contradiction has come into sharper focus in recent days. Sarkozy has been quick to take credit for saving the EU from its constitutional impasse and misses no opportunity to display his pro-European credentials. His presidential portrait, which graces city halls across France, shows him against the backdrop of both a French and European Union flag. The traditional Bastille Day parade next week will be held under the European banner, with units from the other 26 EU countries participating.

But at the same time the new president has stepped up his rhetoric against several of the bloc's institutions.

Tony Blair stumbled over the same contradiction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 5, 2007 7:39 AM
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