Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sarkozy in town

It was all over too quickly, but it was great to see President Sarkozy in Dublin yesterday. The fawning press coverage, the warm welcome, the "we have so much in common with the French" refrain.

Whoa! Okay, okay. I was actually happy enough to see Sarkozy in Dublin, although I only saw him via the television. I didn't make any effort to actually go see him. Still, was I alone?

Everyone seemed unhappy at the the French President decided to drop by for a working lunch. The pro-Lisbon people and the anti-Lisbon people were equally displeased that Sarkozy was here. I almost thought that George Bush would have been more welcome. (Okay, things probably aren't that bad for Sarkozy. Yet.)

I really don't see what all the fuss was about. Sarkozy is the President of France and, as such, should be promoting French interests. Currently he's also the President of the European Council and should be promoting EU interests. And, clearly, the Lisbon Treaty is in the EU's interest as he sees it. So why shouldn't he come here and make that case as strongly as he likes?

It was almost amusing how upset some of the pro-Lisbon crowd was by Sarkozy's visit. Sarkozy is the leader of a big EU nation. If you're in favor of the EU, why should you worry that a strong advocate of the EU wants to make his case? After all, Sarkozy wields a lot of influence over our daily lives (more if Lisbon passes). Why shouldn't he be welcome?

To a lot of people on the 'No' side Sarkozy is the embodiment of what they don't like about the ever closer union. Okay, I get that, but why get worked up about Sarkozy's visit? I voted 'No', but what possible impact from this visit should I fear or even concern myself with?

Truth is, I like Sarkozy. (It's people like EC President Barosso I don't like.) I was glad he came. I honestly can't see what harm his visit could do. If he goes back with a less federalist vision of the EU than he came with I'd be happy. I'd be thrilled if he could understand that what's good for the populous center is not necessarily good for the remote, relatively uninhabited island off the northwest corner of Europe. But, seeing as the Irish government doesn't seem to have realized this I don't know how I imagine Sarkozy will.