Sarkozy’s campaign director: Angela Merkel


In one of the elaborate prime-time TV interviews with selected interrogators that are a staple of French presidential politics, Nicolas Sarkozy tonight put his fate in the hands of Angela Merkel. He announced a modest increase in, basically, the country’s GST — to kick in after April’s presidential election — to pay for reductions in business taxes to stimulate employment. That was a key feature of Merkel’s economic policy, designed to make it cheaper for employers to hire. He waved his hands a lot and alluded, in vaguer terms, to much tougher reforms implemented by Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, in 2004.

No analyst could miss the point: Germany is Sarkozy’s model now, and the perennially unpopular Sarkozy is following in the inexhaustibly popular Merkel’s footsteps.

But that wasn’t even the most extraordinary news in German-French relations this weekend, not even close. No, the most extraordinary news is that Merkel will campaign actively in France for Sarkozy’s re-election, going so far as to attend campaign rallies at his side. 

This news comes courtesy of the director-general of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, Hermann Gröhe, who addressed Sarkozy’s UMP party this weekend and who does not seem to be a shy fellow. He decried French Socialist candiate François Hollande’s “dusty ideas” and declared, “Mr. Hollande, none of your vague declarations offers solutions to the urgent problems of our time!”

Pause here to consider what would happen if a sitting Democratic National Committee chairman had come to Canada last spring to announce Barack Obama’s participation in the coming election at Michael Ignatieff’s side. Or Jack Layton’s. Maybe he’d have flipped a coin. Anyway, you get the point.

Anyway, Gröhe’s intervention appears to have an element of tit-for-tat to it, because Hollande was in Berlin in December to tell the German Socialists, “Wir gewinnen zusammen,” “We will win together.”

There are a few things going on here. First, a genuine belief among the Germans that, while Sarkozy can be an inconstant and sometimes boneheaded partner, he is at least sometimes interested in running an economy the way Schröder and Merkel have done in succession. Second, an understanding that if Merkel and Sarkozy do not hang together they will most assuredly hang separately. It has been a cold season for incumbent European governments seeking re-election. Merkel is popular at home but she cannot weigh in the European balance without an ally. She’s hardly alone — she gets on well with Poland’s Donald Tusk, for instance — but Poland doesn’t carry a fraction the weight in Europe that France does.

The best story here, however, is the complex and maddening personal relationship between Sarkozy and Merkel. I dearly hope a top political reporter in one of the two countries is writing a book about it. They are opposites in so many ways. He is a loudmouth and a magpie. She makes boring a virtue. He courts the press and pouts over its slights; she is notoriously inaccessible to reporters. Only last autumn he told a boorish joke about her that made instant headlines (“She says she’s on a diet… then helps herself to more cheese”).

Their nations’ fates are so intertwined they cannot live without each other. In a touching gesture toward that historic truth, he flew to Berlin to visit her on the very day of his inauguration in 2007. They speak daily on the phone, rarely go a few weeks without meeting. He has trailed consistently in the polls, and if he wins this spring, he will owe her even more than he already does. The whole thing fascinates me.


Sarkozy’s campaign director: Angela Merkel

  1. Interesting post. Really dumb question: when they talk, is it French, German or English? Or through interpreters?

  2. None of this would interest anybody if they were both men.

    It’s just a ‘meeting of minds’

    • Do you ever pause to think for even a second before typing? Google Kohl and Mitterrand. 

      • Yes Paul, actually I do.

        But then I’m a great deal older and more experienced than you.

          • You have no idea what you were referring to….you just like sounding clever when you aren’t.

          • No, I’m sorry, that won’t do. Why did I refer to Kohl and Mitterrand, after you said none of this would interest anybody if the leaders of France and Germany were both men? 

            It’s not even a hard question. Go on ahead. Give it a shot. 

          • @twitter-100842674:disqus 

            Yes, I’m sorry, but it WILL do

            Don’t overplay your hand Paul….you haven’t got one.

            I lived through those times…to you it’s just words in a history book

            Eventually, you’ll realize you were but a child sounding off.

            Such is life.

          • @twitter-100842674:disqus 

            And at no point along the way have you understood anything you were talking about.

            Be kind to yourself….end it now.

          • One wonders who you think you’re fooling?

          • @MarkLafue

            Comments to Wells should be directed to Wells.   Thanks.

          •  It’s been so very long since I was in grade school, I forget: is the correct response to this “I’m rubber, you’re glue” or “I know I am, but what are you?” No backsies!

          • Emily is a troll, you really should consider some sort of curb on her/his activities.

          • What would be nice is if you knew what ‘troll’ meant.

            Someone who disagrees with you doesn’t qualify..

            If you want an actual troll, we have several on here.

  3. They both speak in fractured English

    • Or maybe they speak in Polish.

      There are other languages than English you know

      • This comment was deleted.

        • A simple joke….I could just as easily have said they were speaking Chinese.

          In fact in Europe currently, a common saying is that ‘now we’re all  speaking German’

          Lighten up.

        • Dear Turd,
          Please refrain from making attacks on other commenters.

          You have been warned.

          • This comment was deleted.

          • He runs the website. 

          • Did I hurt your feelings?

          • You have a couple of options here Turd, you can continue to be a pest and I will continue to ban your email and IP or you can start contributing something of value to the commenting community. Take it or leave it. 

            Trolls are not welcome here, simple as that.

    • He speaks French and some English; she speaks German, Russian, and some English. A little research shows that they do speak in fractured English when together — unless they are arguing, in which case they revert to their own languages and let translators do the heavy lifting.

      Neither speaks any Polish.

      • Paul, don’t be bothered by OE1 – just a case of all “four lights” are on, but nobody’s home, lol!

      • Whenever language debates arise in the comments sections of Canadian newspapers, someone always brings up the fact that everybody in Europe speaks at least two, even three or four languages. In light of that assumption, I’m a little surprised that the President of France isn’t more proficient in languages.

        • That’s true for the *small* countries. The large countries are far more unilingual.

  4. That is why the “Merkozy” label is so appropriate.

    Came across a great little blog “Euro-Meltdown” in which he describes “Euro – the movie” – pretty good.

    “Rumors have it that two prominent film director-producers are in the advance planning stage of a movie based on the European debt crisis. It’s a serious possibility considering the eternal media coverage of the incredible twists and turns of summit meetings in one European Capitol city after another. Then there’s the booty involved: billions in rescue money flow every which way across this or that border. Not to forget the street demonstrations, some of which were Molotov cocktail parties. You can add to all that the suspense of government’s one after another falling and the secret minister meetings lasting well into the wee hours of the morning. This story, on the silver screen would be a blockbuster.”


  5. “… Germany is Sarkozy’s model now, and the perennially unpopular Sarkozy is following in the inexhaustibly popular Merkel’s footsteps.”

    Fritz and Marianne’s marriage has hit rocky patch and Fritz has taken away his wife’s credit card and told her she must find a job. France might be ‘following’ Germany now but not willingly, that’s for sure. Sarkozy has been begging Merkel to take more quantitative easing measures for at least a few years which Germans have mostly resisted so far. 

    It is weird time in Europe because Merkel appears to be only serious major leader – Sarkozy and Berlusconi strutting peacocks who are hard to take seriously – but economic policies she’s peddling are going to doom Europe. Germans desire everyone to behave like the Germans do but that’s just not going to happen any time soon. 

    2012 is going to be like whack-a-mole for European leaders. Trying to save Greece at moment but Portugal, Spain and Italy are all on fire and at least one is likely to screw pooch this year and Germany can’t bail everyone out, even if it wanted to.  

    And I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Liberals tried to get Obama to campaign for them last May. Liberals thought it was clever to have a leader who spent his adult life abroad – Iggy doesn’t like Canada – so it wouldn’t be much of a revelation to learn that Liberals tried to get Obama/Clinton and the like.

    • I think the only US president that Ignatieff may have had connections with was George W. Bush. And that would not have gone over well.

      • I just realized that this comment makes no sense. Remembering some of the things that Ignatieff wrote, eg. concerning the Irag War, he seemed to be more in step with the Republican party. But, on reflection, that would be the only thing he had in common with them.

        I wish these comments had an edit function.

        • Wishing you could edit your comments shows a level of introspection that sets you apart from a lot of your fellow commenters. 

          • You should have titled this post “France surrenders to German tax policy.” :)

  6. Could you imagine the outrage if a Canadian PM “rarely go a few weeks without meeting” POTUS? The left/media would be in a frenzy about our sovereignty being sold down the proverbial river. But I say good on ’em!

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