Making France a Power for the Future, Part I

Making France a Power for the Future, Part I

TNI Exclusive: Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s next president, discusses his views on France’s role within the European Union in a conversation with The National Interest and Politique Internati

Editor's Note: Recently,France's next President Nicolas Sarkozy, who won Sunday's run-off election with 53.1 percent of the vote, sat down with The National Interest and Politique Internationale to discuss his vision for French foreign policy.

The National Interest: Do you think that French foreign policy needs a complete overhaul?

Nicolas Sarkozy: It seems to me that until now, we have not given enough thought to an essential question: what should be the backbone of our foreign policy? This does not mean that I seek to wipe the table clean: On many points, Jacques Chirac's record in the area was exemplary. But a rapidly changing world is forcing us to make a few changes. In brief, I think the time has come to give French diplomacy a doctrine. I do not believe that a theoretic framework impinges upon the practical necessities of our policy. Fundamentally, our doctrine should have a clear global vision, a set of long-term objectives and the interests we will defend. It is a collection of values that will guide our actions. In the long term, it will give a sense and coherence to our actions.

TNI: What will you start with?

NS: I think it natural to start with Europe. . . . Europe is nervous because we have not had the courage to ask questions about its borders. It is time to do it: Should Europe have borders? My response is yes. The failure of the French and Dutch referenda was in part provoked by hostility to a Europe without borders. Fixing a geographic and political identity for the EU is an essential condition for reengaging our citizens in the European project.

TNI: What should be the geographic limits of the EU?

NS: I'll come to that, but the most important thing in my mind is that we should not proceed with any new enlargement until the new institutional reforms have been adopted.

The addition of a new member is first and foremost a decision that the Union should take for itself, as a function of its own interests, within the limits of its capacities and the will of its people. This comes before making decisions based on what is relevant to the Union's foreign policy aims and desires to encourage others to reform. The interest for Europe is not to dilute its policies and its institutions to the point where decision-making will be impossible. The interest of the Union is to grow and strengthen to create a zone of stability and prosperity that will be of great benefit to its continental and Mediterranean neighbors. This means that the Union cannot extend forever.

I want to give this concept-of the capacity to absorb [new members]-precise content and an operational character. I add that it is necessary to recalibrate the enlargement process at each stage, and not just at its conclusion, when it is too late for any reworking.

TNI: Who is European and who is not?

NS: We must distinguish between two categories of states:

First, those that have a natural place within the Union. The European Union is open to all the continental states (Switzerland, Norway and the countries of the Balkans) as well as Iceland. These states will join the Union when they can (the Balkans) and if they wish (the others), on the condition that the Union is, at its end, ready to welcome them from the point of view of its institutions.

The second-those that do not have a "natural right" to be in the EU are those that border on it but are not European. For those countries of Eurasia and the Mediterranean, our first step should be to establish a system of "privileged partnerships." We can work with them within the limits of our collective interests without making concessions on our values. There is nothing automatic in my mind: even if all the participants in the "Barcelona Process" [Editor's note: this is the framework for interaction between EU states and those of the Mediterranean basin] have the geographic argument supporting association with us, we must only consider those that have made sufficient progress on the path towards democracy.

TNI: Do you think that Turkey, if it meets the conditions set by the EU, has a place in Europe?

NS: Whether Turkey meets the conditions for entry or not does not solve the problem. On this matter, I have always been clear: I do not think Turkey has a right to join the European Union because it is not European. But just because Turkey should not become a member of Europe does not mean that it should be shunned by Europe. Who could seriously argue that the closeness of links between Turkey and Europe, that are the fruit of a long common history and a sincere friendship, should be destroyed if Turkey did not enter the EU? Turkey is a great country that shares a number of our interests and our values. Therefore we must strengthen our ties with the country through a "privileged partnership".

But we should go further and offer to the countries in the Mediterranean the establishment of a "Mediterranean Union", in which Turkey would be a natural pivot. This Union would work closely with the EU. It could organize periodic meetings between its chiefs of states similar to the model of the G8. There could be a Mediterranean Council, like the European Council. The foundations of this area of solidarity and cooperation would be a common immigration policy, commercial and economic development, the promotion of the rule of law, the protection of the environment and the promotion of co-development, with, for example, the creation of a Mediterranean investment bank based on the model of the European version.

Click here to read part II of The National Interest's interview with President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy, in which he discusses France, the United States and the Middle East.