Opinion: Sarkozy′s Win Means European Uncertainty | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 07.05.2007

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Opinion: Sarkozy's Win Means European Uncertainty

In electing Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday, the French voted for national reform. But DW's Anke Hagedorn says France's European partners may have little reason to cheer a nationalistically inclined leader in Paris.

Nicolas Sarkozy has emerged triumphant in an election that pitted the right against the left, and a man against France's first-ever female presidential candidate. The vote attracted far more voters to the polls than in recent years. The majority cast their ballots for a conservative who favors economic liberalism, a reduction in France's gigantic state bureaucracy and limitations on immigration.

Sarkozy succeeded in attracting voters away from far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen. And he made the French electorate forget that under conservative leadership France has amassed the highest unemployment in the euro zone and a record level of government debt.

French voters were given the choice between a cool, calculating political professional in Sarkozy and an emotional, relative newcomer in Socialist Segolene Royal. Royal and the Socialists failed to convince the majority that they had any real plans to solve France's problems.

But what can Europeans expect from Sarkozy's presidency? Certainly not that he will come up with concrete solutions to European problems. He hardly mentioned the EU in his campaign. And when he did, the tone was one of what the EU could do for France, and not vice versa.

Sarkozy has a reputation of being power-hungry and reluctant to listen to advice, and in the past, he has repeatedly played the nationalist trump card. For instance, Sarkozy didn't exactly endear himself to Germans by bringing up World War II and the Holocaust on a number of occasions during the campaign.

Sarkozy was trying to play on French national pride. At a campaign rally in Marseille, he gleefully pointed out that not all French people supported the Nazi-installed occupation government during World War II. "There were also the heroes of a free France," Sarkozy crowed, "and the Résistance."

To underscore that message, he staged his last rally at a symbolic site of the French resistance, the Plateau des Glières, promising, if elected, to make an annual pilgrimage there. But how can an obsession with history help a president who has pledged to lead France into a new era?

France's neighbors can only hope that this was empty campaign chest-thumping, and that Sarkozy will remember his European responsibilities when France assumes the EU's rotating presidency in June of next year.

In his first speech after winning Sunday's election, Sarkozy said he has always been a committed European. The rest of Europe now waits to see if deeds will follow those words.

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