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You only need one word to get a Eurosceptic going: Strasbourg. After that you will have an extra 5 minutes of conversation time and a good lecture on a basic business concept: cost-cutting.

Symbol of Franco-German reconciliation? Or a waste of taxpayers' money? (Credit © European Parliament - Audiovisual Unit)

Every month the European Parliament travels from Brussels to Strasbourg for their plenary session (twice in September). Each parade costs around €4 million.

But this circus display may soon come to a halt. In email discussions uncovered this week by The Lobby, it was revealed that many MEPs have written to Messrs Van Rompuy and Sarkozy, arguing to keep Brussels as the sole permanent seat for the Parliament to save tax-payers’ money during these times of financial crisis.

But apparently to some there are more important things than taxpayers’ money.  On the opposing side, other MEPs claim that Strasbourg represents the birthplace of today’s European Union,  is a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation, and a city that lies at the cross-roads of Europe.

For them, Strasbourg should actually be the seat of the Parliament as it increases the separation of the EU’s executive, judicial and legislative powers, would be cheaper than Brussels, and it is in France, a country that apparently “promotes the progress of Europe”.

Those are all romantic arguments, but the political reality is that the Parliament will continue to make those monthly trips to Strasbourg for the simple reason that it is not up to MEPs to decide where they meet, nor even Mr Van Rompuy, but the Council. Step forward France, a country that is about as unlikely to cede the Strasbourg seat as the UK will give up Gibraltar.

So MEPs can moan, complain, and argue, but ultimately only one man can put a stop to this farce, and he is ensconsed in the Elysée Palace.  Good luck with that one.

– Mike

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Panic at the pumps! (image via publicdomainpictures.net, Gas by Peter Griffin)

Over the last week, French citizens have experienced long queues for fuel at petrol stations across the country. This follows an announcement made by Total, the French oil company, concerning plans to close a refinery in Dunkirk, which led to Total’s workers deciding to go on an unlimited strike to protest in solidarity with the workers of Dunkirk.

Since then, French drivers, fearing a petrol shortage, have been dashing to the petrol stations, leading to endless queues, creating scenes similar to that of the two worldwide oil crises back in the 1970s.

Then, the story took on a national dimension when President Sarkozy invited Christophe de Margerie, CEO of Total, to the Elysée Palace to discuss the future of Dunkirk’s refinery.

In all honesty the scenario of a shortage is unlikely to happen as all trade unions, with the exception of one, called yesterday for the end of the strike after Total announced that activity will be maintained in Dunkirk for the next 5 years.

Once again, Europe’s TOTAL dependence on petrol is there for all to see!

– Denis

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Today’s EU-China summit, set to take place in Prague, was initially postponed from last December. China delayed the summit at the time in order to protest against French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s agreement to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The press seems skeptical, and the Financial Times today refers to the summit as an ‘empty diplomatic process.’ The not-so-subtle suggestion is that the EU expends more energy getting China to show up at these events than it does achieving substantial diplomatic progress.

Although there may be a certain degree of legitimacy to these allegations, you have to admit; some talk is better than no talk. Let’s wait until the summit is over before we call it a waste of time.

– Victoria

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