Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy called Tuesday (21 June) for Paris and Berlin to make a joint push for “a new European treaty” following Britain’s vote on whether to leave the bloc.
After talks with Germany’s Angela Merkel, Sarkozy said: “I told the chancellor that to save Europe, there would have to be a French-German initiative in the coming months, with a new treaty that tells 450 million Europeans that we have heard what they are saying, that we understand how they feel.”
“I think that the chancellor is ready,” he said after a closed-door lunch, adding “that’s all the better as there will soon be elections in France that would be followed by polls in Germany”.
Sarkozy also stressed the importance of core EU members France and Germany leading Europe.
“What is the problem today? There is no leadership because in the French-German couple, the ‘French’ is missing,” he said, in a direct attack against President François Hollande, who defeated Sarkozy in the 2012 polls.
Whatever the results of the British referendum, France and Germany will find themselves under pressure to defend what’s left of their vision for Europe.
But Berlin and Paris at odds over the way forward.
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has championed a common budget, parliament and a Commissioner for the eurozone.
Berlin however sees it another way. “In response to a Brexit, we couldn’t simply demand further integration,” said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in an interview with Der Spiegel.
When he became President in 2007, Sarkozy championed the idea of a “mini-treaty” following the rejection of the draft EU Constitution by the French people in a 2005 referendum. This ultimately led to the signature of the Treaty of Lisbon, in December 2009.
However, Sarkozy’s Republican party has made increasingly frequent attacks on the European Commission recently, accusing it of “pushing out the UK and letting Turkey in”.
“Between the Europhiles and the Europhobes, EU citizens no longer recognise themselves in the European project,” Sarkozy said at the Republican headquarters in May, adding that “the European project has grown old”.
Jean-Claude Juncker and Mario Draghi – the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) – led the so-called Fve Presidents’ report, which was also co-signed by the presidents of the Eurogroup, Parliament and Council.
The report offered a detailed roadmap “to ensure the smooth functioning of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU)”, as requested by the heads of state and government in October 2014.
But diverging views between Germany and France, combined with Berlin’s hesitation to complete the Banking Union have killed attempts progress on what was initially billed a key priority for Juncker's political term. Moreover, the Greek debt saga has left little appetite among European capitals to reopen the discussion and mutualise risks.
Against this backdrop, Juncker and Draghi opted for watering down the ambition of the report and focus on completing the Banking Union first and delay other initiatives.
Meanwhile, EU leaders decided to kick the can down the road and postopne discussions on EMU deepening until December. No one wants to open a potentially divisive debate at a time when all efforts are focused on tackling the refugee crisis.
- 23 June: Referendum on Britain's continued membership of the European Union
- 28-29 June: EU summit in Brussels