GlobalPost, April 21, 2012
BERLIN— It was nice while it lasted. But “Merkozy,” it seems, is no more.
Europe’s odd couple has hit a rough patch. And it would be difficult to revive the relationship, even in the unlikely event that one half of the pair survives his tough political battle in the days ahead.
As French President Nicolas Sarkozy faces Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in the first of round of the presidential election on April 22, his campaign has turned increasingly populist in tone. This had already caused some unease in Berlin, but the fact that the French president broke an important promise he made to German Chancellor Angela Merkel not to bring up the role of the European Central Bank in the euro crisis has caused even more of a rift.
It looks like the end of an unlikely alliance forged over the course of the past few years.
It was hardly surprising that the outspoken, hyperactive French president with the bling lifestyle and the supermodel wife, did not, at first, hit it off with the modest, cautious German chancellor who still does her own grocery shopping. But as the Franco-German relationship became increasingly important to both of them, the initially frostriness began to thaw.
After all, Merkel needed an ally to avoid the perception that Germany was calling all the shots in the euro zone. Sarkozy wanted to retain France’s traditionally strong political role in the EU despite the reality of Germany’s growing dominance and France’s waning influence. Continue reading
GlobalPost, Feb. 7, 2012
BERLIN, Germany — President Nicolas Sarkozy is not yet officially a candidate in the forthcoming French presidential election, but that hasn’t stopped German Chancellor Angela Merkel from backing him. After all what would become of ‘Merkozy’ and, more importantly, her crisis-driven vision for reshaping Europe, without her side-kick in Paris?
On Monday night, Merkel defended her position in the French election during a joint TV interview with Sarkozy, arguing that the two belonged to the same party family. Indeed both Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), belong to the center-right European People’s Party (EPP).
Merkel, who was in Paris for the joint Franco-German cabinet meeting, said during the interview that she would support the current occupant of the Elysee Palace “whatever he does.”
Yet her blatant favoring of Sarkozy in the contest scheduled for April 22 has raised some hackles back home.
Green parliamentary floor leader Juergen Trittin was particularly scathing. “A German government leader who campaigns for a president who has his back against the wall damages the Franco-German relationship,” he told the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper. Continue reading
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is mulling a recommendation to impose a tax on Internet ad revenues in France. The proposal is aimed at helping the French culture industries survive the new digital age. But critics say it is absurd, unworkable and will do little more than prop up failing business models.
France has never been shy when it comes to protecting its culture and heritage, with quotas for French-language chansons on the radio and massive subsidizes for its home-grown film industry. Now it could be about to take on perhaps the greatest symbol of the globalized, and increasingly Anglophone, world: Google.
On Thursday evening French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that he would get his Finance Ministry to look at a controversial proposal to impose a tax on the online ad revenues that Google and other search engines generate in France. He also said he would ask the national competition authorities to look at whether Google had an unfair market dominance.
Sarkozy’s comments, made during a speech to culture officials at the Cité de la Musique in Paris, came the day after his government was presented with a report commissioned to look at ways to protect French cultural industries in the new online world. The most controversial proposal was a tax, dubbed the “Google tax,” that would take a small percentage of the big Internet players’ online ad revenues. It is the latest rallying cry in France’s war on the infringement of its cultural identity, something the French president is keen to be seen defending. Continue reading