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Sarkozy's G8 Ennui

Jul 17, 2008
He was bored, the poor man. You could see it in his eyes and his body language. Miles away from home in a country he's not madly keen on, talking the talk and little else with a bunch of other G8 leaders.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, didn't really enjoy himself at this year's G8 yak-fest in Hokkaido, Japan, if French commentators are to be believed.

There was certainly none of the buoyancy or tactile back slapping of last year when Sarkozy floated into Heiligendamm, Germany on his presidential cloud, fresh from an electoral victory and smiled away as he handed over his mobile 'phone for then Russian president, Vladimir Putin to have a chat.

Instead he was rather low-key with his efforts thwarted from the outset.

He mooted the idea of increasing the whole shebang from a G8 to a G13 to include some of the other major world economies. But nobody else in the Old Boy's (and one Girl's) club seemed to be up for it.

So bang went Sarkozy's big idea. And India, China, Brazil and others will have to wait their turn until the rest of the leaders actually wake up to the fact that they probably can't continue meeting to make no decisions without some of the world's other major players. Or there again perhaps they can. Clearly Sarkozy is and was in the minority on this.

Most of the other leaders turned up at Hokkaido with their better halves among their entourage. Not so Sarkozy, as Carla stayed behind poutingly putting the final touches to her third album, due for release in a couple of weeks time.

Equally important for Sarkozy of course was how the G8 was playing back home in France. Simple, it wasn't - well not very much. Apart from the time difference, which always puts a bit of a dampener on these things in terms of news reporting, nobody was really interested.

Ingrid's still in town, the Tour de France wheeled into action last weekend and there's "real" work to be done back where Sarkozy thinks he knows he's needed.

There's the launch of the Mediterranean Union in Paris next weekend, with a fair number of Middle East leaders pitching up followed by Bastille Day celebrations to enjoy.

There's his first address as EU Big Cheese to the European parliament in Strasbourg to be delivered. France has just taken over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union.

There's a country to run and a whole continent to be knocked into shape, and instead Sarkozy has been banging heads and getting nowhere fast as far as he's concerned.

Sure the G8 may have renewed their commitment to reduce global emissions, but that won't really have grabbed many people's imaginations back home in France, a country which has invested heavily over the years in low/non (choose your camp choose your definition) carbon-emitting nuclear power.

And even though they called for called for "swift action" on oil prices which they've - surprise, surprise - realised are "having a negative impact on the world," Sarkozy was still left wondering where the oil producers had been in the discussion.

Then of course there was the food thing. While his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, never passed up an opportunity for a trip to the Far East and relished his time there, Sarkozy is in contrast the most American of French presidents (as is often pointed out in the press) and there's nothing he reportedly enjoys more than a burger and fries.

Quite how he managed to brave his way through a shoeless meal of sushi and sashimi leaves the imagination somersaulting.

No, by Sarkozy's action man, power-packed, let's get things done standards, Hokkaido won't have perked his spirits much.

Perhaps though he had the chance to wheedle out of Italy's Silvio Berlusconi a blueprint for taking over a country's media. Maybe he's done some behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing with Russia's recently elected president, Dmitri Medvedev. Or better still come up with a plan to resolve the "Irish-EU-Lisbon no" problem with Britain's EU-ponderous prime minister Gordon Brown.

Who knows? Roll on G8 2009 in La Maddelena, Italy, Carla's country of birth.
About the Author
Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist specialising in politics, sport and travel. For more on what's making the headlines here in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com
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