Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Nicolas Sarkozy’

Germany’s Despair at Cameron

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 13th December, 2011

When Angela Merkel met David Cameron 10 days ago, she told him, ‘I want to help you!’ She understood that he had problems with his Europhobic backbenchers and was offering to work with him quietly to help sort out some way that last week’s EU summit in Brussels could help find a structure in which to strengthen the euro (and the eurozone with it) while meeting some of Britain’s particular concerns. But instead of welcoming this offer, when the summit’s opening dinner went on well into the night, the British Prime Minister threw his toys out of the pram, actually jeopardising Britain’s best interests in the process. He had of course already marginalised his party from the European mainstream by pulling it out of the EPP — to which Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and many of the EU’s other big hitters belong — so he wasn’t even present at the crucial EPP Leaders’ pre-meeting in Marseilles, or even properly plugged in to what was happening on the Continent in recent weeks. The Germans were aghast at his behaviour, I am reliably informed from the highest source — and not especially delighted that this allowed Sarkozy to prance around crowing like a cockerel ruling the roost. Nonetheless, the Germans have decided to keep schtum, as they believe that openly attacking Cameron would only make matters worse. They will remain silent while praying that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats manage to row the Coalition Government at least a little way back from the disastrous place that Cameron has landed us in. German banks based in the City are horrified by the way things are going; far from helping the City of London, they say, the PM risks undermining it. And a final comment from my high-level source from Berlin (with which I can only concur): ‘Those politicians and newspapers in Britain who describe themselves as Eurosceptics are not sceptical at all. Scepticism implies a healthy determination not to accept something until one has examined it thoroughly. They are actually Europhobes, who blatantly ignore or distort the truth unless it happens to fit in with their own prejudices.’

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Cannes Washout

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 5th November, 2011

The G20 met in Cannes in pouring rain and failed to exude glamour, despite the best efforts of host Nicolas Sarkozy, who is in a fine state of PR denial, beaming as if all in the world is rosy. Of course, it isn’t. Cannes was a washout, in more ways than one, not least because the Big Boys (and a few Girls) of the world failed to address adequately the problems facing not just the eurozone but the global economy. It didn’t help that Italy’s PM Silvio Berlusconi was wandering around with his usual clownish antics, as if global summits are a sort of It’s A Knockout, with a bit of bunga bunga thrown in. The Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, should have worn a sign on her derriere, proclaiming ‘Any fellow Prime Minister giving me an inappropriate leer will be given a red card — and go straight to jail. Do not pass Go. And above all, do not collect any backhanders.’ The other oddity was to see how totally marginalised Barack Obama was in all this. This is inevitable, of course, now that the United States is well on its way downhill after a half-century (at least) of global domination. The Chinese are not grinning, however — they have too much to lose — but after Cannes the name of the game has changed.

 

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We Need to Talk about Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 25th October, 2011

The parliamentary debate on a call for an EU referendum last night was not the most edifying of spectacles. What struck me most was the disturbing ignorance amongst many MPs — notably the Tories supporting the referendum motion — about what the EU actually is and what it does. In that, of course, they are sadly typical of their electorates, as Euro-ignorance is endemic in this country. Things are not helped by the rabidly Euro-sceptic Press (with some noble exceptions such as the Guardian, Independent and Financial Times) which peddles anti-European prejudice and often outright lies. If the EU were an individual, rather than an institution, newspapers such as the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Sunday Telegraph would repeatedly find themselves in the Courts facing libel charges. There is a desperate need  for objective public education about the European Union. Some might argue that such an educational programme could be part of any EU Referendum campaign, and I respect the opinion of those MPs who voted for a Referendum not because they loathe the EU but because they feel the issue needs to be publicly debated. In the meantime, I understand the frustration felt by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the UK Conservative Party’s carping from the sidelines about policies in the eurozone. Now, I wonder just how many Brits could say clearly what the eurozone is, let alone be able to list its member countries?!

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Peter Brookes: The Best of Times

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 21st August, 2011

There are many good reasons not to read the Times, Rupert Murdoch being the most obvious. But one of that newspaper’s best features for some years now has been the output of political cartoonist Peter Brookes. Like all the best of his breed, he is topical, irreverent and puts the boot in where it’s needed. Unlike some cartoonists, however, he draws charicatures that are clearly identifiable, no matter how far-fetched the distortion. I think particularly of his Nature Notes, which have, for example, featured Harriet Harman as a praying mantis, Nicolas Sarkozy as a cockerel on stilts and Hazel Blears as a snail. No-one of any political party or natonality is free from his humorous barbs. Fortunately, every so often his very best cartoons appear in beautifully reproduced full-colour collections such as the one I have been savouring this afternoon: The Best of Times… (JR Books, London, 2009; £15.99). Peter Brookes holds no-one sacred, be it the Pope, the Queen or Barack Obama. Moreover, his willingness to get right to the bone prompts outright guffaws, such as his drawing of a very smug Bill Clinton declaring: ‘Fellow Democrats, trust me! Would I ever leave a sour taste in you mouth?!’ Because the volume covers the final years of the last Labour government, both Tony Blair (over Iraq) and Gordon Brown (portrayed naked on a sofa, in a pastiche of Lucian Freud’s ‘Benefit Supervisor Sleeping’) get it in the neck. I particularly love the image of a manic Cherie Blair, with terrifying grin, typing her autobiography on an old-fashioned cash register. And there is an unfogettable image of John Prescott impaled by a croquet hoop on a croquet lawn while Peter Mandelson aims a ball straight between his legs. As Liberal Democrats were not yet in government, they don’t fgure very much in this collection, apart from poor old Ming Campbell drawn alongside a Thora Hird-style stair-lift and Nick Clegg as a bird called the Great Shag. But I am sure there will be lots for LibDems to groan and giggle over by the time the next collection of Peter Brookes’s work comes out.

Link: www.jrbooks.com

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Featherstone Flies the Flag for Equality

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th March, 2011

There have been many surprises since Britain last May got its first Coalition government since the Second World War. Who would have thought that the Conservative David Cameron would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Nicolas Sarkozy in leading the international acceptance of the Responsibility to Protect vis-a-vis Libya? But there have also been big wins in the more personal arena, too, largely thanks to the Liberal Democrat influence in government. This is particularly visible in the field of LGBT rights. Britain has been leading the way on marriage equality, for example, as well as on the recognition of the rights and contribution of transgender/inter-sex people — with the feisty LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone, flying the flag for equality in diversity. This innovation is being followed with interest on both sides of the Atlantic, as became clear in discussion at the annual dinner of Bermondsey and Old Southwark Liberal Democrats at the Yellow House in Surrey Quays last night. It was encouraging to see how many young atendees there were. Where the party is active, young people are rallying round, despite the rumpus over tuition fees.

Link: http://southwark-libdems.org.uk

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Is WikiLeaks a Public Service

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 29th November, 2010

Hillary Clinton and the US State Department are in a state of shock this week, as more than 250,000 ‘secret’ US diplomatic communications provided to WikiLeaks — reportedly by a young American soldier working in Intelligence in Baghdad — are being systematically filleted and published in five leading Western newspapers, including the Guardian. Today’s crop provided a feast for anyone interested in the Middle East, the main revelation being just how (privately) anti-Iran several Gulf Arab rulers are — in fact, some suggested that military action against Tehran’s atomic aspirations might be a necessity. Other things revealed are much more mundane, even funny — though one suspects that some of the diplomats concerned, including in the vast (but soon to be evacuated) US Embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square, lack a sense of humour. Indeed, having met some of them on my regular rounds of the capital’s diplomatic circuit, I know they do. Future instalments of the WikiLeaks State Department trove will touch on things closer to home, such as what the Americans make of Prince Andrew and of France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, and perhaps most interestingly, Britain’s new Coalition government and its leaders. But the question has to be asked: is all this unauthorised public communication of material that was meant to be classified (abeit available to about three million Americans who have access to ‘secret’ missives) a harm or a benefit to the common good? Will it cost lives, as Washington states? Or has it enhanced democratic accountability and indeed brought the public closer to the realities of international wheeling and dealing? I agree with Timothy Garton Ash, who argued in the Guardian today that the information revealed will be a huge boon to historians. But it is to journalists and politicians,  too. So even while WikiLeak’s mastermind, the Australian Julian Assange, is being pursued by the Swedish courts over alleged sexual misdemeanours, I say hats off to him and to WikiLeaks. And also to the Guardian, which has got itself a (British) scoop most other major newspapers would (metaphorically) kill for.

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The Tories Just Don’t Get Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 25th February, 2010

The Conservatives’ Deputy Leader in the House of Lords and Foreign Affairs Spokesman, David Howell, was the guest speaker at the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) this lunchtime at the London office of the European Parliament. Though he asked to be off the record regarding his remarks about his party’s leaving the main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament, the EPP, much of the rest of what he said was both interesting and reportable. In particular, he spoke of the tripod of Britain’s foreign relations: links to Europe, to the United States and to the emerging economies of Asia, not least India. He also picked up the refrain of the Queen in her last C hristmas Day broadcast, in which she described the Commonwealth as ‘the face of the future’. I am myself a strong supporter of Commonwealth ties and I believe we should be friends with the Americans too. But I am astounded that the Conservative Party should see our relationship with the EU as an aspect of foreign policy. David Howell even referred to Europe as ‘our backyard’, underlining the Conservative view that we are somehow outside and separate from (and, the implication is, superior to) our continental European partners, rather than being a committed member of the EU that is determined to see this association of independent member states develop in a positive way. Some Conservative MPs have told me off the record that the party’s public Euro-scepticism is partly to stop its voters switching to UKIP at the general election, and that if a Tory government does come into power, it will be far more accommodating to our European partners — including working closely with Angela Merkal and Nicolas Sarkozy, whose parties remain within the EPP. But I fear this will just mean more of the half-in, half-out strategy pursued by several former British governments — both Conservative and Labour — and that yet again Britain is going to be left behind as the European bus departs.

Link: www.aej-uk.org

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European Liberal Democrats Back Turkey’s EU Accession

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 20th November, 2009

European Liberal Democrats, meeting at the annual congress of the ELDR in Barcelona, this morning passed a resolution (which I proposed) stating clearly our support for Turkish accession to the European Union, providing Ankara fulfils all of the so-called Copenhagen criteria for membership. This is in sharp contrast to the negative comments about Turkey´s EU vocation made recently by conservative leaders such as President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, as well as the newly appointed President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy.

The resolution noted the progress that Turkey has been making with regard to the Copenhagen criteria — as acknowledged in last month’s report from the European Commission — while pointing out that more needs to be achieved in areas such as freedom of expression and the media. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s initiatives towards resolving Turkey’s longstanding Kurdish question were welcomed.

The resolution — which was finalised in consultation with the German Liberal FDP (now in charge of the Federal Republic’s Foreign Ministry) — also called on the European Union to do more to facilitate a settlement of the Cyprus dispute and to end the isolation of Turkish Cypriots.

Link: www.eldr.org

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The Tories Just Don’t Get It on Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 7th October, 2009

George OsborneThe Conservative Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, looking all serious in long trousers at the party’s conference in Manchester yesterday, solemnly trotted out the new Tory mantra: ‘We’re all in this together!’  The deliberately Churchillian echo was designed to conjure up wartime nostalgia, of getting everyone to put their shoulders to the wheel at a time when Britain stood alone. The glaring flaw in this analogy is that in the current economic, rather than military, crisis, Britain does not stand alone — and it would be fatal if it did. On the contrary, the country’s best chance of emerging from the downturn strongly is to work more closely with our 26 EU partners. But the Conservatives are effectively doing the opposite. They have insulted and enraged the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, by leaving the main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament, the EPP, and they still mutter about torpedoing the Lisbon Treaty. Even Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who ought to be a natural Cameron ally, is instead championing former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair as the potential first President of the European Council (God help us). No, the Tories just don’t get it on Europe. And their Little Britain mentality on the world stage will not save these islands of ours, but rather risk sinking them in an increasingly competitive and globalised environment.

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Why David Cameron Should Be Dating Angela Merkel

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 23rd August, 2009

Angela MerkelAccording to Forbes Magazine, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has risen significantly up the charts of the most powerful women in the world. Actually, one doesn’t really need an American publication to tell us that: here in Europe it is bleeding obvious. At least, one would have thought so. But apparently that is not the case for the UK Conservative leader, David Cameron, who recently cold-shouldered Frau Merkel and her Christian Democrat party by getting into bed with some pretty distasteful Eastern European fringe politicians in the European Parliament. He may well live to regret this move, as like Mrs Thatcher when she was in office, Angela Merkel keeps a close eye on who is ‘one of us’ and who is not. Moreover, despite being dismissed as a frowsty East German technocrat when she first entered post-reunification German politics, Frau Merkel can be steely when she wants. She certainly knew when to stick the knife into her former leader Helmut Kohl when the time was ripe.

David Cameron 4David Cameron’s crass misjudgement of where his party’s best interests lie, in terms of European alignments, could unfortunately have serious repercussions for Britain. Angela Merkel is no longer just the apparent ‘token woman’ in photo line-ups of EU or G8 leaders. She positively oozes authority and competence, in contrast to counterparts such as the superannuated Italian Lothario Silvio Berlusconi or the flash Frenchman Nicolas Sarkozy. Those two men do nonetheless have the nous to keep close to her politically, as any sensible British Conservative leader should have done. If the Irish approve the Lisbon Treaty in their second referendum this autumn, as seems highly likely, it will be Frau Merkel who will be seen to be then pushing the European project forward, even if technically the Swedes are occupying the presidential seat.

If David Cameron becomes Prime Minister next year (and increasingly I believe it is ‘if’, not ‘when’), far from automatically being one of the Big Four political beasts at the heart of Europe, he will look very much out on a limb — which reflects current Tory policy towards the EU, of course. This is bound to weaken Britain’s role in European decision-making. Cameron will also stand out for his blatant inexperience, which has already been made painfully obvious, by his politically snubbing Anglea Merkel instead of dating her.

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