Nicolas Sarkozy is spending his last few days before assuming the French presidency laying the groundwork for his plans and ambitions. Firstly he had to take his official leave of the UMP party, of which he has been President since 2004. His reception there was, not surprisingly, enthusiastic. “My dear friends,” he said, using that now familiar phrase. “I must leave you now but only because, in my eyes, it is the only way to serve the best interests of France.
That formality taken care of, he moved on to meetings with French union officials and business bosses. Promising drastic labour reforms, he has to find a way to avoid the mass street protests which paralysed similar right-wing efforts in the past. Laurence Parisot, head of the syndicate of French bosses, MEDEF, cast their meeting in a positive light: “It was an interesting meeting. He is obviously a man of action. He is driven by results and that will work well for us.”
Bernard Thibault, head of the general workers’ union, CGT, was wary, but reassured by promises of a dialogue: “We will have to wait and see if the reforms he wishes to introduce take account of the dialogue he has promised us.” So, cordial meetings so far, at least on the surface, but Sarkozy has not yet stepped into the Presidential shoes. That honour awaits him when he takes over from the outgoing Jacques Chirac this Wednesday.