French President Nicolas Sarkozy today made his final speech to the European parliament as rotating EU president, just ahead of France handing over to the Czechs at the end of this month. It has been a tumultuous, crisis-driven six months, which has climaxed, insists Sarkozy, on a European triumph on fighting climate change: “It would have been the height of stupidity if, at the moment of a new American president setting ambitious environmental targets for the world’s leading power, Europe had decided to go back on its own targets. It would have been irresponsible,” he said in Strasbourg
First impressions of the Sarkozy presidency are globally positive; he rose to great political and economic challenges and maintained unity while proposing European answers to regional and global problems on the world stage. Is Europe closer to the holy grail of speaking with one voice today? “Europe cannot be built against the will of member states, that’s obvious. You can be as European as you like but you can’t work against nations. I’ve tried to get Europe moving, but Europe has changed me,” he concluded. Some in France, exhausted at his non-stop rolling domestic reforms, might say hooray to that, but Sarkozy returns to Paris strengthened by his international performance. And tonight there will be a performance of another kind, the concert closing the French presidency in Strasbourg, with Berlioz conducted by a French parliamentarian and fomer baton-wielder at the Lyon opera, the Slovak philharmonic orchestra, and children’s choirs from several EU member states.