Darling of the French left in public opinion polls as a presidential hopeful Ségolène Royal got more attention than she bargained for in Brussels when she came to town for meetings with European institutional heads. She had at first refused to speak to the media. But the president of France’s Poitou-Charentes region relented, and answered questions put to her about Europe. “I believe it is an error,” she said, “to make institutional reform a pre-requisite to defining the actions of Europeans and defining a future for Europe, an enthusiastic future. The European ideal must be rethought; That is how, afterwards, it will be possible to explain that institutional reform is necessary.”
She also said she was against brusk declarations about Turkey being kept out of the EU, although she would not rule out a partnership with it – short of full membership in the bloc. Political analyst Paul Magnette said: “It’s hard for Ségolène Royal because she has to have a position that holds for the whole of the Socialist Party in France; it’s been divided since the rejection of the EU constitutional treaty. On top of this, she knows she has to win the left’s nomination – where those to the Socialists’ left are strongly critical of Europe – win that voice without the communists and Trotskyists. She can’t win a majority so has to take great care about the European stakes – to avoid alienating a strategically useful part of the electorate.”
Royal’s visit came a few days after the French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy passed through town – a rival for the 2007 presidential race. He called for a shortened version of the constitution and no EU entry for Turkey.