Warm welcome much appreciated, French President Nicolas Sarkozy pressed the flesh with Hans-Gert Poettering as the President of the European Parliament squired the special guest along red carpeting. And the politician with a reputation as consummate charmer returned the compliment.
Euronews went backstage after Sarkozy’s performance, to ask the ladies and gentlemen of the media what they thought.
Lorenzo Consoli, President of the International Press Association, said: “I found him convincing. He answered all the questions well. Not only that – and the President of the Parliament noted this – it’s very rare that a President of the Council of the European Union stays so long to answer questions from all the parliamentarians. It’s a great gesture of respect for the assembly.”
Reuters news service staffer Pete Harrison called Sarkozy’s visit to present the French agenda for the EU “a virtuoso four-hour display of oratory and humour”.
But Bernard Bulcke from Belgium’s De Standaard newspaper said: “One shouldn’t be completely taken in: I remember Tony Blair’s presidency very well. I also remember that debate. That was also impressive, with a lot of promises. Everybody really expected something to come out of that presidency. But in the end we didn’t see anything – virtually nothing.”
In his speech, Sarkozy mentioned Ireland, Denmark, EU candidate Croatia, and referred to other small states, but Inga Czerny from the Polish press agency felt he was biased.
“It confirms his strategy,” she said, “that he talks with the big players… how he rates Poland, while ignoring the small countries. I don’t know if you noticed, but he didn’t say a single word about the Czech Republic, even though that country still hasn’t ratified the Lisbon Treaty. Mister Sarkozy simply ignored President Vaclav Klaus’s declaration that for the Czechs the Lisbon Treaty is dead.”