Campaigning for the European elections got underway in earnest with leaders of France, Germany and Spain all involved in lavish events.
In Berlin, Angela Merkel hosted Nicolas Sarkozy in an atmosphere of mutual respect and desire to advance the EU beyond its current position. The German Chancellor took the chance to have a go at euro-sceptics.“When we go to vote, many people still think it’s not about very much. But I say it’s about our future. This is about the question of which political ideas will be realised in Europe so that we will be able to talk with one voice in the world,” she said. The two conservative leaders were keen to show-off what their close relationship has achieved. Sarkozy claimed it was France and Germany who secured the G20 summit in London last month. In Spain, it was the socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero taking the first steps on the campaign trail. Even though unemployment is heading for depression levels in his country, he remained upbeat. “As soon as there’s something positive, our opponents make a fuss,” he said. “The media, and people who are always critical of the government, they don’t want to see good news. But I tell you, there will be good news, and we are going to achieve it.” The European Parliament elections in June are likely to show the extent of the damage Zapatero has sustained from the economic downturn. Polls already show him trailing the opposition Conservatives for the first time since he was elected in 2004.