Lukewarm reactions to the compromise on the “energy and climate” package

France
Centre européen de Sciences Po
 
Both because of the Poznan Conference and the EU-27 climate summit in Brussels, environmental issues have been largely covered by the French media. In its editorial, “Le Monde” emphasises the importance of these conferences: “the EU not only plays for the future of the international climate change treaty, but also for its economic future and international statute”.[1] Therefore, in view of these challenges, reactions to the final agreement have been lukewarm.
 
The French government is rather satisfied with the final agreement: “Mission accomplished. Now onto Copenhagen”, French Environment Minister J. L. Borloo told the French press agency AFP, referring to the global summit in December 2009.[2] According to President Sarkozy, the final agreement respects the goals that had been set by the European Parliament. However, he admitted that some concessions were necessary to reach an agreement.[3] In this context, the MEDEF, the French employers’ union, welcomed this agreement. Thanks to the concessions, the text “sets equilibrium between ambitious targets and competitiveness of EU firms”.[4] Some sectoral actors appear as winners in these negotiations. This is the case of the renewable energy industry. The SER (French Renewable Energy Organisation) also expressed its satisfaction regarding “an historical agreement”.[5]
 
However, French Socialist Party expressed a mixed opinion. It welcomed the compromise but considered it as a lacklustre success, given that many concessions were made in order to reach it.[6] More radical criticisms come from environmental organisations and the Green Party. In a common press release, French representatives of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Climate Action Network, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth claimed that the compromise was in total contradiction with European long-term targets to reduce global warming.[7] Thus, according to Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit and other ecologists, “the compromise on the table is one weakened by national selfishness. The triple 20 percent climate targets have been diluted to legitimise a 4x4 economy”.[8] Mathieu Wemaëre, from the “Institut du Développement Durable et des Relations Internationales” (IDDRI), expresses a critical point of view on these conferences and believes that “real effort from Europeans has been reduced drastically”.[9]

Sarkozy, Merkel and Franco-German relations
 
Negotiations on anti-crisis measures and climate package have placed Franco-German relations under the spotlight. French media insisted on a German ‘defensive’ attitude during these discussions.[10] According to “Le Figaro”, the end of the EU French Presidency came as a relief to Angela Merkel. The French daily newspaper considers that Chancellor Merkel adopted a defensive position on both fronts (crisis and climate issues) in her effort to curtail the exuberance of Nicolas Sarkozy. “Les Echos” underlines an exceptionally bad communication management, which made the German Chancellor appear as obstructing the ‘refounder of the new global financial order.[11] As a consequence, reports “Le Nouvel Observateur”, German media became more critical towards Angela Merkel and surprisingly supportive of Nicolas Sarkozy. It transformed its taunting towards the French President into criticism towards the Chancellor, accusing her of immobility in the face of the worst recession in post-war history.[12] In an editorial for “Le Figaro”, Alain-Gérard Slama observed an ironic inversion in Franco-German relations at the EU level. Whereas France appealed for voluntarism and action, Germany called for caution and consultation.[13] In this context, the task of French President Sarkozy at the EU summit was uneasy. It had to find an acceptable compromise between France and Germany and to resist to the temptation to play the part of the lone ranger.[14]
 
If the current cooling of Franco-German relations persists, it will have a negative impact on the EU’s capacity to take decisions. This led D. Moïse, special counsellor for the ”Institut Français des Relations Internationales” (IFRI), to claim that the circumstances of an economic crisis could only force N. Sarkozy and A. Merkel to join forces and points of view.[15] Besides, “Le Nouvel Observateur” already saw signs of improvement in relations between Paris and Berlin: Sarkozy's invitation to Merkel to attend the inauguration of the de Gaulle Memorial in Colombey was significant, and the joint letter to the European press – published on the eve of the tenth French-German ministerial council under the title ‘We can wait no longer’ – shows the objectives of the two countries are still the same, despite the wrangling.[16]
 
The choice of the new State Secretary for European Affairs, Bruno Le Maire, recently confirmed this tendency. B. Le Maire, an expert in German issues and a good German speaker, conceded that one of his main tasks will be to recreate strong relations between both countries. He declared on radio RTL: “When France and Germany are in agreement, things progress including on issues that are not self-evident. If they fail to reach a compromise, then the EU comes to a halt”.[17]


 



[1] Le Monde, 11 December 2008.


[2] AFP, 17 December 2008.


[3] Discours de Nicolas Sarkozy devant le Parlement européen, 15 December 2008, available at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/expert/infopress_page/004-44609-350-1... (last access: 26 February 2009).


[4] MEDEF, Communiqué de presse, 12 December 2008, available at: http://www.medef.fr/main/core.php?pag_id=133216 (last access: 26 February 2009).


[5] SER, Communiqué de presse, 12 November 2008, available at: http://www.enr.fr/dossiers-presse/CP_Conseil_Europeen_Paquet_energie_cli... (last access: 26 February 2009).


[6] Parti Socialiste, “Paquet énergie – climat: le Conseil européen conclut un accord en demi-teinte", 16 December 2008, available at: http://presse.parti-socialiste.fr/2008/12/16/paquet-energie-climat-conse... (last access: 26 February 2009).


[7] Réseau Action Climat, WWF, Les Amis de la Terre, Greenpeace,”Honte aux dirigeants européens !“, 12 December 2008, available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/france/news/honte-aux-dirigeants-europeens (last access: 26 February 2009).


[8] Le Monde, 17 December 2008.


[9] Ouest France, 13 December 2008.


[10] Le Figaro, 12 December 2008.


[11] Les Echos, 24 October 2008.


[12] Le Nouvel Observateur, 14 December 2008.


[13] Le Figaro, 17 December 2008.


[14] Le Figaro, 12 December 2008.


[15] Le Monde, 14 December 2008.


[16] Le Nouvel Observateur, 14 December 2008.


[17] B. Le Maire, Interview, RTL, 15 December 2008, available at: http://www.rtl.fr/fiche/2781406/bruno-le-maire-la-relation-franco-allema... (last access: 26 February 2009).