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The moment of la petite hyperpower?

arc de triumph
Is Paris on its way to new diplomatic triumphs? (via Ramy Alaa, Flickr)

Next week, a commission installed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy will finally publish the long awaited and heavily discussed “livre blanc“, which will set the cornerstones of French defense-policy for the next 15 years. Just a few weeks later, Mr. Sarkozy’s country will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, transforming it to be Europe`s playmaker for the next six months. The two events give us, as a sort of follow up to the post below, the chance to piece together the current actions of France`s “Hyperpresident“ and ask ourselves: Is this the moment of l’hyperpower?

On the international stage, Mr. Sarkozy has been arduous all his tenure. He has suggested to reintegrate his country into the NATO command structure, an idea his predecessors Chirac and Mitterand had toyed with before. At the same time, he heavily lobbied for a further implmentation of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), strengthening the European Union’s military power with a Brussels headquarters and the EU Foreign Policy Chief (who will be stronger once the Lisbon treaties are in effect) as a head.

During France`s Presidency, Mr Sarkozy is expected to push hard for these joint defence efforts, but he will have jump some hurdles before: Though the U.S. has already agreed to accept a stronger EU military (not the least because it may offer more resources for international missions and could take some weight of the strained U.S. forces), the U.K. is not convinced, as it has always tried to keep NATO strong and fears a continental balance shift.

France would profit on different levels: First, the ESDP-proposal would include a common market for weapons, a fact arms exporters like France and Germany would highly approve. Secondly, EU forces could be deployed in regions where the UN does not have a mandate (or where it has ended) and the NATO is not welcome because of its strong American ties. A third point is the French comeback: After years of (more or less) international isolation during the Chirac years, a joint EU defence army would definitely be largely influenced by France and therefore offer Paris an excellent opportunity to be back in the spotlight and offer a counterweight against the Britsh-American domination of the last years.

But all of this, if reports are true, will come along with further downsizing the French military, cutting its budget and reducing troops. On a military level, the influence over EU troops will replace having to take care of a huge army on one`s one – though Europe is still undecided whether to be a soft or a real power. As far as Africa is concerned – a region Mr. Sarkozy has paid close attention to – military efforts will be substituted largely by intelligence and diplomacy, though secret defence pacts are still in place.

The French outreach to Eastern Europe (through the Council of the Baltic States) and its failed plan to establish a “Mediterranean Union“ that would have built special relations between Southern EU states and African countries like Libya or Egypt, show that Mr. Sarkozy is up to something.

Using the European Union as a pillar for peace missions, some of whom the country’s businesses will benefit from (remember Congo?), and using bilateral diplomacy at the same time might be Mr. Sarkozy’s recipe to give French trade the boost the country will need to create more jobs and global players in the next couple of years. L’hyperpower may be smaller, silent and largely peaceful – but France will surely be found on the offensive on the international stage the coming years.

Update: As Ireland’s „No“ gets into its way, Paris has delayed publishing the livre blanc. For more infos, check out the International Herald Tribune.

2 Gedanken zu „The moment of la petite hyperpower?“

    […] Union, transforming it to be Europe`s playmaker for the next six months. The two events givehttp://www.kopfzeiler.org/blog/?p=191Nigeria president to ‚re-energise‘ ties with France: FM AFP via Yahoo! News Nigerian foreign […]

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