Sarkozy and Cameron on collision course?

David Cameron, leader of a British Conservative Party that is well ahead in the opinion polls just weeks ahead of a General Election, has already ruffled feathers across La Manche, with reported jibes about the diminutive stature of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is reeling from personal life scandals and a drubbing in regional elections. The remarks provoked a reaction from Paris, which accused the British Opposion leader of lacking respect for the French Head of State.

Such a trifling spat may be just the start of a tricky Anglo-French relationship over the future of EU budget, in particular the €60 billion common agricultural policy and Britain’s special budget rebate.… Read the rest

Voters punish Sarkozy, Le Maire stays on

It’s been a turbulent few weeks for French President Nicolas Sarkozy and voters expressed their dissatisfaction with his centre-right UMP party in regional elections yesterday. A resurgent Socialist-led opposition alliance took 52% of the vote and the UMP just 35%, squeezed in sevearl contests by the far-right National Front, which scored 9.4% of the national vote but took more than 22% in its two core regions in the north and south. Opposition candidates won in 21 of France’s 22 mainland regions.

Among the losers was French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire (pictured, right), who was rejected by voters of Normandy, where he was standing for election as Regional President.… Read the rest

Sarkozy offers a deal on CAP reform

President Sarkozy took farmers into his confidence in a recent speech at the Salon d’agriculture where he proposed a new direction in France’s position on CAP reform post 2013. Noting that there were farms in France where the share of subsidies equals the value of production, he declared that this does not make sense if the farmer is a producer. He criticised the policy approach of accepting compensation for reductions in prices because, some day, there is no longer sufficient funds to continue to pay for the subsidies.

Instead, he proposed to the other EU partners a deal whereby France would be flexible on the share of the next financial perspective going to agriculture provided that this was balanced by more rigorous Community preference which, implicitly would lead to a higher market return.… Read the rest