Brown and Sarkozy pledge to form 'entente formidable'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Gordon Brown said that Britain and France share a vision of a "global Europe" and despite a few cracks showing, he said the relationship would develop into an "entente formidable".

At the end of the two-day state visit to Britain by President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Prime Minister, who traditionally takes a cautious line on Europe, was unusually outspoken on the subject following the French leader's pledge to work with Britain "at the heart of Europe".

Mr Brown, speaking at the Emirates Stadium after a photo opportunity on the Arsenal pitch with the President and the football team's French manager, Arsène Wenger, said: "We share the same vision about the future of Europe. I believe in a global Europe."

M. Sarkozy had highlighted a number of areas where he said there was agreement, ranging from defence matters to immigration and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, in an effusive speech to both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday. He called for a "Franco-British brotherhood" to overcome the traditional rivalry.

Mr Brown said yesterday that the two leaders agreed "that we need Britain and France at the heart of Europe, a global Europe, that is reforming, open, flexible, outward-looking". He explained the two countries could "make a difference" on such issues as the global economy, climate change and conflict prevention.

Describing M. Sarkozy's visit as "historic", he announced that French and British officials would work more closely together by meeting more frequently, including twice-yearly meetings of senior ministers, and an annual summit. At the press conference, each leader was flanked by a dozen ministers who had met at the Emirates Stadium on the summit sidelines. The venue was seen as symbolic because Arsenal, as well as boasting a French manager, field leading French international players.

The declaration sought to put flesh on the bones of the new relationship described by both leaders as an "entente amicale", strengthening the century-old "entente cordiale" alliance. The leaders addressed the turmoil in financial markets by calling for full transparency on bank losses and announcing they would seek specific measures to promote financial stability.

Last night, addressing a City of London banquet before heading home, M. Sarkozy expressed "deep concern" about the effects of the sudden rise in the oil price, and castigated the distortions of the international currency markets. It makes no sense to shift "mountains of debt" around, he said, "even if you are the leading country in the world."

Other measures in the joint declaration included plans to combat nuclear terrorism by screening traffic using the Channel tunnel and to strengthen border controls at Calais.

The leaders pledged to look at ways of bringing in big players such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa into the G8 process, and reaffirmed support for enlargement of the UN Security Council.

The centre-right M. Sarkozy acknowledged there were differences between himself and the "socialist" Mr Brown, saying that both had shifted from their initial positions. He said that it was "a reality" that Britain remained outside the euro and the Schengen zone of open borders. "You English want another Europe – but it's easier to do it from inside," he contended.

It also became clear that the President would commit only to holding talks on CAP reform. He specifically did not endorse Mr Brown's backing for the phasing out of farm subsidies by 2020.

There was further disagreement between the two leaders over Tibet. M. Sarkozy – whose country will hold the EU presidency from 1 July – refused to rule out a boycott of the Beijing Olympics this summer. Mr Brown noted that the Dalai Lama was not calling on leaders to stay away. Both leaders took pains to show their personal closeness, although neither consistently called the other by his first name. M. Sarkozy, who praised Mr Brown as "one of the best finance ministers Europe has known," addressed him by the familiar tu. Asked if the closeness would last, M. Sarkozy – who knows Mr Brown from when he was French finance minister – replied: "It is more than a one-night stand. We will go into the next-day breakfast."

When M. Sarkozy was asked if he had felt overshadowed by the attention given to his wife, Carla, prompting an emotional outburst from the President, Mr Brown stepped in to add that the French President and his wife would be welcome back any time.

The shared vision

International Institutions

– Look at ways to reform G8 to reflect the emergence of new big players in the global economy.

– To reform the UN Security Council.

– Support candidacies of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan for permanent membership and permanent representation for Africa.

– Propose an intermediate solution including a new category of seats with a longer term than the current two-year mandate for non-permanent members.

Financial turmoil

– Greater transparency in markets; ensure banks make full and prompt disclosure of write-offs.

– Reinforce thrift management and improve function of financial markets. Further discussion with the US and others on ways to promote financial stability.

– Reform international monetary fund CAPS to get a credible, authoritative early warning system for the world economy.

International Development

– Committed to the announced timetables of contributing 0.7 per cent GNI to overseas development aid.

– Partnership to get 16 million children in school in Africa by 2010 and every child by 2015.

Darfur

– Consider joint action against parties committing atrocities and those who hamper the peace process.

Afghanistan

– Stay as long as necessary to ensure stability; rebuilding Afghanistan is a top priority.

*Defence and security

– Co-operate closely oncounter-terrorism.

– Combat nuclear terrorism by screening traffic throughChannel Tunnel.

– Co-operate to develop European military capabilities, including addressing shortage of helicopters.

– Pursue joint industrial strategy for complex weapons.

Climate change

– The EU remains at the forefront of efforts to tackle climate change.

Comments