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

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:–44609-350–12-51–901-20081216IPR44608-15–12-2008–2008-true/default_fr.htm (last access: 26 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
[4] MEDEF, Com­mu­niqué de presse, 12 Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 26 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
[5] SER, Com­mu­niqué de presse, 12 Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: (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: (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: (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: (last access: 26 Feb­ru­ary 2009).