Ireland’s outgoing EU Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy today (December 18) launched a caustic attack on President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and on the extent of French power and influence in the EU.
In a speech to the Association of European Journalists in Dublin, Mr McCreevy, who will shortly step down as internal market commissioner, said the French president’s recent “coming out” on EU matters had been instructive.
Pointing to Mr Sarkozy’s comment that the appointment of Michel Barnier to succeed him had been “a defeat for Anglo Saxon capitalism,” Mr McCreevy said: “President Sarkozy has laid to rest once and for all the myth that EU commissioners, certainly French ones, when they go to Brussels, are expected to leave aside their home member state national interests and political priorities and act exclusively in the community interest.
“What President Sarkozy’s statement tells us is that like many of his fellow countrymen, he does not see the European Commission as a commission for the advancement of European interests. “He sees it as a commission for the advancement of French interests.”
He added that the French president expected the French commissioner and his staff in the Berlaymont to behave as though they were an annex to the Élysée Palace. “But I think Mr Barnier is strong enough to resist such pressures,” added Mr McCreevy.
However, he went on to underline what he saw as the extent of French influence in Brussels and the wider world over financial regulation, supervision and policy making.
“The influence of France in Brussels is impressive, though. People forget that the Brussels bureaucracy was designed by the French almost as a copy of how the administration in Paris works.
“This has over the years given the French a huge advantage in knowing how to pull the levers of power. And if you look around the commission you will see that the French have been masters in getting their key people into some of the most powerful posts,” said Mr McCreevy.
“As my successor as commissioner for the internal market Mr Barnier will have responsibility for all European financial services, accounting, auditing, company law, corporate governance, services of general interest, patents, intellectual property rights, public procurement and the transatlantic financial dialogue.
“But the tactical positioning and influence of the French in all of these areas and other tangential areas stretches far beyond the European Commission.”
He said that in all the major areas of finance, services, trade, EU monetary policy and central bank leadership the French “have scooped the pool, lock, stock and barrel”.
“So I salute President Sarkozy and his colleagues in the French foreign service and the finance ministry for their extraordinary deftness and diplomatic and tactical coups,” said Mr McCreevy.