Blair first world leader to call on Sarkozy

11th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 11, 2007 (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday becomes the first world leader to hold talks with French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy on his plans to re-launch Europe and get France's economy humming.

PARIS, May 11, 2007 (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday becomes the first world leader to hold talks with French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy on his plans to re-launch Europe and get France's economy humming.

A day after announcing he will retire after 10 years in power, Blair was to fly to Paris for the meeting with Sarkozy who was elected on Sunday on a platform that calls for a "clean break" with the politics of the past.

Blair warmly congratulated Sarkozy on his victory over Socialist Segolene Royal in a message posted -- in both French and English -- on the popular website YouTube earlier this week, saying: "I like him very much. He is a strong leader."

"This relationship between Britain and France is an absolutely crucial one.

"I think that with Nicolas Sarkozy as president there is a fantastic opportunity for Britain and France to work together in the years ahead," said Blair, who steps down next month after a European summit in Brussels on June 21-22.

At that summit, Sarkozy is to present his plan for the adoption of an EU mini-treaty to get the 27-nation bloc up and running again after French and Dutch voters rejected the EU constitution in referendums held two years ago.

The document to be submitted to approval by parliament would include key elements of the failed constitution that outline how EU institutions function.

Blair will want to hear Sarkozy provide details on the proposal and give some insight on how his likely successor Gordon Brown sees EU reform.

Brown, Britain's finance minister since 1997, is reputedly among the leaders of the governing Labour Party who is least enthusiastic about the European project.

He is opposed to Britain adopting the euro and reports in the British press suggest that he plans to veto efforts to revive the moribund EU constitution.

Rightwinger Sarkozy has praised Blair during his many trips to London, describing him as a pragmatist and commending his government for creating jobs and boosting growth, outshining France's economic performance.

Sarkozy has promised to bring the unemployment rate, currently one of Europe's highest at about eight percent, down to below five percent during his five-year presidency.

Britain's jobless rate stands at 5.4 percent, down from 7.2 percent when Blair took office in 1997.

On a trip to London in January shortly after winning the nomination of the governing party, Sarkozy suggested that he was ready to learn some lessons from Blair on how to navigate through economic reform.

"It's not about imposing a model (on France) but Tony Blair has demonstrated pragmatism and has been useful for his country and I want a France that is very open to the world," he said.

"One of our problems is that we're too self-centered," Sarkozy said.

Blair will also meet with outgoing President Jacques Chirac who will hand over to Sarkozy at a formal ceremony on Wednesday.

While France and Britain stood on opposite sides of the fence on the Iraq war, Sarkozy has never made a point of emphasizing the difference.

Sending a strong signal about France's resurgent role in Europe, Sarkozy is expected to travel to Berlin on Wednesday shortly after the handover ceremony to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The incoming president has said that restoring ties with Europe would be his foreign policy priority and has also reached out a friendly hand to the United States, saying that France will be at its side.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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