London: French President Nicolas Sarkozy returns to Paris this evening after having laid down the groundwork for warmer Anglo-French relations, though it was Carlo Bruni-Sarkozy, his wife who stole the spotlight during the two-day state visit.
Carlo Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of French President, Nicolas Sarkozy
In a jam-packed trip, Sarkozy called for closer relation between the two countries, proposed boosting France’s troop deployment to Afghanistan, gave a rare address to both Houses of Parliament, and called for greater transparency in the financial markets.
France and UK to have more cordial bond
Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed to hold more regular meetings to coordinate policy, with Brown vowing to turn their “entente cordiale” into an “entente amicale”, referring to the 104-year-old “cordial” relationship that has been strained in recent years.
In a joint statement, the two leaders agreed to boost cooperation on tackling climate change, securing peace in Darfur, Myanmar and Middle East, as well as calling for “restraint and dialogue” in China over Tibet.
The pair toured English Premier League side Arsenal’s north London stadium -- jokingly referred to as the unofficial French embassy because of the high number of French players.
Carlo charmed the British public and graced the front page of several newspapers, though one paper carried an article headlined: “Crazy for Carla: how Britain went mad for France’s First Lady.”
Sarkozy said he had been “deeply moved” by the glowing coverage his wife received, declaring: “I think she has been an honour to our country, and not just because of the way she looks.”
Views on Tibet
On Tibet, the French leader said he reserved the right to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing this August, saying he would consult with other EU leaders before making any decision.
Brown, whose country hosts the 2012 games in London, said he would be attending the opening ceremony and ruled out a boycott.
On economic issues, the pair -- both former finance ministers -- called for greater transparency on the financial markets, urging banks to make “full and prompt disclosure” about write-downs in the wake of the credit crunch.
Relationship with new economic powers like China, India
Further talks were needed with the United States and other countries to promote greater financial stability, they added, calling for the International Monetary Fund to be reformed to help identify and head off potential problems.
IMF reform was part of a wider call for international institutions such as the G8 and UN Security Council to be updated to reflect new global realities, particularly the rise of emerging economic powers like China and India.
There were renewed commitments on overseas development, including a tie-up between London, Paris and football federations to get 16 million African children into school by the time of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
And the two countries vowed to tighten up immigration controls at Channel ports -- a major bone of contention on both sides of the water with illegal immigrants using France as a final stopping-off point for Britain.
But there was no specific detail on French support for a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain, which London argues is necessary to secure future supplies amid uncertainty about oil and gas provision. He also said the euro was “too strong” in light of the euro zone’s lacklustre rate of economic growth.