FRANCE – WORLD

Views from abroad: How the next president should handle foreign policy

 As the French gear up to cast their votes in the presidential election Sunday, our Observers around the world, from the United Kingdom to Syria to the United States, share their thoughts about incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy’s foreign policy over the past five years – and whether they hope to see him re-elected, or prefer to see France change direction.  

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Election posters for UMP Party candidate Nicolas Sarkozy (left) and Socialist Party candidate François Hollande (right). Photo published on Flickr by radiowood2000.

 

As the French gear up to cast their votes in the presidential election Sunday, our Observers around the world, from the United Kingdom to Syria to the United States, share their thoughts about incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy’s foreign policy over the past five years – and whether they hope to see him re-elected, or prefer to see France change direction.

"I hope Sarkozy loses the election. He has done nothing for the Syrian people"

SYRIA

 

Omar Shakir is a Syrian activist. He lives in the restive city of Homs, one of the bastions of the Syrian uprising.

 

"I hope Nicolas Sarkozy loses the election. He has done nothing for the Syrian people except talk. I don’t know why he chose to help Libya but not Syria. The situation here is very serious. We need the international community to at least establish a no-fly zone in order to bring an end to the killings.

 

The people here had high expectations of France. We are grateful for what France did in Syria when the country was under French administration [Editor’s note: Syria was under French mandate from 1920 to 1946]. The French developed our infrastructures and our economy…But now it seems that they’re just not interested in us. We no longer have any faith in Sarkozy."

"Sarkozy helped our people overcome 42 years of tyranny"

LIBYA

 

Hamid Ahmed lives in Tripoli, Libya.

 

"Libyans are very grateful to France, which supported our fight for freedom from the very beginning. We really appreciated the steps taken by Mr. Sarkozy, who was the first president to recognise the legitimacy of our National Transitional Council (NTC). Other countries soon followed France’s example and recognized the NTC as the sole representative body of the Libyan people, and that is what pulled the rug from under (Muammar) Gaddafi’s feet.

 

Whether or not he is re-elected, Libyans will remember Sarkozy’s France as the country which helped us overcome 42 years of tyranny and dictatorship, and helped us create a democracy. In June we are going to hold elections for the first time since 1952. I’m really looking forward to voting for the first time…"

 

"François Hollande seems to be defending Greece in his speeches, but it remains to be seen whether his words translate into action"

GREECE

 

Pol Bouratsis is a student living in Athens. He has taken part in several demonstrations against the austerity measures.

 

"In Greece, people think that Nicolas Sarkozy has become the lapdog of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and that he agrees with her on all matters concerning Europe. And the Greeks have turned against Germany. We feel that we are shot down at every opportunity.

 

Socialist party candidate François Hollande seems to be defending Greece in his speeches, but it remains to be seen whether his words translate into action. I feel that this is primarily a communication strategy because, unfortunately, France does not play a particularly important part in this story. If he replaces Sarkozy, Hollande might be able to help us a little but, at the end of the day, it’s the big banks and financial institutions who will decide our fate."

“I hope the next French president admits France’s responsibility in the Malian crisis”

MALI

 

Moulaye Oumar Haidara is an IT specialist. He lives in Bamako.

 

"I hope Hollande wins, because Sarkozy’s policies have wrecked havoc in Mali. He pushed NATO to send air support to help Libyan rebels depose Muammar Gaddafi, and what happened next? Thousands of Malian nationals who had fought alongside Gaddafi’s forces returned to Mali, with the weapons Gaddafi gave them. And these people are now fighting in northern Mali, trying to split our country in half. I hope that the next French president admits France’s responsibility in this crisis.

 

Whoever wins, what we need now is for France to send weapons to our army so that they can deal with this rebellion. Our army is well-trained, but their equipment is old and insufficient. I also hope the next president will be more welcoming to African immigrants living in France, instead of expelling them en masse as Sarkozy did."

“If Sarkozy is replaced by someone who is even a bit less Europe-friendly, I worry about what might happen”

GERMANY

 

Gundo Sanders works for a publishing house. He lives in Schillerstadt Marbach.

 

"Sarkozy and Merkel disagreed at times, but they managed to do what was necessary for Europe. There are many challenges still on the horizon – I fear Spain will need a lot of financial help in the near future. And if Sarkozy is replaced by someone who is even a bit less Europe-friendly, I worry about what might happen, not just to France, but by consequence to Germany.

 

Hollande’s proposition for a 75 percent tax on the richest French people scares me, too. I fear that these people will leave France – and perhaps even Europe altogether – and that this will hurt the economy.

 

If France’s new president doesn’t work as well with Germany to lead Europe, perhaps we’ll have to find a different power balance by working with other countries that may not have the same strength as France, but will help us get the necessary majority to move Europe forward."

 

"I hope the next president of France is less paternalistic"

IVORY COAST

 

Israël Yoroba Guebo is a journalist and blogger. He lives in Abidjan.

 

"At the beginning of his mandate, Nicholas Sarkozy talked about a ‘rupture’ in relations between France and Africa. He said that African countries must stop being France’s subordinates and become its partners. But in light of what has happened, I don’t think this break was made during his time in office. France’s involvement in the outcome of the election crisis in Ivory Coast was, in my opinion, too paternalistic.

 

I think France should have tried to bring the two different camps together [Editor’s note: the former president Laurent Gbagbo and the new president Alassane Ouattara], and acted as a mediator, instead of taking sides. France should have let international and African organisations solve the problem of military intervention. Ivorians are very divided over Sarkozy: those who support the current government say that Nicolas Sarkozy is the best thing that has happened to Ivory Coast; those who supported Laurent Gbagbo say he’s the worst…

 

Whether Sarkozy remains in office or not, I hope that the next president of France will work towards a political and economic partnership between two equals, not between dominant and dominated."

 

 

"It would be a shame if whoever is elected president next decided to recall French troops from Afghanistan earlier than planned"

AFGHANISTAN

 

Yunos Bakhshi is an astronomer who lives in Kabul.

 

"In the eyes of Afghans, France – which is as great a country under Sarkozy as it was under Jacques Chirac – has a good reputation, especially compared to the British or the Americans. This is because the French who are in Afghanistan are really working to rebuild our country, from the education system to irrigation projects in rural areas. Afghans believe that the French don’t interfere in our internal affairs as much as other members of the international community.

 

The death of four French soldiers in January was a horrible tragedy, and I hope that this will not affect the French presence in Afghanistan. It would be a shame if whoever is elected president next decided to recall French troops earlier than planned. They are playing an important role in the development of our country. Even if some people complain about the presence of foreign troops, everybody knows that life could be more difficult when they leave.”

 

 

"We’d like to see a new head of state in France - Sarkozy turned a blind eye throughout the Tunisian revolution"

 

TUNISIA

 

Youssef Fayla Cherif is a blogger who lives in Tunis.

 

"When I hear the name ‘Sarkozy’, I instantly think of the images of him shaking hands with Ben Ali [Editor’s note: the former president of Tunisia who was forced to step down in January 2011 due to popular protests]. Nicolas Sarkozy always turned a blind eye and said that everything was fine in Tunisia, right up to the end. His government even offered to send armed forces to help crush our revolution. So now many Tunisians abhor anything related to Sarkozy.

 

Obviously, the French government has had to change sides since the revolution and relations between our countries are now more or less normal. But the reaction of Sarkozy’s government to the success of the Islamist party Ennahda in the elections shocked many Tunisians. French leaders accused Ennahda of having bad intentions, simply because it’s an Islamist party. Compared to Ben Ali’s regime, it’s much better. I can’t imagine our new government turning into a dictatorship.

 

Ideally, we’d like to see a new head of state in France so that we can build a new relationship between our two countries.”

 

 

“François Hollande’s rhetoric about the chaotic world of finance resonates far more with the Occupy movement than anything Barack Obama has said

 

UNITED STATES

 

Brett O’Bannon is a political science professor at DePauw University in Indiana.

 

"I would like to see Hollande become the next president so he can challenge the current right-wing dominance of the European Union. Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been able to shore up enough confidence to more or less weather the crisis, but they have completely ignored the human stakes.

 

I hope Hollande challenges this unquestionable belief that populations must accept austerity measures without any kind of political participation. It seems he has really tapped into the anger of austerity sufferers throughout Europe, and his rhetoric about the chaotic world of finance certainly resonates far more with the Occupy movement here in the United States than anything our own president has said.

 

I would also like to see the next French president try to counter the United States’ influence in Africa. I’m not naïve about France’s relationship with its former colonies – however, I think we’re entering a new era, so if France can offer alternatives to the United States’ militarized support, that would be most welcome.”

 

 

“Whatever happens in France affects us here in the United Kingdom, too”

 

UNITED KINGDOM

 

David Baker owns a taxi business. He lives in Greenwich, near London.

 

"Whatever happens in France affects us here in the United Kingdom, too. I think I would prefer Sarkozy to remain in power, as I’m a little worried about what would happen if a Socialist came to power. Would Hollande start spending lots and lots of money on social programs? Social programs are great, but Europe is broke, so France needs to tread carefully. If it starts spending like crazy, the markets might get scared not just of France but of other European countries, too.

 

We in the United Kingdom want the “entente cordiale” with France to remain intact. And we’ve done some good things with Sarkozy’s government – we’ve begun sharing the cost of defence, which is beneficial to both countries. I hope we continue in this direction.”

 

 

"The Chinese see Sarkozy as weak and indecisive"

 

CHINA

 

Sui is a student and lives in China.

 

"In my opinion, Nicolas Sarkozy is simply bad at foreign policy. During the Tibetan unrest in 2008, many foreign leaders criticized the Chinese government. But China attacked France in particular for having supported the Dalai Lama’s “clique”. Across the country, young Chinese people boycotted the outlets of French supermarket Carrefour. Then Sarkozy tried to apologize by sending one of his representatives to China, but this just made him seem weak and indecisive. If Sarkozy is re-elected, he must learn how to strike a balance between his criticisms and French interests.

However, I appreciate the fact that he is critical. China has a lot of problems and its policies deserve to be called into question. It’s just about knowing how to be strategic in order to avoid reprisals.”