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Viewing cable 07PARIS1938, UK READOUT OF BLAIR-SARKOZY MEETING

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07PARIS1938 2007-05-15 09:09 2010-11-30 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
VZCZCXRO5285
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHFR #1938/01 1350913
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 150913Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7188
INFO RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN IMMEDIATE 6574
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
Tuesday, 15 May 2007, 09:13
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 001938 
SIPDIS 
SIPDIS 
EO 12958 DECL: 01/01/2017 
TAGS PREL, FR, EUN, PGOV, ETRD, UK, GM, TU, PINR 
SUBJECT: UK READOUT OF BLAIR-SARKOZY MEETING 
Classified By: PolMC Josiah Rosenblatt for reasons 1.4 (B & D).
1. (C) SUMMARY: UK PM Blair’s May 11 meeting with French President-elect Sarkozy focused primarily on next steps on the EU constitutional treaty in advance of Sarkozy’s May 16 meeting with German Chancellor Merkel, according to UK DCM Hitchens; the UK hope is that the Blair, Sarkozy and Merkel will reach a quiet agreement on the way forward. He said French and UK positions were close on avoiding new referenda, qualified majority voting, and no social charter, but they differed on establishing an EU “President.” On Turkey, Blair had stressed the importance of not interrupting Turkey’s accession negotiations, with Sarkozy not clear on his intentions. There was little discussion of trade issues and none of European defense. Hitchens surmised that Sarkozy’s operating style within the EU would seek to make deals with major capitals above the heads of the smaller states, and saw Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union as a way for France to deal with the Turkish question. He said it remained to be seen whether Sarkozy intended to act on his campaign rhetoric criticizing the European Central Bank. Personal chemistry between Blair and Sarkozy was excellent; the relationship with Brown will take time to build, not least because he speaks no French. Blair also had a short and unremarkable meeting with Chirac. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) POL M/C and Deputy met May 14 with UK Embassy DCM Tim Hitchens for a readout of UK PM Tony Blair’s May 11, late-afternoon meeting with French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy. This was President-elect Sarkozy’s first meeting with a foreign visitor following his May 6 election; he had met with Saad Hariri the previous day. His first official meeting as President will occur May 16 in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, following the transfer of power ceremony earlier that same day in Paris with outgoing President Jacques Chirac. The press has speculated that the focus of both meetings is on overcoming the EU’s current loss of momentum following the French rejection in 2005 of the EU constitutional treaty. (Incoming Presidential Diplomatic Advisor and National Security Advisor-equivalent Jean-David Levitte confirmed this in a conversation with POL M/C re scheduling for the Deputy Secretary.)
MOVING THE EU FORWARD
--------------------- 
3. (C) Hitchens confirmed press reports that the discussions focused primarily on how to overcome the EU’s current blockage on institutional reform. Blair’s main objective, he said, was to ensure that the way forward toward a new constitutional treaty would not require a referendum in the UK. The mood of the discussions was positive, and UK experts would be meeting with their French counterparts in the next day or so to try to close the distance between French and UK positions to the greatest extent possible in advance of Sarkozy’s May 16 meeting with Merkel. While Sarkozy would not arrive in Berlin with a French-UK “common position,” the idea was that Sarkozy would have an understanding of UK red lines. The hope was that, by the end of the week there would be a clear sense in London, Paris, and Berlin about what might be possible.
4. (C) POL M/C asked if Merkel would be speaking for the 18 countries that have ratified the current draft constitutional treaty. Hitchens responded that Merkel would want a deal by the end of her presidency, and the tradition was that the Presidency was forced to settle for less than it ideally wanted. (Comment: Hitchens demurred when asked whether the Germans were running a less “neutral” Presidency than had the British. End comment.) If all went well, the German presidency would end with a mandate for intensive negotiations on a document to be approved by the end of the Portuguese presidency, leaving ratification for 2008. He thought it would be difficult for Portugal and Slovenia, as small countries, and France, as the country that had rejected the EU constitutional treaty, otherwise to reach a deal.
FOUR UK CONCERNS; SARKOZY CLOSE ON THREE
---------------------------------------- 
5. (C) On substance, Hitchens described four UK “conditions” for reaching an agreement, on three of which he believed that the UK and France could succeed in narrowing their differences. First, the UK would insist on an amending treaty rather than a new constitutional treaty, in order to avoid a referendum; Sarkozy appeared to agree. Second, the UK wanted less qualified majority voting than did France, but Hitchens judged the differences as bridgeable. Third, the UK said the UK did not favor symbols which gave the impression that the EU was a state, and therefore does not support an EU “foreign minister.” Similarly, the UK was concerned by a new Sarkozy proposal for an “EU President” that would go beyond the rejected draft constitutional treaty. (Comment: This is the first we have heard of this idea. End comment.) On
PARIS 00001938 002 OF 003
reflection, Hitchens speculated that Sarkozy was using the idea as a negotiating ploy that would please his French domestic audience. Finally, the UK was not in favor of a social charter. Hitchens said they believed that Sarkozy also was not keen on the idea, but that this was a high priority for Merkel.
TURKEY THE TOUGHEST NUT
----------------------- 
6. (C) On Turkey, Hitchens described Blair’s position as wanting to ensure that Turkey’s accession negotiations would continue uninterrupted, as the UK viewed the negotiations as virtuous in themselves. Hitchens acknowledged that Sarkozy was a fierce opponent of Turkish membership, which he had made clear right away. Hitchens said the UK hoped that Sarkozy did not perceive a political reason to cause trouble in advance of the June 26 EU decision whether to open new chapters for negotiation, or that, if he chose to do so, he would make waves only in Paris and not Brussels. POL M/C asked whether Sarkozy’s idea of a Mediterranean Union was intended as a face-saving way out. Hitchens affirmed that the initiative was primarily aimed at Turkey, notwithstanding claims to the contrary. He added it was typical of Sarkozy to take a strong position on a subject, and simultaneously offer an escape route. Hitchens agreed that France also saw a benefit in a Mediterranean vocation as a way to balance Germany’s ties in Eastern Europe.
LITTLE ON TRADE
--------------- 
7. (C) Hitchens said there was no in-depth discussion of trade. He said the UK supported the role of EC Commissioner Mandelson, whereas Sarkozy had argued that it was illegitimate for an unelected Commissioner to negotiate on behalf of Europe. Otherwise the discussion was unsurprising; or it was surprising only in the sense that Sarkozy presented a “normal” French position, i.e., consistent with what Chirac would have said. He allowed that the UK had been hoping for signs of more flexibility, and suggested that the UK would want to revisit this topic once a new government was formed.
NO ESDP
------- 
8. (C) On European defense, Hitchens noted that, surprisingly, there had been no discussion.
SARKOZY AND EUROPE
------------------ 
9. (C) Asked about the impact of Sarkozy on Europe more generally, Hitchens expressed hope for a better UK-French working relationship, although he hastened to add that UK-French relations would never threaten to overtake the Franco-German tandem. Indeed, the UK hoped for good trilateral cooperation between Europe’s main powerhouses. Hitchens thought there was a risk that Sarkozy would make deals with “other major” interlocutors such as the UK or Germany, without taking adequate account of the views of the smaller states; he described Sarkozy as “not good at dealing with unimportant people.” Hitchens said Sarkozy would discover that he did not like European diplomacy with its emphasis on process and consensus. The UK was waiting with bated breath to see what kind of attitude Sarkozy would take toward the European Central Bank now that the election campaign was over. On a more “political” Europe, Hitchens predicted that Sarkozy would want above all to put France back at the heart of European decision-making, although the UK’s main priority was that the French economy do better. While a more successful France might mean a more difficult France, this was still unquestionably preferable to an unsuccessful France.
ORIGINS OF MEETING
------------------ 
10. (C) Hitchens said the idea of a meeting came up during one of Blair’s and Sarkozy’s phone conversations, with Blair offering to meet Sarkozy at a venue to be determined. Once it became clear that it would be Paris, Blair also arranged a meeting with President Chirac. The British were frankly surprised that Sarkozy agreed to see Blair before Merkel, although Sarkozy’s trip to Berlin would be his first official visit. Noting that it was a pity that French and British timing were not in synch -- Blair would be leaving as Sarkozy arrived -- the meeting also made sense as a way for the British to make up for the fact that their government would change in a few weeks, and thus would “fall behind” other European countries in engaging with the new French government. Sarkozy was accompanied at the meeting by likely PM Francois Fillon and Sarkozy’s chief of staff, David Martinon (to be the Presidential spokesman). The interpreter who came was not needed: as is customary, theirmeeting was entirely in French.
PARIS 00001938 003 OF 003
SARKOZY-BLAIR, -MERKEL, -BROWN
------------------------------ 
11. (C) Hitchens said the chemistry between Blair and Sarkozy was good, much because they related to each other as politicos. Over the years, they have enjoyed comparing notes on party organization, how to work with labor and business, and how to appeal to the extremes. (Note: The suggestion was that Sarkozy may have learned quite a little from Blair on this score.) Hitchens noted that Sarkozy also traveled frequently to London with his wife for personal reasons. Hitchens suggested that, while Blair and Merkel talked frequently, their different personalities (she was far less outgoing) made for a more distant relationship. But Blair had great respect for her, based on the “brilliant hand” she had played during the EU’s budget discussions. Hitchens hinted that Sarkozy would not immediately get on as well with Brown as he had Blair, if only because Brown did not speak French.
MEETING WITH CHIRAC
------------------- 
12. (C) Hitchens described Blair’s meeting with Chirac as uneventful. Chirac spoke as an old friend, noting that the UK and France sometimes differed while praising their cooperation on climate change and Africa. Hitchens noted that Blair and Chirac would probably continue to cross each other’s paths in the future, as both of them were setting up foundations to deal with these same issues.
Please visit Paris’ Classified Website at: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm
STAPLETON