France First

Various European envoys are heading to the region, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as a separate group led by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The Czech government took over the rotating presidency of the European Union from France at the start of 2009.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana is traveling to the region as well, as is Tony Blair, the envoy of the powers sponsoring Middle East peace talks. Russia has also dispatched an envoy.

Critics have accused Sarkozy of seeking attention and impeding EU efforts to broker a cease-fire.

Middle East Crisis: Israel Continues Assault as Europe Struggles to Mediate,” Der Spiegel, 5 January, 2009.

France is the chair of the Security Council. Though I think Sarkozy is certainly looking for attention and prestige, he has a place in the mediation efforts. I’m not sure I’d say that France’s president necessarily ought to be speeding to the region, as it would seem to weaken the notion of a unified European effort, but this is Sarkozy’s style. It may not be especially productive, but it adds to his personal prestige and France’s at large; And it makes the Germans grumble. It’s all about perception. It is not all that dissimilar from Kissinger’s “secret meetings” with the North Vietnamese in Paris. They accomplished very little from a policy angle, but made Kissinger appear much more powerful in the United States.


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