In extraordinarily candid language, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Europe’s very existence was threatened by Europe’s debt crisis.
Delivering a speech in Toulon Thursday night, Mr. Sarkozy insisted that the euro will not be able to continue unless euro-zone economies pulled together. “We must confront those who doubt the stability of the euro and speculate on its breakup with total solidarity,” he said,. “Let us not hide it. Europe may be swept away by the crisis if it doesn’t get a grip, if it doesn’t change.”
The continent had to be “re-founded,” with his country and Germany at the continent’s heart to ensure “a zone of stability.”
He added that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would convene Monday and propose measures needed to “guarantee the future of Europe.”
Germany and France had agreed that there should be a new European treaty to govern the relations between countries, he said, but he also dismissed German suggestions that national budgets could be approved and regulated from Brussels.
Though his ambitious plea pointed to a revision of European treaties, he did not offer any concrete emergency steps to contain the crisis.
In the early throes of a re-election campaign, Mr. Sarkozy also outlined measures he had already taken to tackle France’s debts, adding if it wanted to avoid being targeted by speculators, it had to eradicate doubts about its ability to pay off its debt.
French news channels broadcast the much-anticipated address and showed the President walking into a packed auditorium of 5,000. It was the very place three years ago – just after the fall of Lehman Brothers – that he gave a major speech that criticized what he called capitalism gone wild.
The symbolism was noted.
“I know the French feel that their lives are completely upended by a crisis they had nothing to do with,” he said. “To give the French control back over their lives, we have to let them control their destiny. And to do that, France must prepare itself for this new economy.”
On Friday, it is expected that British Prime Minister David Cameron will tell Mr. Sarkozy in Paris that the U.K. will not bring up any grievances as the 17-member euro zone enters negotiations on strengthening its internal fiscal discipline.
More than 100 of his parliamentarians want to leverage the euro crisis to try to renegotiate the European Union treaties, including giving London back its powers over employment and social law.