The new President of the French Republic will take office on 16th May 2007 and above all this will be a European day.
The German Chancellor will be the first to congratulate him or her during the evening of 6th May and to ask him or her to receive her. She will be in Paris the following the first day in office.
This moment will be significant both as a symbol and image, but the importance of the meeting will not slip from anyone's notice since it will be necessary to prepare the June European Council very quickly – this Council will be the one where vital decisions are taken for boosting the institutional reform of the Union. A great deal still has to be done to find compromises.
Behind the closed doors of the presidential office the success or failure of the New Europe will be played out. Once more the Franco-German couple that has been declared dead and buried on so many occasions will be an inevitable element in finding a solution to the stalemate in which the French "NO" plunged the European Union. A prior agreement will enable the present presidency of the European Council to propose a procedure, a working method and a timetable to the other Heads of State and Government all of which should lead to a conclusion with the French Presidency in the last quarter of 2008. The reform of the institutions should then be achieved.
France will have to be realistic if it does not want to find itself isolated. Our partners will have to be understanding if they want to respect the popular vote of the French. The situation is a difficult one. But the history of the unification of Europe is a series of "crises" which ultimately have been surmounted. The common interests of the countries of Europe is to come to agreement on the institutional mechanisms that will facilitate a more effective decision making process so that we can face the challenges energy supply, imperatives of security, environmental requirements and much more besides.
Europe therefore is at the heart of the French presidential election. It is not a subject that would enthral the French per se but it is vital because any promise and announcement made during the electoral campaign only has value if it has a European dimension. What would an economic policy be if it did not take our partners or our European commitments and objectives into account? What would an immigration policy be if it was purely national or a social policy if it just focussed on France? This would probably imply promises that would not be honoured! Can the fundamental issues such as protecting the environment or the energy supply be addressed individually excluding the European view? Does the defence of our national interests make any sense if there is no co-operation with our neighbours and without taking our privileged partners into account?
Everyone knows this, especially the candidates. It is their responsibility constantly to make themselves worthy of the position they hope to take and to prepare themselves for after the election. This period will be European. The new president will have to make some important decisions. He will have to assume these before and with the French. His or her first duty, even before victory is achieved, is therefore to draw up as quickly as possible a vision of France that has come back to the fold of Europe.