Briefing / Europe
How Sarkozy wings it in Me and My Motorcade, plus Luxembourg goes to the polls and bar room blues hit the UK.
Me and my motorcade: No. 08
Nicolas Sarkozy is one of the most travelled of Europe’s leaders, frequently flying into countries in diplomatic crisis. But his CO2 emissions have been relatively low – though that might not be true for much longer.
Marketing himself as a potential peace-broker and intrepid hostage-liberator, Sarkozy clock- ed up 200,000 air miles last year, roughly equivalent to eight times around the globe.
Not only has Sarkozy trumped the likes of Germany’s Angela Merkel or Britain’s Gordon Brown by popping up wherever there is a diplomatic crisis (Moscow, Syria, Libya to name a few), but despite travelling more, he’s also been greener than them, coming third in a survey of European leaders’ CO2 emissions by terra-economica.info earlier this year. The hyperactive president’s low emissions are largely down to the fact he does not have a big plane – he makes do with a short-haul Airbus Corporate Jetliner.
But all that is about to change. A second hand Boeing A330-200 is being refurbished so that the president can start flying in suitable style from October next year. At last the French leader will have a plane he can be proud of.
Sarkozy’s presidential fleet consists of two Airbus Corporate Jetliners, four Falcon 50 jets and two Falcon 900 EXs. All of the Falcons were purchased under François Mitterand in the 1980s. The limitations of the 46-seater ACJ were underlined on Sarkozy’s first official trip to China, which involved having to make a refuelling stop in Siberia, while journalists flew non-stop on a larger A340. Sarkozy also has three Super Puma helicopters.
Sarkozy has generally favoured large, black, French cars. His latest buy was a bulletproof Renault Vel Satis that normally sells for €150,000. Sarkozy has also reportedly been seen in a 4x4 black Cayenne Porsche. Unlike his predecessors Sarkozy will only travel in cars that are completely bulletproof.
Sarkozy is a cycling fan and close pals with former Tour de France cyclist Richard Virenque. Not long after he was elected, he surprised the inhabitants in the village of Valloire by turning up in the presidential Super Puma to watch the Tour de France. Last June the mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, presented the president with a racer from the French sports retailer Décathlon, leaving him speechless. Now, as leader of the French Socialist Party, Aubry is in direct opposition to Sarkozy.
Date: 7 June
Incumbent: Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Christian Social People’s Party.
Challenger: The Socialist Workers Party. It has been in a coalition with Juncker’s party.
Divisions over ethical issues such as euthanasia.
What it means for the world:
Luxembourg insists it’s not a tax haven but it is under pressure to open up its secretive banking system.
Down your pints
UK [PUB CLOSURES]
In the past 12 months, approximately 2,000 British pubs have called last orders for the final time – casualties of what the British Beer & Pub Association acknowledges is an accelerating decline (1,409 pubs shut in 2007; 400 in 2006). The rate of closures is so severe that one British MP, Liberal Democrat Bob Russell, believes that government intervention is necessary to save it.
Russell recently tabled a parliamentary motion against the twin pressures placed upon pubs by taxes on beer (up 18 per cent last year) and cheap supermarket drink, which people can drink at home where they may smoke (no longer allowed in British pubs).
“Pubs are important community facilities,” says Russell. “If something isn’t done, we’ll run out of them.”
It’s not certain, however, that a reduction in beer taxes would be enough. British pubs prospered for centuries because there was little alternative. In a country now alive with cafés, bars and restaurants, pubs – especially the less reconstructed ones – just seem tired. Russell disagrees, rattling off the names of several clearly personally beloved pubs.
“The landlords and staff have created a welcoming atmosphere,” he insists. “But if prices are kept artificially high, and people don’t have money, they won’t survive.”
There are 6,700 languages spoken worldwide but half of them are in danger of disappearing before the end of this century, according to Unesco. As more and more people speak English, ancient dialects are fading.