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Sarkozy at Berlin Wall

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Many world leaders claimed credit for tearing down the Berlin Wall metaphorically and thus ending the Cold War. Last year, President Nicholas Sarkozy of France went a step further by suggesting that he stood shoulder to shoulder with the Mauerspechte (Wall peckers) East German citizens in bringing the Wall down literally. On his facebook, the French President posted a photograph of him, then 34, chipping away the hated symbol of Communism. The caption claimed that he, along with two other prominent French politicians, dashed to Berlin and crossed through Checkpoint Charlie as the first tremors of the earthquake that would topple the entire Communist system were felt in that divided city on November 9, 1989.

The story seemed too good to be true — and so it was. Journalists and former French officials immediately began questioning his story. The events of that November night were so unforeseen that many politicians on the both sides of the Iron Curtain were caught unaware. Nobody even in Berlin knew the wall was about to fall; President George H.W. Bush saw the wall coming down on television while Chairman Gorbachev — like many Germans and Eastern Europeans — slept through it. While Sarkozy was clearly there in the early days of the Wall’s demise, it was certain that he wasn’t there on that fateful night. Two politicians whom Sarkozy claimed were with him, Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon, the former and current prime ministers respectively, both admitted that they were unsure about the date on which they went to Berlin. (Alain Juppé – who was to Sarkozy’s left in the Facebook photograph above – did not go to Berlin until 16 November. On 9 November he was at the annual memorial service for General de Gaulle in France.)

Although Sarkozy stood by his story, and hoped it would die down, it accelerated into internet meme. His former opponent, Ségolène Royal joked that it is equally likely that he was at the Bastille in 1789. Actively encouraged by the French media, the French netizens subsequently photoshopped Sarkozy into every important event in history from the Crucifixion to the D-Day landings. See the NYTimes article here.

Yet, Sarkozy is nothing if not a political survivor: in 1995, he was cast aside by the Gaullist right because he backed a rival candidate to Jacques Chirac for the French presidency. Four years later, he again disappointed his party for securing a mere 13% of the vote in elections to the European Parliament. But he punched his way back into the government in 2002 and secured the presidency in 2007. Now, saddled with extremely low poll ratings, Sarkozy would definitely lose the election if it were to be held today. The comeback kid will probably surprise us once more.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

October 24, 2010 at 12:03 am

2 Responses

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  1. Wikipedia:Great Power

    Wikipedia presents the parameters of what constitutes a great power in a manner that is inarguable on why when it comes to France laying claim to that of being a great power, “the Emperor emphatically has no clothes”, in a manner of speaking.

    As such, Sarkozy, whether or not he took part in the disassembling of the Berlin Wall, his actions, statements,
    his very country, falls very short indeed in meriting the status of being an icon, in any way, shape, matter or form. A frog in whatever delusions of grandeur it aspires to believe is still but only a frog.

    A great power is a nation or state that has the ability to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess economic, military, diplomatic, and cultural strength, which may cause other smaller nations to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions of their own. International relations theorists have posited that great power status can be characterized into power capabilities, spatial aspects, and status dimensions. Sometimes the status of great powers is formally recognized in conferences such as the Congress of Vienna or an international structure such as the United Nations Security Council.
    Nicholas Sarkozy

    Marc Savoy

    October 24, 2010 at 12:42 am

  2. Whether it be journalists or politicians, never let the facts get in the way of a good story. I’m amazed he didn’t think someone would check whether it was true or not.


    November 1, 2010 at 6:20 am

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