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Sarkozy, France's 23rd President, starts work on his reform plans – Analysis

France's ambitious conservative politician Nicolas Sarkozy is to succeed Jacques Chirac and will become the 23rd President of France. His victory marks the start of a series of far-reaching reforms that will have a profound impact on French society.

„France has chosen change and I will implement that change,” he told supporters less than 45 minutes after France's main television stations declared him as victor with 53% of the votes, against 47% for his opponent, socialist Segolene Royal. „We shall together write a new page in France's history. This will be a great, beautiful page,” he said. Sarkozy immediately reached out to those who voted for Royal, saying he wants to be a president for all French people, and not just those who voted for him. Getting support for his policies from those who did not vote for him will be one of his toughest challenges. Sarkozy is believed to already have prepared a series of almost Thatcherite reform plans like ending the French 36-hour work week and significantly reducing the power of the trade unions. These plans are due to be kickstarted as soon as Sarkozy has been installed as president, which is to happen on the 16th of May.

Addressing France's role in Europe, Sarkozy said his victory marks the end of the turmoil in the debate about the future of Europe that started after France, together with the Netherlands, rejected the proposed European constitution two years ago. „Today, France is back in Europe,” Sarkozy told his supporters. „I urge our partners to hear the voice of our peoples who wish to be protected. I urged them no to ignore the anger of our people. The EU should not be a trojan horse for the changes that are taking place worldwide.” In Brussels, Sarkozy has repeatedly voiced his proposal for a mini-version of the proposed European constitution, a plan that some consider controversial. His victory is a setback for those who argue that the EU need to completely overhaul its plans for future cooperation. On the other hand, Sarkozy's ideas match those of British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, suggesting a new alliance is possible at meeting tables in Brussels. Chirac and Blair were like barely able to walk through the same door together.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who currently holds the rotating EU presidency, also belongs to the same centre-right political grouping as Sarkozy's UMP. Merkel has committed herself to creating a new timetable for the talks on the future of the EU by the end of June. At the June EU Summit in Brussels, Sarkozy is unlikely to object to a proposal that would let France conclude these talks during its EU presidency at the end of 2008.  Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said he expects Sarkozy will be able to taken on a role as „motor” when it comes to resolving the debate about the future role of the European institutions.

In his speech, Sarkozy did not discuss the prospect of EU membership of Turkey. In his campaign, he has stated repeatedly that he believes there is no room for Turkey in the European Union. Addressing relations between France and the United States, Sarkozy told his „American friends” that he wants to work together to deal with global challenges. But he also emphasized that this does not mean that he will agree with the current policies of President George W. Bush. „Friendship also means that your friends do no always see eye-to-eye,” said Sarkozy, referring to relations with the US.

The fight against climate change will be one of the biggest issues on his agenda, Sarkozy said. „What is at stake is the destiny of mankind. France will make that fight its leading objective”, he said. As an ambitious conservative, Sarkozy, has campaigned on tough measures against illegal immigration. Addressing this issues in his victory speech, he said that he wants to help Africans build a future in their own country, emphasizing that. „It's in the Mediterranean that their future is held,” he said. „There is a dream of an emerging civilization there. We should do for them now what was done for Europe sixty years ago.” „To Africans, I appeal to them as brothers. We will help to overcome the problems and decide together on controlled immigration and an ambitious development policy.” (