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Sarkozy takes on wide European stage

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Steve Chiotakis: European Union leaders meet today in Brussels to prepare for next week’s international summit in Washington on the financial crisis. The E.U. meeting is yet another organized initiative of French President Nicholas Sarkozy. If you think you’ve been seeing a whole lot more of Sarkozy than usual lately, it’s not an accident. John Laurenson reports from Paris on the president’s new stint in the spotlight.

John Laurenson: Nicholas Sarkozy on French television news, flying in to Camp David to meet President Bush. France took over the revolving presidency of the European Union this summer. That means it gets to manage relatively dull E.U. affairs such as institutional reform.

It does not mean Nicholas Sarkozy has become president of the E.U. — a post that doesn’t exist. But he’s behaving as if. So says Charles Jaigu, political reporter with the Figaro newspaper.

Charles Jaigu: His friends actually make fun of him and call him the Master of the World, because now he is discovering that he can be not only, you know, the president of France but someone who representing 26 European countries.

Sarkozy wants European leaders to agree today on how to “re-build capitalism” as he puts it. He wants new rules for the markets — new accounting standards for the banks, limits to traders’ bonuses — and, says his biographer Michel Richard, he’s bent on getting results.

Michel Richard (voice of interpreter): He is possessed with the idea of action so, during this crisis, the world has discovered what we in France have seen for some time: that not a day goes by without him making some sort of initiative.

And all this activity is going down well with the French public. A year ago, Sarkozy’s personal approval scores were right down. The French had had it up to here with his love life. But his ratings are back up again now.

French Woman: I’m not a Sarkozy fan, but I should say at least he did something. He tried.

French Man: I don’t vote for him but I recognize he gives impulsion, he’s moving. That’s very important.

A hoarse Sarkozy addressing the European Parliament. The French leader has taken on a punishing workload since the global economic crisis began. But Sarkozy-watchers say he might have his own personal crisis come January, when France ends its E.U. presidency and the Frenchman’s moment of glory comes to an end.

In Paris, I’m John Laurenson for Marketplace.

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