Sarkozy Reaches for the Heavens Even as His Star Plummets to Earth

Despite approval ratings that are rapidly sinking into George W. Bush territory, French leader Nicolas Sarkozy has shown no sign of letting his own people’s lack of confidence in his leadership stop him from pursuing lofty visions.

Just in the last week alone, the French president flew to Tokyo for the G-8 summit, pissed off striking French labor unions, embarked on a campaign to save the European Union, demanded that Poland approve the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, vowed to find a way to contain the problem to the Irish” over the Lisbon Treaty, attacked the European Central Bank for raising interest rates, got into a public row with EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson over free trade, unveiled sweeping plans to control EU immigration, promoted his new plan for easing the global food crisis, demanded the G-8 to invite China and India to future meetings, decided he would attend the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing after all, announced the construction of a new nuclear reactor, greeted freed Columbian-French hostage Ingrid Betancourt at a French airbase, vowed to press Syria for the release of an Israeli soldier, and prepared for the release of his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s new folk album.

It’s all in a week’s work for the energetic Sarkozy, who assumed the EU’s rotating six-month presidency on July 1. In addition to the above list, the French president is also trying to overhaul the European space program, according to a BBC report.

“President Nicolas Sarkozy’s well-known admiration for all things American now extends to space exploration. Speaking to the BBC, a senior official involved in French space policy said that it was time to shake up the European Space Agency and make it more like the US space agency (NASA) by giving it a new, politically-led direction.”

The article indicates that French officials are worried that Europe is falling behind the Americans, Russians, Chinese and Indians in space. There is a feeling that ESA is not pursuing the type of bold visions that are driving other nation’s space efforts.

“Documents seen by the BBC indicate that the French plans for an overhaul of ESA are at an advanced stage. The papers say that a politically-led space enterprise is necessary for Europe to be taken seriously in the international arena. The documents talk about the manned exploration of Mars and the need for Europe to play an ‘indispensable’ part.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of this effort, which would require a lot more funding. ESA officials are actively considering plans for independent human access to space. European space ministers will meet in November.