Thursday, April 1, 2010

President Nicolas Sarkozy Comes to Columbia University

On Monday, March 29th, President Nicolas Sarkozy, sixth president of the Fifth Republic of France, delivered an address to the Columbia University community in the Rotunda of Low Memorial Library. The Maison Fran├žaise and the Columbia-Paris Alliance Program cosponsored this World Leaders Forum event. After having been introduced by Columbia’s President Lee C. Bollinger, President Sarkozy jogged onto the stage and, discarding his prepared speech, told the audience that he wanted to “speak from the heart, as a friend.”

The French president then went on to stress that Europe, the United States’s “European friends,” wanted to be heard and listened to by the United States, and that “Europe and the United States of America must work together” to stabilize the world’s economy, fight terrorism, and redesign the structure of the United Nations Security Council and world governance.

President Sarkozy expressed the idea that the United States needs to be more aware of the fact that the economic crisis has had an impact worldwide, and that the “world is totally interdependent and interlocked.” He emphasized that “we can no longer accept a capitalist system where there are no rules,” and called for a system that held its players responsible both when things go well and when things do not go well. He argued that capitalism cannot be defended when there is injustice present in it.

He also declared that it is the United States’s and Europe’s responsibility to regulate the world economy, and to gage the economy differently in order to support sustainable growth. President Sarkozy made the argument that the market economy has become a “speculative economy,” where there should be a “productive economy,” meaning that people should earn their money based on their ability to produce, rather than to speculate.

President Sarkozy went on to point out to the audience that not only are there no Arab, African or Latin American countries with permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council, but also that India and Japan do not have permanent seats on the UN Security Council. He argued that it was unacceptable to operate on an exclusionary model, and proposed that every region of the world should have two to three representatives with permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council, because “everyone has to be on board the world [governance].”

Finally, President Sarkozy concluded with an emphasis on the fact that the fight against terrorism involves everyone in the world, using the recent attacks in the Moscow subway as an example. He ended his address with a direct appeal to Columbia University students, saying “you must never turn your backs on the world.”

President Sarkozy’s remarks were followed by a brief question and answer session, in which he provided the audience with some final thoughts on international universities, health care in the United States, and the role of Europe in the current economic crisis. He ended the question and answer session with a declaration of his intent to fight for the establishment of a new international world monetary system and the regulation of currency fluctuations.

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