Costume gris, chemise blanche, conviction intact… From the second question Nicolas Sarkozy gets carried away, talk louder, his leg beats time. When we talk about France, political debates that agitate the country, retirements, of little Lola brutally murdered, the former President of the Republic comes alive. the passion, memories, energy, indignation and experience form an explosive fuel for this 66-year-old man who is always on the move. He was the day before in Ivory Coast where he met Alassane Ouattara, is preparing to leave for Abu Dhabi to discuss with the Emir Mohammed bin Zayed, last leader to have a one-on-one with Vladimir Putin . After lunch finished, he will leave his offices in the rue de Miromesnil to attend the commemoration of the laying of the first stone of the Mosque of Paris. He will find there Emmanuel Macron and Gérald Darmanin… to whom he addresses a small tackle sliding by deploring that the French Council of the Muslim worship, whose creation he encouraged 2003, no longer be their privileged interlocutor.
Between two trips, Nicolas Sarkozy devoured Giuliano da Empoli's The Mage of the Kremlin, has just attacked the new book by Erik Orsenna The Earth is thirsty. Thanks to Le Figaro, which reissues the best Goncourts of the century, he devoured and adored Le Soleil des Scorta by Laurent Gaudé as well as Les Grandes Familles by Maurice Druon. Each day, he compels himself to the writing of the third volume of a book which he does not want to be called his Memoirs. The text is well advanced but the release date kept jealously secret as well as the title. Our interview lasted ninety minutes., followed by lunch. Nicolas Sarkozy's phone rang a lot. He only picked up once: for Karla...
It's been six months today, to the day, that Emmanuel Macron has been re-elected President of the Republic. How do you view the start of this second five-year term?
As everyone knows, since I was very transparent during the presidential campaign, I supported him. And if we had to do it again, I would do it again. Politics is never a choice of absolute value, always a choice of relative value. This is the difference between intellectuals and practitioners, between ideologues and politicians. We take the best of the possibilities. I didn't want Mr. Mélenchon or Mrs. Le Pen. In the interest of France, the best possible decision was therefore to help President Macron. Does this mean that I agree with everything, or satisfied with everything? This is an other story.
But there were not only three candidates in this campaign. There was also Valérie Pécresse, Republican candidate...
To be able to choose a candidate in the second round, he still had to be qualified. Or that he has a credible chance of being.
On which subjects do you like Emmanuel Macron?
I always thought that, against a country that has demonstrated, through its history, his eruptive abilities, have a quiet president, moderate, refusing any form of excess, was the best solution. You don't respond to an eruptive situation by being eruptive yourself.: you need coolness, measurement and experience. It seems to me that President Macron has these qualities.
Isn't there a flip side to this medal?
I have never been on the left. And it is not insulting anyone to recall that President Macron comes from the left. I sometimes wish he crossed the Rubicon more frankly, because France is today mainly on the side of the party of authority, firmness, freedom. Call it center right, centre, republican right, no matter: the strategic axis of the country is clearly there. I have no advice to give. I've always been wary of lecturers. But if I had one wish, is that the political matrix of the president is closer to the matrix of the country as I feel it.
How do you think he could cross the Rubicon??
The president has indisputable intuitions and experience. But I observe that it can sometimes be tempted to stop in the middle of the ford. These are the disadvantages of “at the same time”.
The use of 49-3 to pass the revenue part of the finance bill for 2023 was it inevitable?
When I was president, I never wanted to use the 49-3, because I didn't like the idea of using it against my majority. That would have been a sign of weakness. President Macron is in a different situation, since it does not have an absolute majority. I therefore understand that there is recourse, but I remind you that he will not be able to do this indefinitely… He is in the position of a hunter who does not have an infinite supply of ammunition. Emmanuel Macron is not weak because he uses the 49-3: it is weakened because it did not have an absolute majority.
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But how can he proceed, since then?
The 49-3 is not the only solution. He could also seek to make a political agreement in good and due form with all the good wills ready to constitute a majority in the best interests of the country.. We never deny ourselves when we make the choice of the general interest.
Is the reforming capacity of the Head of State amputated?
Let's say that it is always better to have an absolute majority than a relative one...
Did Emmanuel Macron manage the fuel crisis well??
He handled it. As can be seen, things are looking up.
The Head of State has announced his intention to reform the pension system this winter. Are the French ready for a lowering of the legal age to 65??
When I myself carried out the pension reform in 2011, it was not for the pleasure of going from 60 at 62, but because it was essential after the financial crisis of 2008 and its dramatic consequences. Since, this reform brings in 20 billion euros each year, very useful for paying pensions for retirees. Because that's what it's all about.: if tomorrow the money ran out, it would be the retirees of today who would no longer receive their pensions. Back then, I had been confronted with fourteen days of national demonstrations, one of which had gathered more than 2 million people. I carried out this reform a year before the presidential election of 2012. And already the same ones as today were calling me to "not force through"... Do you need a dictionary to understand that those who explain this, these are the ones who actually don't want to pass at all?
Who do you think of?
It is easy to recognize them since their speech has not changed. It was already Mr. Bayrou, socialists, of the CFDT… During the previous five-year, Jean-Paul Delevoye, high commissioner for pensions, conducted a consultation that lasted a year and a half. She got nowhere.
There was still an attempt at reform...
An attempt ", it means nothing. In life, there is what you do or what you don't do. After all these talks, the data of the problem are perfectly known. The only effective measure to guarantee our pension plan, is to raise the retirement age. It's simple, clair et net. The French arrive later on the labor market, they live longer, they work less throughout the year since the 35 hours… So if we do not work longer throughout life, this can't work. The old age scheme will go bankrupt.
How far should the retirement age be postponed??
To 63, 64 or 65, I don't have to comment on that. It is up to the government to make a proposal. However, there is much more important than the duration: this is the moment that will be chosen for the implementation of the reform. It is better to go to 63 years old immediately than to 65 years old in ten years. Because what matters, this is when the regime will recover the revenue it needs. I don't believe in the perfect reform that will settle everything definitively. There will be, after Mr. Macron, other presidents who will make further pension reforms, because that's life. The sooner the reform will apply, the better it will be.
Do you suspect Emmanuel Macron of not really wanting to do it??
Quite the contrary because it is even a subject on which he was clear since he said during the presidential campaign what he was going to do. It is courageous to confirm this commitment as, in its majority as in my own party, there are so many people who deny themselves. Retirement is always a question that gives rise to a lot of demagoguery. I recall that on the eve of the elections of 2012 M. Hollande and the Socialists had solemnly promised a return to the 60 years. A promise which of course was never kept.
So why was the reform not made during his first five-year term, according to you?
It was a mistake to listen to all those who claimed that it was necessary to adopt a so-called “systemic” reform. It's a word that actually means: "no reform". Those who claim to want to change everything are in truth those who do not want to change anything.
Are you worried about the state of public finances?
There is deficit and deficit. That France goes into debt to finance infrastructure and investments, at a time when the cost of money was negative, it's good management. If it is a question of financing the Seine Nord canal, the extension of the TGV or the creation of new nuclear power plants, investments that will generate growth and tax revenue, this deficit is healthy. But if it is a question of financing recurrent expenses, then it can lead to disaster and bankruptcy.
What to do, so, in terms of budget?
The cost of money is rising very quickly and quite exponentially. I'm afraid we're only at the beginning of this process.. I remind you that an additional interest rate point, it is 17 billion euros per year for debt service alone. It is therefore a mistake to continue to hire civil servants, to speak of the civil service only in terms of numbers without ever mentioning the central question of the duration of working time. For the territorial public service, for example, the vast majority of its members do not work the 35 hours, but less. France, between1991 and 2007, created one million civil service positions. She can't afford it. It is an inescapable reality. And I'm sorry to have been the only president of the VeRépublique who sought to reduce the number of civil servants. We should have done more and sooner. Fewer civil servants, better paid, better considered, better trained, it is simply the national interest.
You've been blamed a lot, As for the police...
Oh, I know this tune well, it is that of ease. It's never the right time and it's never the right position. One day, don't touch the number of police, another to the number of civil servants, yet another to the number of caregivers. At the arrival, France has an overly cumbersome administrative apparatus which weighs on the production system and increases the number of unemployed. France cannot continue in the "always more", it must adopt the strategy of “always better”. More pay and more work.
The executive has chosen to finance an expensive shield to protect the French from the explosion in energy prices. Was this the right solution?
There is never a good solution. Faced with the frightening explosion in the cost of energy, I think they were right. This reminds me of this Chinese proverb: “When the wise point to the Moon, the idiot looks at the finger. When the statesman looks at the price of energy, the irresponsible denounces the shield, which is in no way the cause of the crisis! Because if there is something to denounce, it is indeed the irresponsibility of our choices of the last ten years in terms of nuclear power. The shield is not a mistake: it's just a consequence.
France is threatened by power cuts this winter. Whose fault is it?
It is first and foremost the result of an irresponsible strategic choice, in complete rupture with the history of the VeRépublique. All Presidents, including Francois Mitterrand, all political parties, including PS and PCF, supported nuclear. Until François Hollande who, to appeal to environmentalists, took the foolish risk of suspending the future of the French nuclear industry. I remind you that the Fessenheim plant had obtained from the Nuclear Safety Authority its extension for at least ten years. It supplied electricity to almost all of Alsace. It brought in 300 million euros per year for EDF. It was closed for exclusively political reasons. But the fault also comes from the consequences of the stranglehold on the media of the anti-nuclear lobby. The result is overwhelming, because over the last forty years, only two new power plants have been launched – that of Flamanville and that of Penly. These are decisions that have earned me an avalanche of criticism. It's an understatement to say that I don't regret them.. Germany was also at fault as Ms Merkel made the mistake, majeure, to close almost all of its nuclear power plants. The consequence, is that the Germans have reopened their coal-fired power stations, whose fumes pollute even the Parisian air. Nice result! I also want to denounce the inconsistency of all the NGOs who claimed to promote a carbon-free economy and who at the same time wanted to destroy the only major energy sector that produces no carbon.. Finally, I agree with developing renewable energies but no official can claim that they will replace nuclear power. What has been done to the French nuclear industry disqualifies, in my view, anyone who has been associated with these choices, which are deeply contrary to the interests of France..
Including President Macron, who endorsed the closure of Fessenheim?
The train was unfortunately well launched when he took over the reins of the State. Since, he changed his mind… in a good way. I remember Mr. Hulot's statements, then minister, announcing on the same day that in fifteen years all cars sold will be electric, and that in twenty-five years almost half of the nuclear fleet would be closed… Nobody at the time asked him the question of how we would produce the electricity that these cars would need. Considering the closure of half of our nuclear fleet is probably the most irresponsible thing I have heard in the public debate in the last ten years.. I would add that I would like us to reverse the ban on shale gas research. Progress is an opportunity for France. To refuse it is nothing but obscurantism.
Should we exploit the shale gas reserves on our territory according to you??
Oui, it will have to be done as soon as we master a fragmentation technique that preserves groundwater. But if we do not seek technologies that will allow us to exploit the wealth of our subsoil while protecting our groundwater, we are not likely to find them.
Lola's Murder, 12 ans, caused a lot of emotion among the French. The alleged murderer had been the subject in August of an obligation to leave the territory [OQTF] not executed. Do you understand the excitement that this affair arouses??
I learned with dismay what had happened to Lola. I have, like any father of a little girl of the same age, thought it might have happened to him. Crazypeople, the Barbarians, men or women, it has always existed. I wish we didn't mix everything up. Non-enforcement of decisions to leave the territory is not the issue. I would have been just as upset if this despicable act had been committed by a Frenchman. Lola's death, whatever the criminal, is an absolute drama. But I want to add that if Lola was still alive, I would still be scandalized by the non-execution of deportations to the border.
What do you think of the political controversy surrounding this affair??
The pack, I know that well… The far left and the left have no lesson to give. Political exploitation has no label. She's still so stupid and counterproductive. maybe, no longer in politics, I can more easily hold a language of reason. We should have been concerned about the non-execution of deportations a long time ago.. I had changed the law. I was literally insulted during my five years in office by all the human rights people because we went so far as to organize escort charters in the countries of origin. A newspaper had even made its front page to call me a "thug of the Republic" because I had denounced the delinquency committed by foreigners on the national territory.. In my time, OQTFs were not at 6% execution, even if there was progress to be made. All the legislative arsenal to fight against irregular immigration that we had put in place was systematically dismantled by my immediate successor. Gérald Darmanin is right to demand more firmness.
How do you explain that the State can no longer execute the OQTFs?
The central problem, it is that of our courts which, in the name of respect, perfectly legitimate, rule of law, are transforming us into a state of helplessness. Whenever a government wants to move forward, they imagine a new rule that makes it even more difficult for those who run the state. I am obviously very attached to the respect of human rights. But when a person does not have the right to stay in France, then the State must have the possibility of returning it, if necessary under duress.
Did the government show weakness during the expulsion of Imam Hassan Iquioussen??
This is an extreme case that is not one of the most difficult cases in reality. If someone enters your home, let him break the chandelier and leave with the sofa, everyone will agree that he should be arrested by the police. But if the same individual enters your home, that he sits politely on your couch, that he does not break anything but that he does it without your authorization, I affirm that he too must be expelled. In this domain, we undergo the same conformism as that of extremist militant ecology. When I gave the Grenoble speech, I was called racist and xenophobic. People have even compared my meeting at the Trocadéro to the Nuremberg Congress… I have not forgotten anything about these outrages, of these ridiculous and misplaced indignations. And I do not accept that it is the same people who today pose as donors of lessons on the inefficiency of the State in terms of irregular immigration. By their outrageous declarations, they were the accomplices of this impotence. I want to say a special word to those of my own friends who sometimes tend to forget what we have done. I don't like double jeopardy, so I don't want to have been insulted at the time for having done too much, and see me reproached today for not having done enough.
One of the problems is the refusal of certain countries, like Algeria, to give consular passes to allow the execution of OQTFs…
Algeria is a great country, that I love, but who never stops rehashing his resentment about the Algerian war. We can't be the victims, seventy years later, of the internal political debate in Algeria. It seems to me that a State whose nationals are granted hundreds of thousands of visas should have no choice but to agree to grant France a few hundred to ensure the return of Algerian nationals.. In my mind, the rule must be clear, it is that of give-and-take.
Europe is at war again. The conflict seems to last and get bogged down. Should we be worried about it?
Oui, Alas! I would like someone to explain to me one day what it means to "wage war without waging it". If there is a notion that should require clarity, it is that of war and peace. Either we go to war, either we make peace. Combining the two doesn't make much sense.. In any case, when used together.
Should France continue to discuss with Vladimir Putin?
President Macron is perfectly right to want to maintain contact with Vladimir Putin. How to stop the war without talking to the belligerents? Not only do we want to make war without making it, but we would also like to stop it without addressing the protagonists. It's gonna get really complicated! Words have a meaning and you have to be careful in their use. When we say we won't talk to Russia as long as Putin is in power, it is tantamount to demanding a regime change in Moscow. I consider this a dangerous leap into the unknown, even if we can understand that it is difficult for the Ukrainian president to talk to Putin.
How to stop this war?
When I intervened in Georgia, Russian tanks were at 25 kilometers from Tbilisi. Three days later, I was going to Moscow and Tbilisi. Being in the service of peace requires talking to everyone. On the Ukrainian question, a lot of time was wasted. Or, in international crises of this nature, only the speed of action gives leeway. And this wasted time, it is as many thousands of totally useless deaths… Between Russia and Ukraine, I do not believe that the wrongs are shared. The aggressor and the attacked cannot be put on the same level. We must also take into account the complexity of the region, of its intertwined history, of its centuries-old hatreds and the deep instability that has reigned there since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2008, with Angela Merkel, we had refused the entry of Ukraine into NATO. This would have been seen as a provocation by the Russians. I recall that the drama unfolding in this region of the world is a matter for which the primary responsibility should be assumed by the Europeans. I regret that the European Union can give the impression of being towed by the Americans. Finally, like it or not, countries not changing addresses, Europe and Russia are condemned to maintain relations of peace and good neighborliness. If we succeeded in Franco-German reconciliation, we will be able to reconcile Europe and Russia. It is up to France to take the lead in this crisis.
Not to the European institutions?
I believe in politics and political leadership. The European Commission is primarily an administrative body. I have still not understood by virtue of which article of the European treaties Mrs. von der Leyen can justify her competence in matters of arms purchases and foreign policy.. We are witnessing a “hot” conflict at the gates of Europe. The only thing Europeans hear today, it is the addition of billions of euros spent on the purchase of weapons. Still more guns, more and more deaths, always more war! We are at the mercy of a miscalculation, of an exaltation, of annoyance, an epidermal reaction. We are dancing on the edge of a volcano. Firm condemnation of the initiative taken by Vladimir Putin was necessary. The reaction of solidarity with Ukraine as well. But the coolness to avoid escalation and to restore peace with the Russians requires the same voluntarism from us.. It is high time for serious initiatives to be taken to talk about the future and about peace.
The United Kingdom is sinking into a deep crisis. Whose fault is it?
Brexit is a major historical aberration. Boris Johnson imagined he was closer to Australia, located 15,000 kilometers from its borders, than from France, 30 kilometers away. The emotion aroused in France by the disappearance of Queen Elizabeth shows that England was not isolated. This country had won the linguistic battle, won the battle of finance, won the battle of symbols with its monarchy. He is losing everything with his exit from Europe. The resignation of Liz Truss is just another avatar of this madness. It won't be, Alas, not the last.
In six weeks, the FIFA World Cup begins in Qatar.. Should we boycott it?
Football is a universal sport and every region of the world must be able to organize an international competition. Football is not just for Westerners, whether they are French, English, Italian or American. It is a sport that unites. I observe that all the countries that have organized major international events in recent years have been the subject of multiple controversies: China, Russia, Brasil, Qatar today. We should give each of these host countries the chance to demonstrate their know-how and wait for how these events unfold before judging them.. I remind you that it was not me who sold Rafale to this country. If it was done by my immediate successor, is that he must have judged that he was trustworthy.
What do you think of these cities which refuse to broadcast matches on giant screens and to organize fan zones??
The town hall of Paris is, seems to me, very satisfied that the Qataris own and finance the club in the capital. They are right. But that seems more engaging to me than installing a giant screen… This controversy is quite hypocritical.
Republicans must choose their next president in December. Will you vote?
Since I entered politics in 1975, I only knew one formation. I was successively whistled there, booed and loved. I chaired it and even, when it comes to Republicans, I created it. I will remain a member my whole life. Because I love its militants. Because I share with them memories and emotions that are forever etched in my heart. You don't leave your family. I saw that some want to turn a page, it is their right. I will only point out to them that it is a book. When we turn a page, we forget; when you turn a book, he lives. In contrast, I will not choose a candidate because it would put me too much in the internal affairs of the party. It's no longer my role.
In this campaign, some candidates target you, starting with Bruno Retailleau and Aurélien Pradié. What do you think?
Being targeted is a habit I've had for a long time. This is undoubtedly the proof that I still exist… The most important thing for this political formation, is to think about your strategy. The numbers are cruel. In 2017, François Fillon made 20%. To the Europeans of 2019, François-Xavier Bellamy made 8%. In 2022, Valérie Pécresse makes 4.7%. It does not seem outrageous to me to point out that there is a major problem of leadership and strategy. That we revisit my balance sheet, why not? It's always helpful to see what worked and what didn't.. And I'm the first to be well aware of all the more that should have been done. That's why I wanted to stay five more years. But if we open this question of balance sheets, then it will also be necessary to look at the balance sheet of those who have succeeded me, because I remind you that I no longer exercise any responsibility since 2016. The virtual disappearance of the Republican right is not a problem for itself. This is primarily a problem for France. The equation is simple: if the republican right is strong, the far right does not exist. It is the disappearance of the right that creates the power of the far right. I recall that over the past twenty years, the Le Pens, father or daughter, were not in the second round of the presidential election in only two cases: when I was a candidate. If many RN voters vote for them, it is in spite of our disappearance. But this disappearance is not only a question of program: it is also a matter of incarnation. Our ideas are probably in the majority, but without incarnation they remain helpless.
Who could be the embodiment of the right in 2027? Many at LR rely on Laurent Wauquiez…
Laurent was a good minister. I always thought he had real talent. A new generation will have to rise. A generation that will not need to proclaim "I am young" to prove its talent. Because alas, youth passes and has never been enough. He can be this one if he gives himself the means and if he is ready to endure the sacrifices which are the price.
What is the right strategy for the right?
I believe in the party of order, to the one who rewards the work and the merit, to those who defend freedom. But I can only accept our ideas, those of the millions of French people who believed in us, are caricatured by such deeply reactionary attitudes as soon as a subject of society appears. I think of abortion as homosexual marriage or even the desire for children. I fully understand that the most conservative among us have their place in this great gathering. I myself made sure that they meet there. But that the same can represent, to manage, impose their views on the entire republican right, that would be a strategic mistake. When we put the Eiffel Tower on its tip, no wonder she falls.
Éric Ciotti had claimed that in the case of a Macron-Zemmour duel, he would vote Zemmour. Do you approve of it?
It was his right to think it and say it. And it's just as much my responsibility and my right to think differently.. But don't count on me to speak ill of anyone who, like Eric, accompanied me faithfully for so many years. I have beliefs, it would be curious to blame anyone for having it too. If in my life I had to speak and work only with people with whom I agreed 100%, I would have felt very alone so often…
How do you judge the attitude of the LR deputies?
First of all I don't judge them, most are friends. They are doing their best and their re-election has already been a small miracle given the results of the presidential election.. I just want to remind them that throughout our history, we were a government party, that we cannot improvise a tribune or populist party, and that by placing oneself in a systematic opposition, they run the risk of being inaudible, stuck between LePen and Mélenchon.
At the end of the year, the appeal trial of the so-called wiretapping case will be held.. In what state of mind do you approach it??
It has now been ten years since all my activities, my mother's estate, my children's accounts, of my wife, mine, professional and personal, are peeled. Ten years that investigators are dispatched to all the countries of the world to discover what I would have hidden. They found nothing. Regarding the Bismuth case, I am therefore criticized for having had the idea of carrying out a procedure for a friend of my lawyer. Just the idea. Well I'll explain myself again, and I will go all the way, including before the European courts, to prove that I have never betrayed the trust of the French.
Did these cases play a role in your withdrawal from active politics??
It was the goal, non ? At least, this made Carla happy…
François Mitterrand would have said: “Beware of judges. Never forget they killed the monarchy. They will kill the Republic. " What do you think?
In the same way that I thought that the election of Donald Trump was not the cause but the symptom of the moral crisis of the United States, I think what is happening in the judiciary is not the cause, but the symptom of a country that is deeply seeking.