French parliament to vote on Sarkozy’s plan to rejoin NATO


Paris : The French parliament is widely expected to approve President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to rejoin NATO’s military command when it votes on the measure later Tuesday.

Support TwoCircles

As Sarkozy’s UMP party and its centre-right allies have a substantial majority in both houses of parliament, the result of the vote is a foregone conclusion.

However, the debate is expected to be lively, because many law-makers, including among the UMP, still believe first president Charles de Gaulle’s decision in 1966 to pull France out of NATO’s military command and evict US bases from French soil was the right one.

In addition, Sarkozy’s ploy to tie the NATO vote to a vote of confidence in the government’s overall foreign policy has provoked some resentment.

This effectively forces potentially rebellious UMP law-makers to approve the NATO move, without addressing it directly.

“We’re condemned to vote for it,” UMP deputy Georges Tron complained. “The executive is telling us: Push the nuclear button or shut up.”

According to media reports, about 10 UMP members are expected not to approve the measure, probably by abstaining.

In addition, four former prime ministers, including two from the conservative ranks – Alain Juppe and Dominique de Villepin – have publicly expressed their opposition to the move, saying that it will place France under Washington’s thumb.

Opposition law-makers are expected to vote against the return to NATO. However, polls show that a majority of the French favour it.

In defending his decision, Sarkozy said on March 11 that France’s return to full NATO membership would strengthen European defence capabilities by giving Paris a say in the Alliance’s mission strategies and planning.

“Now we have soldiers deployed on the ground… but no influence on the missions in which they participate,” Sarkozy said. “We have excluded ourselves.”

France currently is the fourth-largest contributor of troops to NATO and has some 2,800 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.