French politician urges referendum on NATO


Tue, Feb 10, 2009 - Page 6

France should hold a referendum on President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan for a return to NATO command, an opposition politician said on Sunday.

Francois Bayrou, leader of the Democratic Movement party, warned that France’s return to the alliance’s integrated command would be “a one-way ticket” and that such a decision should be submitted to a popular vote.

“Such a weighty choice cannot be made by the political authorities alone, even less by the president of the republic,” he said. “This choice must be made by a referendum of the French people.”

Sarkozy is expected to announce at a NATO summit in April that France will rejoin the command structure, reversing former president Charles de Gaulle’s decision in 1966 to walk out in protest at US domination.

Sarkozy has, however, linked France’s return to NATO to building Europe’s defense capacities.

Bayrou said France must ensure it makes gains on European defense in return for its participation in NATO: “By aligning ourselves, we lose part of our identity in the chorus of nations including in the chorus of European nations.”