Yes that was me tweeting in German last night, digging into my modern languages education to remember all I could, and surprised how much that was. Truth is, as I am about to say to a conference in Berlin when I speak in English, French is the dominant foreign language in my head, and when I speak German off the cuff, my head goes all Franzosich. So writing is ok, and I will kick off auf Deutsch and then go into English when it gets a bit technical.
As it happens it is a conference on language and politics so no harm in mixing the three. And meanwhile I wake up to headlines suggesting Angela Merkel intends to campaign for Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential elections.
The reaction among my German friends last night – the ones who said Brits drink more than any EU country btw, so pretty well-informed – was that she has enough political problems of her own without adding Sarko’s load to her shoulders. The Merkozy brand is not quite what it was.
It is always a risk getting involved in another country’s election. When TB was riding high, we were under enormous pressure from social democrats around Europe to get him to campaign for them, and we said no more than yes. But when we did say yes – to Gerhard Schroeder in Germany, Wim Kok in Holland, Viktor Kilima in Austria and Goran Persson in Sweden for example, not to mention Putin when we thought he was a good guy – we spent the election nights worrying about whether we were about to have a major diplomatic repair job on our hands.
So with the French polls as they are, favouring Francois Hollande, Merkel will be following the French elections even more closely than usually she might. She stayed out of the British general election, perhaps because Gordon Brown was the incumbent and David Cameron the challenger.
I would love to have been privy to the chats as Sarko gently persuaded her to stick her neck out for him. But I am far from sure it is the vote winner either of them think it is. The people of Europe are not quite as emotionally bound up with the Franco-German motor as they are. One of the ‘democratoc deficit’ issues exploited by the sceptics is that many people feel they do not have their own national destiny in their hands. The sight of the German Chancellor riding to the rescue of a struggling French president might add to that feeling for French citizens, and be a factor tipping them in the direction of change.