SKETCH: Sarkozy, Berlusconi, and the other Turkey.

The race is on between Sarko and Silvio as to who can take off the most kilos of gravitas

Nicolas Sarkozy has released stunning evidence (above) that France is bearing most of the brunt of austerity: it is ready for the pain and has sacrificed many a lunch, but Fifi Lafrance is now in shape….from here on, others must pull their weight….and salvage this our great German Charity, sorry, European Union.

Astonishingly, this is more or less what Sarko said recently. “France has done more than many to tackle its public finances,” he lied, “and now others must match this”. In France now, the President is increasingly viewed as an embarrassing joke – ‘The Incredible Shrinking Midget’ as one satire sheet unkindly called him last week. It’s not just the wife who can’t sing, the Narcozy gags, and ageing heiresses giving him brown paper party bags any more: there is a growing sense that Sarko lives only for the soundbite: anything, in fact, to distract from the reality of a France beholden to Germany – and bloated by public sector workers who bring France to a standstill whenever reform is mentioned.

Surpassing Nico – but only just – is Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi. His holiday-coupon shot at reducing a deficit standing at 115% of gdp was at least genuine, albeit deckchair rearrangement: but he simply can’t stay away from tabloid behaviour. Following last week’s speech replete with gags about tits and Hitler, the BBCNews site noted, ‘Berlusconi vows to stay amid controversy’. Silvio has always lived in the controversial zone, and so this won’t represent change in any shape or form. However, on Monday Italian police seized 1.5 billion euros worth of assets belonging to a Sicilian businessman linked to the Mafia. Now that’s the sort of expenditure cut that can get you a bed full of equine heads, but every little helps.

This would all be hysterically funny in an unqualified sense if there were no downsides lining up to bring the EU down. But last Sunday, the Turkish leader Erdogan won public approval for his new constitutional measures – aka paving the way for Turkey’s AK Government being able to harass all opposition to its Islamist ideas. The insanity of the EU being what it is, many eurocrats see the result as making Turkey’s application to join the Union a shoe-in.

In the same spirit of blind denial, the Economist referred to Recep Erdogan’s Government last week as ‘mildly Islamist’, a description regarded by the staff here in Slogger’s Roost as something of a classic. Being mildly Islamist isn’t possible, in the same way that one can’t be vaguely Nazi, or slightly dead.

Still, if even the Big Red E is going to start being silly, we might as well all join in. Cheap buses and trains are available across France today (Wednesday) for Public Transport Day plus the chance to buy cut-price season tickets. This is to mark Mobility and Transport Security Week – a bid to get more people out of cars and onto buses and trains. Yesterday, in protest against Sarkozy’s failing attempt to raise the retirement age to 62, the whole of the public transport system went on strike.