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Here Comes The EU …

  • May 24th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

sarkhozy-media-reduced.jpg“I am a European”, declared the new French President, Nicolas Sarkhozy, at the European Commission in Brussels (23.5.07) – dispelling any ideas he, and his country, might hold back on the “European project”.

He was in fact signing on to moves for reviving a constitutional make-over of Europe; on hold since its defeat in two controversial referendums in 2005.

Nicolas Sarkhozy, elected on 6 May, had just reached agreement with the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, to give first priority to putting through a scaled down, “simplified treaty” – a replacement for the planned constitution.

He had already made an agreement on that with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and it is now scheduled to be approved at the next summit of European leaders, at Brussels later this month (21-22.6.07).

“It is time to take Europe out of the impasse it has reached,” he said.

“I am not able to accept that Europe should be at a standstill; we should now move it forward.”

The defeat of the European constitution at referendums in France and the Netherlands blocked progress on a set of changes designed to allow the EU to expand

Those included:

  • A move to majority voting by countries instead of the consensus-and-veto system which, with 27 member states, was holding up many decisions.
  • A European President to hold office for five years, taking over from the system of rotating Presidencies, with countries taking turns to nominate their head of government for the job, every six months.
  • A common foreign and security policy with a European foreign minister.
  • More powers in European law-making to both the elected European Parliament and to national parliaments.
  • A consolidation of different treaties that make up basic European law into just one treaty.

Mr Sarkhozy said he had obtained a mandate from the French people in the presidential election, to put a reduced form of that constitution through the parliament, instead of going to any fresh referendum

That was now the “only way”, and France would then join 18 other member countries that had already ratified the change.

“The European Union should protect its citizens and not worry them”, he said.

It was what Mr Barroso wanted to hear.

“We have been counting on President Sarkhozy and France to help precipitate a fresh dynamism in Europe,” he said.

“I have complimented him on his energy and ambition.”

Once the plan for change went through the heads of government meeting, it could go on to a special conference, where it would be set up as legislation.

At a news conference bringing together the Brussels and Paris media brigades, both politicians made the new treaty idea the one main item, and made it plain there would be concentrated efforts to make it happen.

Other countries could be expected to follow through with legislation instead of referendums, perhaps including the United Kingdom, a reluctant country, where the outgoing Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was quoted this week saying such a move was possible.

Mr Sarkhozy did take time to affirm his opposition to Turkey entering the European Union, saying it “had no place” as a member, if Europe was considered as an entity with borders.

He also edged away from claims that he would move much closer to the United States than his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, putting in some criticism of the American government over its stance on world trade talks.

“I have already told President George Bush the Americans need to make more efforts to reduce their agricultural subsidies so we can get the Doha round talks going again,” he said.

Trade agreements had to be balanced with give and take on both sides.

However those and other matters would need to follow the decision-making at the coming summit, the European Council, on a treaty.

“We want the European Council to succeed, and too many initiatives before it would complicate it.”

Mr Sarkhozy’s media appearance went for 45 minutes, drawing 19 television cameras and over 350 journalists.

It marked a change in style from most Brussels media briefings which can be dry and more formal.

The new French President beamed at the female reporters, complimenting one on her questioning, another on her red scarf.

At the end, unusually there was a short round of applause.

Picture: President Nicolas Sarkhozy of France, with Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, at their Brussels media conference.