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French bid to return to EU forefront

brussels bureau

French bid to return to EU forefront


France’s Interior Minister, and contender for next year5;s presidential elections, has presented his vision of the future of Europe. It was Nicolas Sarkozy’s first major policy statement on the European Union, in which France’s influence, Paris fears, has dwindled since its voters rejected the constitutional project almost 16 months ago.

“We should resort to a mini-treaty to achieve the most urgent institutional reforms,” he said, indicating this should be before 2008. The Brussels-based think-tank Friends of Europe said this was clearly calculated to rekindle a Europe-wide political debate. “The only way to save political Europe is to short-circuit the unanimity lockout.” This he said would provide a way out for those countries that voted “No” without hobbling those who voted “Yes”. “It’s inconceivable that a single Member State would be able to impede the Union’s progress.”

Diplomats and parliamentarians reacted favourably, as did analyst Karel Lannoo. EuroNews asked: ‘What if Sarkozy won office next year?’ He said: “We would have, on both sides of the Rhine, in France and Germany, much more leadership than we have today. We have it in Germany now; that was restored with (Chancellor Angela) Merkel. We definitely need it in France as well, and I think this speech has certainly reassured many people here in Brussels. Let’s say that if Sarkozy were to be elected that leadership will be restored on the European front also in France.” The idea is the text could be adopted early next year during the German EU presidency and ratified in 2008 during the French EU presidency.

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