Tough tests ahead for Sarkozy as France takes EU presidency

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Tough tests ahead for Sarkozy as France takes EU presidency

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s major headache as France takes up the EU presidency will be trying to revive the Lisbon treaty.

He may be able to persuade the Irish to hold another referendum after voters rejected the treaty on June 12. There are also the Czech and Polish objections to the treaty to be considered.

Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, believes Sarkozy will just have to wait and see.

He said: “The key challenge for the French president might be to have patience: there is not a lot the French can do to influence events in the Czech Republic and in Poland, the ratification is still outstanding, and in Ireland itself. But if they wait out and are lucky, by the end of the year, we might have a solution with the Irish problem in the sense that a second Irish referendum might soon be about and might go through.”

In the meantime, Europe’s citizens continue to suffer from rising prises. Visits to supermarkets and petrol stations are leaving consumers increasingly out of pocket. The problem is particularly acute at the pumps.

France has proposed reducing VAT on fuel, but this idea has been shot down by finance ministers and the European Commission.

Again, says Daniel Gros, Sarkozy’s options are limited: “The main problem right now is the high price of oil and there is just nothing the EU can do to help the price of oil go down. Just having a tax change here and there, just shifts the burden from one consumer to another. It does not really contribute to a solution of the problem and this would be very dangerous if Sarkozy tries to push the EU towards that kind of solution,” says Gros.

Another of Sarkozy’s projects, and one where he may have more joy, is the creation of an ‘immigration pact’.

Inspired by France’s own policy, this would involve tightening Europe’s borders, harmonising the bloc’s asylum policy and developing the immigrants’ countries of origin.