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France takes over EU presidency, but problems loom

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France takes over EU presidency, but problems loom


France has begun its six month leadership of the European Union, with President Nicolas Sarkozy vowing to protect EU citizens in the face of soaring fuel and food prices. But problems sparked by Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty won’t go away.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski is refusing to ratify the treaty, saying it would be pointless following the Irish ‘No.’ The Polish parliament has already approved it, but the constitution requires the president’s signature. And Germany is also threatening a delay. Several appeals are being heard at the Constitutional Court, and a decision is not expected before the autumn.

The French President admitted that the Irish rejection of Lisbon made his job more difficult: “Yes, the Irish ‘No’ is making our task more difficult, not only for me as EU President, but also for the whole of Europe,” he said.

“All 27 of us agreed. Nineteen have ratified the Lisbon Treaty. So the first priority for us is to keep the problem confined to Ireland, and have the others continue ratifying. I am thinking in particular about the Czech Republic.”

The Lisbon Treaty aims to streamline EU decision-making, and bolsters its powers in areas such as immigration and fighting crime. France admits it must convince the EU to be closer to its citizens and to be more relevant.

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