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Sarkozy ducks human rights criticism, presents EU agenda, courts MEPs

 Sarkozy ducks human rights criticism, presents EU agenda, courts MEPs
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy has presented
the priorities of his country’s six-month EU presidency, promising to seek a way forward for the bloc’s Lisbon Treaty. In his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, he also urged debate on monetary and exchange rate policy.

He named pacts on climate change and immigration, better European defence capabilities and modernising Europe’s farm policy as key goals.

He also said he would defend human rights. This was in response to criticism of his plans to be in Beijing when the Olympics start.

Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit was incensed. He said: “You have a golden opportunity to defend European democratic values of freedom by saying ‘I won’t participate in the opening of the Games, and the Chinese Communist Party mascarade!”

Sarkozy has been accused of undermining EU efforts to pressure China over its human rights record. But the French president said he had sought European approval for the trip:

“All the member states have given their agreement. Not one was against. So far, 13 will be represented at the opening ceremony.”

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering has said he is not going to the event, citing the lack of progress in talks between China and Tibet’s Dalai Lama.

Sarkozy plans to go to Dublin for consultations on the stalled Lisbon Treaty later this month, saying there can be no new EU enlargement without it.