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Sarkozy Muscles in on EU Reform

Jun 29, 2008
It's just under a fortnight until France takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union and already the rest of Europe is getting a taste of what it can expect.

At a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, Sarkozy said the Union would not be able to go ahead with any further expansion without ratification of the Lisbon treaty.

And guess what? He's right - but that isn't the immediate issue at hand.

Sarkozy is a somewhat lukewarm supporter of further expansion of the EU - especially if it were to include Turkey - has in his usual way managed to make the current controversy over the Irish rejection of "his" Lisbon treaty even more muddled.

He has linked institutional reform, which just about everyone agrees is outdated for the enlarged Union of 27, with further expansion saying there cannot be one without the other.

While that might be very true the real issue at the moment is how to deal with the problems that exist now rather than those further down the line.

A VERY quick potted history of recent events without breaking into Eurobabble - never very easy:

Ever since the EU took in 10 new members in May 2004 and then another two at the beginning of 2007 it has been chugging along like the proverbial ship without a rudder haplessly trying to make decisions with a voting system made for 15 countries but with 27 in mind.

Gridlock seemed to be inevitable especially if any real progress in joint foreign, defence and judicial policy were to be agreed and a former French president, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was put in charge of a commission to come up with the masterplan to end all masterplans - the unfortunately-named Constitution, a term designed to set get the hackles of any sovereign state rising.

And guess what it was the French themselves - along with another stalwart and original founder member of the EU, the Netherlands, who put the kibosh on the thing. Both countries rejected the constitution and leaders were left with egg on their faces.

May 2007 - the election of Action Man here in France, who hijacks an idea of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, claiming it as his own "mini treaty" and so Lisbon was born - essentially the constitution in the form of a treaty and apparently "simplified".

The Irish were the only country among the 27 required to put the new treaty to a national vote - and we all know what they decided, so now Brussels and the EU are in a sort of limbo with 19 ratifications, six yet to make up their minds and one "no".

So that brings us nicely to yesterday's crisis conference of EU leaders in Brussels and an apparent ultimatum.

Sarkozy's language will perhaps have shocked a few as this is a guy who doesn't pull punches, says what he thinks and doesn't care who he offends in the process.

What he should be saying is something along the lines of "Listen up here fellahs (the Irish) we can't cope now with current size of the Union. Give us a hand and help us out of this mess."

Instead he is being overly aggressive and issuing threats "If you don't do as we (I) say you're going to mess up the party for all of us. Go away and get your act together."

All right that's not exactly how he put it, but you get the gist.

France has had the pleasure of Sarkozy for the past year. Heaven help the rest of Europe over the next six months.
About the Author
Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist specialising in politics, sport and travel. For more on what's making the headlines here in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com
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