French premier urges EU to take concrete measures
Ireland rejects EU Treaty, France moves forward as the soon-to-be host country of the rotating presidency…18 June 2008
FRANCE - In the light of the Irish rejection of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, the Union must now undertake concrete measures for the protection of its citizens, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Wednesday.
Speaking to lawmakers in the National Assembly, Fillion echoed an earlier statement by President Nicolas Sarkozy by saying, "We must learn to construct Europe differently."
He added that because Europe was "loved so little" it was often targeted as a scapegoat for matters that had nothing to do with the Union itself.
France assumes the EU's rotating presidency on July 1 and will have to deal with the fallout of the Irish rejection of the treaty, and seek a way out of the Union's latest institutional crisis.
As a result, Fillon said, France's programme for the EU is now more important than ever. As an example, Fillon cited suspending the value-added tax on petrol as a remedy for the soaring cost of oil, a suggestion floated earlier by Sarkozy that has found little positive resonance in Brussels.
Fillon also said that the environment would be France's top priority as EU president, and that Paris wanted to conclude an ambitious plan by the end of 2008 to reduce greenhouse gases.
Other priorities of the French EU presidency are to be agricultural reform, immigration, defence and security.
To deal with the stream of illegal immigrants to Europe, Fillon said that France would seek to conclude a pact that would coordinate the control of immigration among all 27 EU member states.