Sarkozy in Brussels to make push for EU treaty

23rd May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 23, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday makes his first trip to Brussels since taking office to build the case for a new treaty that will get the European Union back on track.

PARIS, May 23, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday makes his first trip to Brussels since taking office to build the case for a new treaty that will get the European Union back on track.

A week after taking over from Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy will hold talks with the president of the European Commission, the EU's executive, on his proposal for a treaty with a view to reaching agreement at next month's European summit.

"Relaunching the European Union with a simplified treaty that will make the 27-member Union more efficient ... will be at the heart of this first round of talks on Europe," said presidential spokesman David Martinon.

The treaty, a key plank of Sarkozy's presidential campaign, would break the impasse created by the French and Dutch rejection of the EU constitution in referendums two years ago.

The simplified version of the constitution would allow the EU institutions to function fully by outlining the role and duties of the EU's executive and spelling out the decision-making process.

In France, it would be submitted to parliament for approval, and not be put to a referendum, avoiding the disaster of 2005 when France found itself outside the club of architects of the new Europe, which has taken in 12 new members since 2004.

Sarkozy is determined "to not waste a minute" in getting France back on board the European project and wants to work "closely" with the European Commission, said his spokesman.

In Brussels, he is to hold talks with EU president Jose Manuel Barroso Wednesday afternoon and the two will then have a working dinner with European commissioners.

Sarkozy met Monday with EU parliament president Hans-Gert Pottering to discuss his proposed treaty and emphasised the need to move quickly.

The proposal will open up delicate negotiations on paring down the failed constitution without irking countries such as Germany that have ratified the full text and do not want a new document to be devoid of meaning.

Germany, for instance, wants to ensure that a charter of fundamental rights that was annexed to the constitution be included in the new treaty, a position shared by Barroso.

Sarkozy is to press on with his European diplomatic initiative, travelling to Madrid next week for talks with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, the first EU country to adopt the constitution by referendum in 2005.

While in Brussels, he will also meet with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.

Last Wednesday, hours after his inauguration, Sarkozy flew to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying he wanted to "get down to work immediately" on reviving a charter.

Merkel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, wants to reach a political deal on a new constitutional treaty to be sealed at an EU summit in Brussels on June 21-22.

The talks on the treaty could potentially be complicated by Sarkozy's refusal to extend EU membership to Turkey, which he argues is an Asian country that does not belong in the European club.

Instead, Sarkozy is advocating a special partnership between the EU and Turkey and the creation of a Mediterranean Union between countries along the Mediterranean rim in Europe, the Middle East and north Africa, including Turkey, to boost regional cooperation.

Turkey has balked at Sarkozy's position and urged the French leader to abide by previous EU agreements recognising the mainly Muslim country's aspirations to become part of the European Union.

Sarkozy will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and the state secretary for European affairs, Jean-Pierre Jouyet.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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