Sarkozy urges 'mini-treaty' to keep EU running

8th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, Sept 8, 2006 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday called for Europe to adopt a "mini-treaty" to allow it to function properly before launching a "major democratic debate" on a comprehensive EU blueprint.

BRUSSELS, Sept 8, 2006 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday called for Europe to adopt a "mini-treaty" to allow it to function properly before launching a "major democratic debate" on a comprehensive EU blueprint.

Sarkozy, a front-runner ahead of next year's French presidential election, proposed that a large-scale commission be set up to draft a new full treaty after 2009.

His high-profile visit here will be followed next week by a similar trip by rival French presidential hopeful Ségolène Royal.

His comments on a European blueprint are in line with growing calls within the EU to tackle a perceived paralysis in the bloc since French and Dutch voters rejected an EU draft constitution in national referendums last year.

The French minister called the old constitutional plan dead, as have other European leaders including Prime Minister Jan Balkenende of the Netherlands.

"The constitutional treaty in its current form will not come into force, it's cruel but it is a fact," said Sarkozy, who has not officially been chosen by his UMP party as a candidate for the election, expected next May.

The constitution was aimed at streamlining decision-making in the expanding 25-member EU. Bulgaria and Romania are set to join in January, with the ratification process of the text still on hold.

Sarkozy, delivering a speech in Brussels, said that one of the priorities of his proposed "mini-treaty" would be to "change the rule of unanimity" because "the only way to save Europe politically is to get over this hurdle."

He suggested the creation of a mechanism of "super-qualified" majority voting which would require 70-80 percent of national votes for a decision to be adopted, citing in particular fiscal decisions.

The mini-treaty would also offer a more stable EU presidency, which currently rotates six-monthly from one member state to the next, and introduce the post of a foreign minister for the bloc.

The French minister also championed an "ambitious reform" of EU finances, with expenditure financed "by European resources and not by national budgets.

"This will be one of the important matters for the French (EU) presidency," in 2008, he said.

Sarkozy said a wider "fundamental treaty", comparable to the battered draft EU constitution, could be introduced later.

To prepare for this he envisaged a "major democratic debate" after the European elections in 2009 rather than a "purely diplomatic exercise between experts or insiders".

In other comments, Sarkozy insisted that there was no place for Turkey in the 25-nation bloc.

He called instead for a "privileged partnership", saying links with Turkey should be enhanced but without full membership.

"The geographical and political map of the EU" should be fixed, with the bloc open to states which are "clearly part of the continent of Europe" he opined, citing Switzerland, Norway and the Balkan states.

Sarkozy also said that no further EU enlargement should take place before new institutions are introduced.

Analysts say that movement on the constitution would be more likely after the elections in France and the Netherlands in the first six months of 2007.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is also set to step down by next year.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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