France sets out four priorities for EU presidency
President Nicolas Sarkozy has laid out four priorities for France's six-month presidency of the 27-nation European Union starting this week.
Here is an outline of the issues at stake:
IMMIGRATION: France wants to hammer out a new immigration and asylum pact that would toughen European policy toward foreigners. A first draft will be unveiled at a meeting of immigration ministers in Cannes on July 7 and 8.
Largely inspired by Sarkozy's call for a "chosen immigration" centred on
France's economic needs, the pact would seek to harmonise immigration
legislation, improve border controls through modern technology and support frontline states in their battle against illegal immigration. The pact would attempt to deal with disparate asylum policies across the EU, with France hoping to win a pledge from all states to ban blanket amnesties. More than two million illegal immigrants were given working papers in Spain and Italy between 2003 and 2007.
DEFENCE: Sarkozy has linked the decision to take France back into NATO's integrated command to building European defence. The first hurdle however has already been put in place with the Irish 'no' to the Lisbon Treaty, which provided for greater military cooperation. France is hoping to review the European security strategy drafted in 2003 and take steps toward bolstering military capacity with a new Franco-British aircraft carrier group. Sarkozy has revived a proposal that dates back to 1999 to create a 60,000-strong European force that could be deployed over a year in any combat theatre. But France faces strong British resistance to its plans to set up an EU military headquarters in Brussels, which London sees as unnecessarily doubling up on NATO.
ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT: France hopes to shepherd an accord on climate change that would put it in a strong position to negotiate new targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions at a world conference in Copenhagen next year. The EU wants to cut its CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020 but modalities on how to achieve that goal have yet to be fully agreed among the 27 member states. Sarkozy plans to present a package of European measures in October to counter soaring oil prices but his proposal to lower the ceiling on the value-added tax has already run into opposition from Germany, which argues that changing the VAT would do nothing to discourage consumption.
AGRICULTURE: France hopes to open up debate on future of the Common Agricultural Policy, which gobbles up 40 percent of the entire EU budget. France, the biggest agricultural producer and also the biggest beneficiary of EU farm subsidies, wants to lay out new venues for negotiation when the current CAP runs out in 2013. At a time of soaring food prices, Sarkozy is expected to argue for maintaining a strong support system for agriculture in Europe, despite calls from Britain to pare down the CAP budget.
(AFP - expatica July 2008)
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