EU – treaty adoption puts France ‘back in Europe’:
PARIS, February 11, 2008 - President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday hailed theFrench parliament's adoption of the European Union's new reform treaty, sayingit had restored the country to its rightful place in Europe. "This simplified treaty was France's initiative, to pull Europe out of theinstitutional crisis it was facing," Sarkozy said in a televised address tothe nation, three years after rebellious French voters shot down the EU'sill-fated constitution in a referendum. The president, who pledged before his election to restore France's drivingrole in Europe, played a leading role in drawing up the text, a tailored-downversion of the treaty consigned to oblivion by the French and Dutch in 2005. "Thanks to this success, for it is a success, France is back in Europe,"said the French leader, who is battling a severe slump in the polls as Parisprepares to take over the EU's six-month presidency in July. Both French houses of parliament voted resoundingly this week in favour ofthe treaty, which was signed in Lisbon in December. Its ratification will become official on Thursday, February 14, followingits publication in the government's official gazette, Sarkozy's office said. France is the fifth EU country -- and the first major EU power -- to ratifythe new treaty, which must be approved in all 27 member states before it cancome into force as planned in 2009. "Europe now has the framework it needs to get moving again," Sarkozy said. But the president warned that decision-making gridlock was only part of theEU's problem. "Now that Europe can make decisions, the problem is knowing what it wants,"he said, before repeating his controversial call for European leaders to havea say in fixing monetary policy in the 15-nation eurozone. "We must be able to talk about everything just like in any democracy: ofour currency which is not a taboo subject, of trade policy, of industrialpolicy, of reciprocity in competition matters or the excesses of financialcapitalism." "Right now, what is at stake is to put politics back in Europe, to notleave Europe in the hands of automatic rules that allow no room for decisionsand political responsibility," Sarkozy said. He repeated his insistence that unbridled competition should be "a means toan end, rather than a goal in itself" -- a key change in the text of theLisbon treaty that sparked protests from some European nations. Like the rejected constitution, the Lisbon treaty proposes a Europeanforeign policy supremo and a permanent president to replace the six-monthrotation system. The charter cuts the size of the European Parliament and the number of EUdecisions which require unanimous support, thus reducing national vetoes. It also includes a European charter of fundamental human and legal rights,which Britain and Poland have refused to make binding. However it drops all references to an EU flag or anthem which had fannedeurosceptic fears of another step towards a federal Europe. The French president had insisted before his election that any new EUtreaty should be adopted by parliament rather than risk a second referendum. His refusal to submit it to popular scrutiny fuelled anger acrossopposition ranks, but Sarkozy defended his decision as the only way to breakthe gridlock. France's main opposition Socialists had split over the 2005 EU referendumwhen a rebel faction defied party leaders to campaign for a "No" vote, and thenew treaty re-opened many of the old wounds. A breakaway group of Socialist deputies voted against the treaty, althoughmost finally joined the ruling Union for a Popular Movement and its centristallies to back the text.