5th Dec 2023

Sarkozy wants national parliaments to control Turkey accession talks

French interior minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy has called for national parliaments' control of the EU’s ongoing accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia, while proposing quick implementation of parts of the EU constitution.

The French centre-right politician, who is seen as a strong candidate for France’s presidential elections in 2007, set out his ideas in a speech before the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the German conservative CDU’s think-tank, in Berlin on Thursday (16 February).

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Mr Sarkozy called for a political response to European citizens’ uneasiness with EU enlargement, which in his view had been one key factor in the French and Dutch "no" votes against the EU constitution last year.

"The fiasco of the French and Dutch referendums has partly been provoked by hostility to a Europe without borders," he stated.

The French minister called for a strengthened principle of "absorption capacity" of the EU – the union’s own capacity to integrate new members – to reassure citizens that enlargement would not take place without their control.

"I would like to organize a reinforced control of national parliaments on the accession negotiations which have just opened with Croatia and Turkey."

National parliaments should "control the union every time it wants to close one of the 35 chapters of the acquis communautaire [the EU’s lawbooks] in its negotiations with its candidates."

Current practice does not work

Mr Sarkozy argued that increased national parliament control on European Commission-led accession talks is necessary, as the safeguard of every member state’s veto in accession talks is never used in practice.

"I note that the rule of unanimity in the accession negotiations is a false guarantee, because the practice demonstrates that no member state wants to appear to be the one that makes a blockade vis-a-vis a candidate state."

Mr Sarkozy recalled that the French parliament recently adopted an amendment to its constitution, securing a popular referendum on every single enlargement after Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia.

Mini- EU constitution

In his Berlin speech, the French politician also said the EU has to look for alternatives to the EU constitution.

He said he had told Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, that "for me, and I regret that, the constitutional treaty will not enter into force in its current form."

Referring to the negative outcome of the referendum on the charter in his country, he said "I will not be the one who will tell the French that they have misunderstood the question."

Mr Sarkozy instead proposed a three-stage plan for a better-functioning union.

The EU could immediately move to full transparency of EU ministers' meetings, introduce the possibility for citizens to propose EU laws (as foreseen in the constitution) and lift the national veto in penal matters.

In a second stage, the EU could implement a number of proposals in the constitution enjoying a "large consensus," such as the system of voting weights, a limitation of the national veto, creation of an EU foreign minister and increased checks against overregulation by national parliaments.

"These reforms could take the shape of a limited text of 10 or 15 important articles, which could be negotiated as fast as possible with the aim of giving the union the means for achieving efficiency."

In a third stage, the union should address fundamental future questions like a re-think of its financing and the establishment of its future borders, Mr Sarkozy said.

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