27th Feb 2024

Sarkozy calls for definition of 'borders of Europe'

Nicolas Sarkozy, a presidential hopeful in next year's French elections, has suggested the EU should become clear about where its borders lie and what other types of partnerships it can offer to countries aspiring to join the club.

Several high-profile speakers at the congress of the centre-right European People's Party gathered in Rome on Thursday (30 March) made comments about limiting EU enlargement plans.

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Mr Sarkozy, who received strong support from the forum for his ambitions to become the new French president, argued Europe needs to give "political answers" to some crucial questions before it can offer solutions to the "crisis" it is currently facing.

"We have to ask: should Europe have borders? And the answer is yes, it should," he said, adding "A Europe without borders will become a subset of the United Nations."

"Another question is what exactly is 'privileged partnership'? Can we just consider accession and nothing else or what exactly do we have to offer?"

'Privileged partnership' has been floated by some EU leaders as a potential form of integration for countries like Turkey and Ukraine - bringing closer ties than they currently have with the EU but not offering full membership.

Leaders of both countries say they want to be full members of the club, with Turkey already having opened membership talks with Brussels.

Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schussel said in his speech that the EU should keep its commitments to the Balkans and its promise to "begin negotiations with Turkey" - but stressed "Europe can't extend itself without limit... Europe must have its core."

Deeper Europe first

The EPP's congress was attended by eleven centre-right government leaders from the member parties across Europe, as well as European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

German chancellor Angela Merkel did not make any comments on further EU enlargement - although she herself recently mooted the idea that a "privileged partnership" could be an option for some states of the western Balkans, as well.

But in a speech, she indicated there is a link between Europe's enlargement policies and the institutional changes it requires.

"Some countries were happy to join the EU but they are not happy about its deeper integration," she said, pointing out that the enlargement issue requires "a great deal of tact" from politicians at the moment.

The institutional make-up of the EU after enlargement was outlined in the EU constitution but its ratification was put on ice after last year's failed referendums in France and the Netherlands.

The EPP congress is due to adopt a memorandum expressing support for the document.

"We want the achievements and reforms proposed by the Constitutional Treaty to become reality," says the draft memorandum.

Speakers at the party's congress did not float new ideas on how it could be achieved given the current deadlock.

But Mr Sarkozy said some compromise should be found for the 14 countries that have already adopted the treaty as well as for those that failed to convince their citizens to support it.

He argued political leaders should "re-assemble" and "struggle with the text" and set some timetable to agree on its potential changes.


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