13th Apr 2024

Sarkozy says Merkel is 'interested' in mini-treaty

French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy has claimed that his idea of a mini-treaty replacing the European constitution is now also raising interest with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

After talks with Ms Merkel in Berlin on Monday (12 February), the centre-right frontrunner in the French presidential race said that although Ms Merkel cannot publicly admit this, she is in fact sympathetic to his proposals for a slimmed-down version of the EU constitution.

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"Of course we understand that given the European as well as German responsibilities that she has, Ms Merkel cannot go public with all of her thinking," he said according to press reports.

"But I believe that there is a big understanding, a big comprehension, and that the idea of a simplified treaty is an idea which at least raises a lot of interest."

Mr Sarkozy last year proposed a "mini treaty" salvaging only the institutional reforms of the constitution while ditching most of the values- and policy parts of the text.

"It would provide a way out for those countries that voted 'no' without humiliating those who voted 'yes'," he said in Brussels in September, with France rejecting the constitution in a 2005 popular referendum.

The mini-treaty idea has so far met resistance in Berlin, which currently holds the EU presidency and which seeks to revive as much of the current constitutional text as possible.

Ms Merkel did not want to comment on the talks with Mr Sarkozy on Monday, according to newspaper reports.

The German chancellor "is very preoccupied to find a way out of the institutional blockade [of the EU] and I believe that we have found common understanding," Mr Sarkozy said however.

Mr Sarkozy's statements come despite strong and consistent German public support for the entire EU constitution text, which Berlin has already ratified like 17 other EU capitals.

Earlier reports have however suggested that circles in Ms Merkel's and Mr Sarkozy's political parties - belonging to the same European conservative political family - are in close informal contact to find common ground between Berlin and Paris.

But Mr Sarkozy's claim that he has German support for his mini-treaty plan also sheds light on his intense campaign for the French presidency, with polls currently showing him ahead of socialist contender Segolene Royal.

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