Tuesday

9th Aug 2022

Sarkozy pleads for Europe of nations

Outgoing EU president Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday (16 December) pleaded for a Europe built on strong states as opposed to a federal Europe, arguing that all countries within the EU had the same rights, but maybe not the same responsibilities.

"We shall not build Europe without the [nation] states. As European as you may be, Europe is not the enemy of nations," Mr Sarkozy told MEPs gathered for a plenary session in Strasbourg.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • "I tried to shake Europe, but Europe changed me," said the French leader. (Photo: European Parliament - Audiovisual Unit)

"Wanting to pass above the heads of those who have been elected in their countries, it is not a mistake, it is a fundamentalism… Wanting to build Europe against the [sovereignty of] nations would be a historical mistake," he said in a speech presenting the outcomes of France's six months at the EU helm.

A strong Europe cannot be built on weak states, Mr Sarkozy stressed.

"Europe is strong when it leans on strong and responsible states… The mistake is to believe that we need weak states to build a strong Europe," he told MEPs.

In addition, and in order to have a more "political Europe," it should also be made clear that all EU member states enjoy the same rights.

"The big [EU] countries do not have greater rights than the smaller ones," he said, adding: "but perhaps [they have] more responsibilities."

More powers for the commission president

Mr Sarkozy also reiterated an argument he made last week about increasing the powers of the European Commission president.

The president should be "active, reactive and proactive," said the French leader.

He also underlined that the bigger the commission gets, the stronger its president should be in order to boost his "harmonising role."

In a series of concessions agreed by EU leaders last week in order to allow Dublin to make possible a second vote on the bloc's Lisbon Treaty some time in the course of next year, they included a guarantee that each member state would keep a commissioner in future European Commissions – despite the document initially foreseeing a reduction of the size of the institution.

On Tuesday, Mr Sarkozy argued this particular concession had been a reasonable and logical one.

He said he was "convinced" that a commission without a French or German representative would make "no sense," and that it would have been "very imprudent" to scrap the one-commissioner-per-state principle in addition to dropping the rotating six-month EU presidency, as foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty.

"We stop member states from having the [EU] presidency and on top of that, we take from them the possibility to have a commissioner… It is a conception and a vision of Europe which is not mine," Mr Sarkozy told journalists at a press conference following the parliamentarian debate.

'France remains France'

Mr Sarkozy has been at the head of the EU since 1 July, when France took over the bloc's rotating presidency from Slovenia.

Most analysts and commentators agree that the French EU presidency has been largely successful, and that the French leader himself has been a dynamic and effective EU president.

Mr Sarkozy has admitted that he has enjoyed the past six months and said his role would not stop there.

"I loved this job…When one has the chance over six months to learn about and to solve the problems of the 27 [EU] nations, one gains tolerance, an opening of the spirit and one understands Europe," he said.

"It [the EU] is without doubt the best idea invented in the 20th century…I tried to shake Europe, but Europe changed me," he added.

The French leader stressed not to "change my convictions between 31 December and 1 January," when France hands the rotating EU presidency over to the Czech Republic.

"France remains France… Yes, I will [keep] taking initiatives," he said.

Draghi's grip on power finally unravels

Italy looked set to lose its highly-respected prime minister Mario Draghi on Thursday, after his attempt to relaunch his grand coalition government ended with right-wing parties joining the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) in deserting him.

Italy back in chaos, as Draghi quits over 5-Star snub

Italy was plunged into fresh political turmoil on Thursday as prime minister Mario Draghi announced his resignation after a key ally within his grand coalition government boycotted a parliamentary vote.

MEP accused of 'disrespecting' female moderator

Some 100 representatives of civil society organisations, including Transparency International EU and Oxfam, accuse German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer of disrespecting a moderator because she was a woman of colour and want him reprimanded.

Column

Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.

Opinion

Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

News in Brief

  1. Rhine river on the brink of closure for shipping
  2. Moldova sees 'prelude to war' with Russia-backed forces
  3. Taliban preventing Afghan evacuations to Germany
  4. Amnesty regrets 'distress' caused by Ukraine report
  5. Energy companies warn UK gas exports to EU are contaminated
  6. EU set for clash over rules on political adverts
  7. Three grain ships due to leave Ukraine on Friday
  8. EU on track to reach gas-storage November target

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Italy poised to elect far-right rulers
  2. UN chief demands access to nuclear plant after new attack
  3. Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal
  4. How Ukraine made the case anew for an EU army
  5. 'We must take back institutions', Orban tells US conservatives
  6. Putin must lose Ukraine war, Nato chief says
  7. Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter
  8. Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us