Monday

4th Mar 2024

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.

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  • "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.

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