Lisbon treaty would have helped in Georgia crisis, says France
By Honor Mahony
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has used the ongoing crisis between Russia and Georgia to put the case for the EU's new treaty, currently facing ratification difficulties.
In an opinion piece in Monday's edition of French daily Le Figaro, Mr Sarkozy, who currently holds the EU's six month presidency, wrote that the Lisbon Treaty would have given the bloc the tools it needed to handle the Moscow-Tbilisi war.
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"It is notable that had the Lisbon Treaty, which is in the process of being ratified, already been in force, the European Union would have had the institutions it needs to cope with international crises."
He named the most important innovations as being the "stable" European Council President - instead of the current half-yearly system - " a High Representative endowed with a real European diplomatic service and considerable financial means in order to put decisions into force in coordination with member states. "
The short pitch for the Lisbon Treaty also revealed a little how the French president views the role of the EU's first longterm president of the EU - a post that can be held for up to five years.
The treaty itself is ambiguous about the president's exact role with the potential for conflict rife with member states and EU officials divided about whether the position should be ceremonial or have real teeth.
Entwined in this question is how much the president should represent the EU in external policy, a policy area that is foreseen for the EU's foreign policy chief.
In the Figaro article, Mr Sarkory suggests that the president's position in such crises as the Russia-Georgia one would be one of "acting in close consultation with the heads of state and government most affected."
This would very much put the President in the foreign policy field. It would also foresee a formal hierarchy among member states as it would give priority to those considered most affected.
This kind of scenario has been predicted by some smaller member states who fear that the president would have an all-powerful role, reducing the say of certain governments, although the working principle of the bloc is that member states are equal.
But Mr Sarkozy's words of support for the Lisbon Treaty come amid doubt that it will ever come into force. Although ratified by the vast majority of national parliaments, it was rejected by Irish voters in a referendum in June.
All member states need to ratify the document for it to go into place.
At the moment, Dublin is considering its options. It could either put the treaty to another referendum or try and figure out a legal contortion allowing it to use parliamentary ratification only. But the January 2009 deadline by which governments had hoped to have the treaty in place is certain to be missed.