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7th Dec 2019

Barroso and Sarkozy plead for permanent EU presidency

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and French President Nicolas Sarkozy - currently chairing the EU - have urged the need for a permanent EU presidency to replace the rotating system.

"We need a president of the Council [the institution representing EU member states] that does not change every six months," Mr Barroso told journalists at the end of an EU leaders' meeting in Brussels on Thursday (16 October). "To lead [EU] member states, we need a very strong presidency."

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  • French leader Nicolas Sarkozy - could he be the first permanent EU president? (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The EU's Lisbon treaty - rejected by Ireland in June but already ratified by 22 EU states - puts forward a permanent head of the council as one of its key reforms.

Relations between Mr Barroso and Mr Sarkozy have warmed in the last months, with the French president referring to Mr Barroso by his first name, Jose Manuel, during Thursday's post-summit press conference and with the commission president even proposing the French leader fill the post.

"I do not know whether we are in condition to propose to president Sarkozy to be president of the European Council - I think he does not want it after his experience in the last months," Mr Barroso said referring to the Russia-Georgia conflict and the financial crisis, which the French president has had to tackle.

"In any case, me, I would vote in favour, of course," Mr Barroso added, smiling.

Mr Sarkozy stressed that the current situation of the EU presidency rotating from country to country every six months "must change," so that "tough dossiers" do not keep being passed around.

But he made it clear that EU president or not, he would remain closely involved in the bloc's affairs.

"It is not because one is not president of the Council that one can say nothing in Europe. France will continue to say things [after its presidency ends on 31 December]. We will perhaps still have the right, no?" he said.

"Yes," Mr Barroso replied.

French presidency noted 11.5 out of 20 at mid-term

Meanwhile, an independent Brussels-based think-tank has said the French presidency of the EU deserves a mark of 11.5 out of 20 for its mid-term performance.

The Thomas More Institute for European studies gave Paris its highest marks – nine and eight out of 10 respectively – for delivering an immigration pact, which will govern the way the bloc tackles migration and which EU leaders adopted on Thursday (16 October), and its plans to deal with the global financial crisis.

But France "can do better" when it comes to climate change and energy security, and has only provided "minimum service" to deal with the EU's institutional turmoil provoked by the Irish rejection of Lisbon, the Institute said on Wednesday.

The think-tank based its assessment on a study of 12 major themes of the French EU presidency – which started on 1 July – and took into account "not only the results obtained but also the implications and capacity of [French president] Nicolas Sarkozy and the French government to work in concert with France's partners."

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