Tuesday

23rd May 2017

Sarkozy launches presidential bid with anti-Turkey stance

Nicolas Sarkozy, the current French interior minister, has been officially confirmed as the centre-right ruling party's candidate for April's presidential election, launching his campaign with the suggestion that "Turkey has no place inside the European Union".

Mr Sarkozy, 51, known as 'Sarko' in the French press, received 98 percent of the votes from members of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) gathered for an internal ballot on Sunday (14 January).

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In his acceptance speech to some 80,000 party supporters, the outspoken politician made what is referred to by analysts as the strongest statement so far on Turkey's European ambitions.

"I want to say that Europe must give itself borders, that not all countries have a vocation to become members of Europe, beginning with Turkey which has no place inside the European Union," he said, according to press reports.

"Enlarging Europe with no limit risks destroying European political union, and that I do not accept," he said.

Mr Sarkozy is set to face about a dozen other candidates in the first round of France's two-stage presidential vote on April 22 with his most important opponent - the socialist candidate Segolene Royal, 53, currently leading the polls.

It is expected that the two will meet in the second runoff on May 6.

However Mr Sarkozy's nomination on Sunday continues to be overshadowed by President Jacques Chirac who has not yet made it clear whether he intends to seek a third term.

Apart from his clear stance on Turkey, "Sarko" has also outlined ideas on how to solve the bloc's current constitutional impasse after French and Dutch voters rejected the treaty in referendums in 2005.

He is in favour of a "mini treaty" with elements of the current text of the EU constitution, but also believes the charter will "not enter into force in its current form."

MEPs vote to start democracy probe on Hungary

The European Parliament took the first step towards launching the Article 7 procedure against Hungary for backsliding on democracy. The process might lead to sanctions, but Orban is not backing down.

MEPs preparing to crack down on Orban

The EU assembly's largest group is split by its "enfant terrible", but enough MEPs are likely to abstain or vote Yes on the "Article 7" crackdown over Orban's illiberal rule.

Macron and Merkel to 'reconstruct' the EU

The French and German leaders will present a common proposal to deepen and strengthen the EU and the eurozone. They say they are ready to change the EU treaties.

Analysis

Where might Macron clash with Europe?

After the celebrations around Europe of centrist Emmanuel Macron's win over far-right Marine Le Pen, the sobering years of governance are still to come. Macron might be pro-EU, but he has a lot of reform ideas that might irk others.

Schulz fails to beat Merkel in German home state

Former EU parliament leader, Martin Schulz, says the defeat of his social-democrats in North Rhine-Westphalia is "difficult". The elections showed that a "Schulz effect" does not (yet) exist.

Austria heading for snap elections

Foreign minister Kurz has taken leadership of the conservative party in what could lead to an alliance with the far-right.

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