Sarkozy calls for 'strong' EU president
European institutions, especially the European Commission, should be given more power, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday (19 June), in a foretaste of his upcoming EU reform proposals.
"I am really for a strong European Commission, a strong Council [the institution representing EU member states] and a strong European Parliament," Mr Sarkozy said at a press conference following a two-day meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.
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"For the parliament, it's done. For the council, I hope that with the Lisbon [treaty] it will be done. I really think we can have a win-win system for the three big institutions."
According to the president, the European Commission at the moment is too weak, mainly due to its size – it has 27 commissioners, one from each member state and a large number of "smaller portfolios."
The commission president "does not have enough authority over his commissioners," Mr Sarkozy said, stressing he was not referring to Mr Barroso personally, but rather to the presidential office in the organisation.
He said all three institutions should be equally strong in order to avoid "imbalance."
"If there is one that is stronger than the other, this introduces imbalance into the system," the French leader explained.
The remarks foreshadow Mr Sarkozy's speech on Monday, when he is to address both chambers of the French parliament, outlining his vision for reforms in the EU in the aftermath of the European elections.
The president did not confirm French press reports that he supports former Spanish socialist prime minister Felipe Gonzalez to become the first EU president if the Lisbon treaty enters into force. The treaty creates the new position and may come into life after a second Irish referendum in autumn.
Mr Sarkozy declined to put forward any names, but said the person in the new job should be "strong and ambitious [for Europe]."
The candidate's nationality and political affiliation would also play a part. "Whether he is from a small or a big member state, his experience and his European engagement," will count, the French leader indicated.
"One political family cannot have all the posts," he said.
Mr Sarkozy expressed support for Polish ex-premier Jerzy Buzek to become the new European Parliament president. Mr Buzek is competing for the post with Italy's Mario Mauro, but is believed to have greater support.
"I think he would be an excellent candidate," the French president said. "[It would] send a very positive signal to our friends from eastern Europe."