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French presidential candidate proposes EU changes

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://euobserver.com/9/22374/?rk=1 Sarkozy keen on radical shake up of EU institutions 08.09.2006 - 18:09 CET | By Mark Beunderman EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS -
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 9, 2006
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      http://euobserver.com/9/22374/?rk=1

      Sarkozy keen on radical shake up of EU institutions
      08.09.2006 - 18:09 CET | By Mark Beunderman

      EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - French presidential hopeful
      Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed radical EU reforms such
      as getting the European Commission president to pick
      his own commissioners and cross-border European
      Parliament elections - but first he wants a new EU
      "mini treaty."

      Mr Sarkozy, currrently the French interior minister,
      on Friday (8 September) delivered a high-profile
      speech at the Friends of Europe think-tank during a
      visit to Brussels, which seemed designed to boost his
      campaign for the 2007 presidential elections in
      France.


      The energetic politician said the bloc should act
      "urgently" to overcome its institutional stalemate by
      reiterating earlier calls for a "mini treaty"
      containing important elements of the EU constitution -
      rejected by French and Dutch voters in referendums
      last year.

      But Mr Sarkozy also injected fresh elements in the
      longer-term debate on the EU's institutional
      architecture, notably by proposing a radical reform of
      the European Commission.

      In the EU's current Nice treaty, each member state has
      the right to appoint one commissioner, while the
      shelved constitution sought to limit the number of
      commissioners on the basis of equal rotation between
      member states.

      Mr Sarkozy stated however that the principle of
      national capitals appointing commissioners "does not
      guarantee neither the efficiency nor the legitimacy"
      of the EU executive.

      "Why aren't we bold...and leave the composition of the
      commission to its president?...after all, it's on the
      basis of this logic that national governments are
      formed."

      In Mr Sarkozy's vision, the commission president would
      himself be elected by the European Parliament - which
      would provide him with a democratic mandate.

      Once elected, the commission chief could then pick his
      or her own commissioners, which would enable the body
      to "function like a real team around its president."

      Cross-border MEPs lists
      The proposals are however likely to raise eyebrows
      particularly from smaller member states, who would be
      deprived of any guarantee that they have
      representation in the commission - while any new
      commission chief would probably not dare to offend
      France, Germany or the UK by not picking one of their
      nationals.

      Mr Sarkozy already caused some alarm in small and
      mid-size member states last year by proposing that the
      EU's "big six" should together take up a leading role
      in the union -an idea which he repeated on Friday.

      Meanwhile, the French politician, who is the leader of
      France's centre-right UMP party, also proposed to set
      up transnational candidate lists for European
      Parliament elections, based on common political
      programs.

      "In every member state, the questions debated remain
      essentially national. There is no European campaign,"
      he said, hoping that EU-wide lists would create
      genuine European debate.

      France and Germany should pioneer the scheme with
      cross-border political platforms in the 2009
      elections, according to Mr Sarkozy.

      Turkey and the constitution
      But the most "urgent" matter for the union to solve at
      the moment is the deadlock on the EU constitution, he
      said, repeating proposals made in January for a
      slimmed-down version of the charter to be ratified by
      the French parliament.

      The "mini treaty" would include key parts of the
      constitution such as its voting rights provisions and
      plans to create an EU foreign minister, on which there
      is a "large consensus."

      "It would provide a way out for those countries that
      voted 'no' without humilitating those who voted
      'yes'," he said, adding that the French EU presidency
      in 2009 should finalise the text.

      On enlargement, he stressed that the EU should fix its
      borders, telling Western Balkan countries that they
      can join once the EU has sorted out its institutional
      problems - but he said that Turkey should stay out.

      "We should now say who is European and who isn't," he said.
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