Nicolas Sarkozy at the European Parliament: the beginning of the French Presidency

, by Nicolas Jean, Translated by Elena Montani

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Nicolas Sarkozy at the European Parliament: the beginning of the French Presidency

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Council of the European Union for the next 6 months, presented this Thursday 10 July the objectives of the French Presidency to the members of the European Parliament, gathered in plenary session in Strasbourg.

Two strong ideas guided Mr Sarkozy’s speech: Europe as protection and Europe by the facts. Europe has indeed to give protection to its citizens, althout avoiding to become protectionist - President Sarkozy recalled - and Europe has to be visible while passing through a choice of pragmatic policies, like those defined by the French Presidency: environment, immigration, European defence. If it is clear that Europe does not have to be locked up in the protectionism, otherwise in danger of folding itself up and to be closed in a world in rapid change, it has to possess the means for protecting in the more suitable way its citizens of the various world shocks.

An intergovernmental vision of Europe

But Nicolas Sarkozy remains on a very French line and seems to satisfy more a French political than the European dimension. And especially, the methods selected certainly remain too much inter-gouvernemental. According to President Sarkozy, European democracy must be understood as a participatory democracy in which the debate is meant of influencing the more-resistant States rather than the decision itself. This means de facto to deny completely the legislative power of the European Parliament and its role of codecision on competences which should be even more widened. However, the European Parliament, being elected by all the European citizens, has greatest democratic legitimacy to deal with the European issues and the request of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, namely having the Immigration Pact adopted in co-decision, appears absolutely relevant.

The question of European defence seems also to crash against the lack of a common interest, and in particular against the inter-governmentalism that characterises such policy. How can we associate an autonomous security policy and an integration within Nato, or are we going towards a mere integration within Nato, as the arbitration of the choices of the States is dictated by the sole national interest and not by a European interest.

Placing the citizen at the heart of Europe

If we want to reject all forms of inter-governmentalism, synonym of blocking and especially of systemic adoption of the minimum common denominator, we have to stress the willingness of the French Presidency to return to the European citizens by proposing priorities which directly affect them:

• The energy and climate package, which answers growing concern vis-a-vis the increasingly visible deterioration of our ecosystem;

• The immigration policy, which has to solve the paradox of spaces of freedom of movement and of a non harmonised treatment completely independent system of entry rights;

• The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which has to take up the challenge of food security while taking into account the increasingly glaring problems of famine in the world.

Thus, we will be very vigilant and we will denounce any step towards more inter-governmentalism and, more generally, the lack of European integration. But in the line of the reaction of the European Parliament, which seems to have welcomed President Sarkozy’s speech, we want to trust this Presidency of the Council of the EU and give it the chances of proving its worth.

The bet will be gained if citizens feel indeed that Europe can influence positively their daily lives, and that will be confirmed at the time of the European elections of June 2009, on condition also that parties give a truly European dimension to these elections.

Image: photo of the French president Nicholas Sarkozy; source: website of the French EU Presidency PFUE.

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