Thursday, 10 July 2008

Sarkozy on EU treaty perspectives

Waiting for the French EU Council presidency site – – to post a written version of president Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech in the European Parliament, we turn to a few news reports, because it is more convenient for readers to read than to follow the videos from beginning to end.

BBC News reports that ‘Sarkozy warns EU on treaty debate’:

‘France determined to end EU treaty woes by year’s end’, says

‘Nicolas Sarkozy devant le Parlement européen’, is the headline at Radio France International :


Short term we have the following expectations, based on Sarkozy’s speech:

France wants to propose a solution in October or December.
The choice is between the Nice Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty.
No country should be left behind at this stage.
Clarity is needed before the European elections.
Enlargement and Lisbon walk hand in hand.


Today, president Sarkozy was not ready to speak about long term perspectives. He only hinted at two-speed Europe as a last resort.


How much wiser are we now?

Ralf Grahn


  1. Ok, now I am the one that indulge in wishful thinking but: couldn't be just a veiled threat? Something like, "It would be so sad, if some country had to be left behind...don't force us to...".

  2. Igor,

    I guess that Sarkozy is fairly firm on getting a solution in October, December at the latest, together with the Irish government:

    Is there going to be a second Irish referendum?

    If there is, there are two possible outcomes, yes and no.

    If there is no second referendum or the result is a new no vote, what are the solutions?

    As I see it, the clock is ticking.

  3. Seachtu. See my question regarding which rules will apply to the 2009 EP elections on your Lisbon Treaty ratification thread.

    Sarkozy may see himself as the reincarnation of Napoleon but this approach is unlikely to work in a democratic Europe.

    For those interested in the holes in the Lisbon Treaty provisions, I would recommend a reading of the 'Progress Report from the Presidency to the European Council - Preparatory work in view of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty' available as document 10650/08 on the Council website. (Drop-down menu 'latest documents' and enter "Progress Report Lisbon Treaty").

    By the way, the French are long-time historical allies of Ireland in times of distress. There is, indeed, a famous poem in Gaelic entitled "My dark Rosaleen" (it being forbidden by you-know-who to refer to Ireland) with the line "the French are on the ocean wave, my dark Rosaleen". It is to be hoped that Sarko does not suffer from sea-sickness.

  4. Anonymous,

    Napoleon or not, I think that there is a marked difference between the first peaceful and orderly(?) attempt to integrate Europe compared to the earlier endeavours to subjugate the continent.

    As to the holes in the Lisbon Treaty provisions, I am not sure if I get your drift, but there is a marked difference between the 33 points requiring implementation listed at the beginning of the Slovenian Council presidency and the 14 point list they reported on at the end.

    A quick scan leads to the conclusion that the 2009 EP elections are among the missing points.

  5. Seachtu. There was a lot of padding in the 33 point list. In any case, the 14 points remaining vary greatly in importance e.g. the relationship between the President of the European Council and the Head of State or Government of the country holding the Presidency (paragraph 11) as opposed to the rules of procedure of the Council and European Council (although these are also significant).

    There are some real gems e.g. "There was consensus that trade should remain in the Commission" (paragraph 12 - page 10). What is this supposed to mean? Presumably the reference is to the DG rather than the policy. It is not a matter of opinion. Articles 206 and 207 TFEU confirm the role of the Commission in relation to the Common Commercial Policy and Article 3 of the TFEU confirms, for the first time explicitly, that the policy is an exclusive competence of the European Community (Union).

    What the report also confirms is that the representatives of an enlarged EU, like the sorcerers apprentices at the European Convention, are busy undermining the very foundations on which the European Community was built.

    Another example: "There was significant support for trade being covered by the FAC, but some saw this appropriate for the GAC". Again, those participating in the discussion seemed to have failed to read carefully Part Five - External Action of the Union - TFEU. The HR is mentioned only in relation to international agreements, not trade, in Article 218.3 "where agreement envisaged relates exclusively or principally to the CFSP" (whatever that is supposed to mean; 100%, 90%, 51%).

    If the recommendation is based on a proposal from the HR, he will sit as chairman for the discussion of his own proposal! More importantly, Article 218.11 TFEU allows for an agreement - without qualification - to be referred to the ECJ. Article 24.1 of the TEU, on the other hand, states that
    " The Court of Justice shall not have jurisdiction with respect to these provisions [CFSP]". Which rule applies?

    There are more holes in the Lisbon Treaty than a Swiss cheese.

  6. Seachtu. I overlooked your point with regard to the European Parliament. The Council could not deal with this as the EP would have been up in arms regarding its "prerogatives" i.e. its powers to decide its own business.

  7. Seachtu,

    You have looked at the implementation more closely than I have, having only read and presented the lists.

    Thus, my thoughts at this stage are quite general.

    I have been worried that the Council is preparing acts and decisions without any meaningful information to the outside world.

    The European Parliament did, if I remember correctly, send these questions to committee(s), but they are expected to report after the summer recess / in the autumn.

    Your comments show that the transparency of the process needs to be improved and that there should be a full discussion before decisions are taken, but I am worried that possible critical comments will be ignored, once the member states' representatives have agreed among themselves.

    Some of your allusions are fairly vague, but what do you think should be done?

    (As to the European elections you mentioned elsewhere, the only thing I found were EP proposals on voting in another EU country, not the whole electoral system.)

  8. Ralf. What should be done? That is a big question. The smaller Member States fought a losing battle in the IGCs but, by and large, the institutional balance of the Community (Union) remains unchanged e.g. the fact that the Commission has to continue to act as a collegiate body and retains sole right of initiative (except in relation to some aspects of JHA - see below).

    What is of interest in the Slovenian report is the coded information it contains on the major issues still to be resolved between Member States. Smaller Member States would, for example, be crazy to concede any role in relation to trade to the HR. The security tail would quickly begin to wag the economic dog e.g. relations with Russia.

    The smaller MS would be supported in this stance by the actual treaty texts. The solution is straightforward. The file should remain with a Commissioner responsible for trade who should present the Commissions's position in the GAC chaired by a Minister who will have the political standing vis-a-vis his colleagues which the HR - and for that matter, the "President" of the European Council - will totally lack.

    The HR cannot both run with the hare and hunt with the hounds in this sensitive area. The idea of combining the two roles in one person is totally daft. How can the HR chair the meeting from one end of the conference room and represent the Commission from the other?

    There are many other examples of the difficulties that arise when facile answers are attempted to the fundamental question that the Lisbon Treaty is designed to resolve viz. how to reconcile the intrinsically different character of the three pillars (economic relations, security of states and security of citizens, respectively) in one legal order.

    Another example of inherent contradiction can be found in the bizarre arrangements with regard to a quarter of MS retaining a right to make proposals in some areas of the JHA. As the legal acts will now be the same, the implication of Article 293 TFEU (the long-standing TEC Article 250) in relation to the Council being unable to overrule the Commission except on the basis of unanimity where it "acts on a proposal from the Commission" must be that the Council is free to act without regard to any opinion the Commission may have in relation to any proposals which a quarter of the Member States may be able to cobble together. This is but another example of MS trying to have their cake and eat it.

  9. Anonymous,

    I may be too futuristic for you, but my basic aim is a 'European Union' combining all questions within its competence under a directly elected parliament (with two chambers) and a politically responsible government.

    At a general level, the reform treaties and proposals since Maastricht have tried to make incremental adjustments, while preserving the intergovernmental character on the crucial issues.

    Therefore the solutions are such a hash.

    The latest treaty product, the Lisbon Treaty, is contradictory in many ways (as you point out).

    On the one hand, without adding much to EU competences, it does extend the ordinary legislative procedure to scores of details. The European Parliament seems happy enough.

    On the other hand, since the latest round of enlargement and with Britain increasinlgy an obstacle to progress, the intergovernmental ethos of the EU has become ever more dominant.

    Perceived national interests have always been important, but now it is hard to find anything but particular interests. No organisation can prosper if all its stakeholders want to bleed it to death.

    You point to the role of the High Representative as one of these apparent contradictions.

    When I wrote on the TEU Articles in question, my conclusion was that this is more a takeover by the Council of the Commission than the other way around.

    In practice the High Representative, an agent of the Council, will be able to direct the Neighbourhood policy and the Development assistance policy, including the budget resources.

    It is harder to predict the outcome concerning foreign trade, i.e. how much 'oversight' power the High Representative is going to get.

    But regardless of the current system with a Trade Commissioner (with the Commission President as 'chief'), the member states have retained the power to restrict the WTO negotiating mandate (and the possibility to scupper any deal) through the 133 committee, with known results.

  10. The main problem with the current WTO arrangements is contained in Article 133.6 TEC which refers to the "common accord" of MS for trade in certain services ("l'exception Francaise" introduced by Chirac in Nice). This cannot be reconciled with the legal principle that the CCP is an exclusive competence. The Lisbon Treaty will rectify this legal anomaly, and more importantly, remove the requirement that agreements be ratified by all MS. In fact, the new arrangements make for a much clearer delineation of powers while still allowing MS to block if the need arises. (Article 207.4 TFEU; the French and Scandinavian "exceptions").

    The HR can only act independently where the new treaty gives him the right of initiative. It is the Commission as a body (college) that is given the authority to negotiate trade (and other)agreements, not the individual Commissioner. The MS arguing that trade should be handled in the FAC either do not understand the new treaties, or much more likely, understand them very well and wish to circumvent them.

    I am not really concerned about this. If, for example, the Lisbon Treaty was applicable today, how would the HR, Peter Mandelson and the Fisher-Boel relate to one another? More importantly, how would the Council defend its interest if, as currently, some MS disagreed with the manner in which the Commission was conducting its negotiating mandate? Would the French Trade Minister give up her seat as chair to the HR?

    Unless capitals take leave of their senses, current long-standing functioning arrangements will be allowed to stand.


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