Sarkozy proposes ‘Mini-Treaty’, new Convention and a ‘Non’ to Turkey

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At meetings in Brussels on 7-8 September, French presidential candidate-hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy offered his European credentials, presenting a “Mini-Treaty” as a way out of the constitutional impasse.

Speaking in Brussels to an audience of international press, NGOs, EU officials and business leaders at Friends of Europe on 8 September 2006, the French minister stirred up the debate. His new propositions include a “Mini-Treaty”, which would take up “about two-thirds” of novelties from the Constitution that were “not critical” issues during the failed referenda in France and the Netherlands. Sarkozy would like to see the text adopted during the German Eu Presidency in 2007 and ratified during the French Presidency in 2008. Main elements of the “Mini Treaty” include:

  • Election of the Commission president by the European Parliament ;
  • creation of a European minister of foreign affairs ;
  • replacing unanimity by a “super qualified majority”;
  • reinforced cooperation, and;
  • citizen initiatives

Sarkozy further recommended leaving to a later (2009) Convention more sensitive issues such as a reinforced participation of national parliamentarians. For example, the composition of the Commission – one member per country – would not change until 2014, “until when only Bulgaria and Romania will have joined anyway”.

He also suggested more “reinforced cooperation” and a “super qualified” majority, replacing unanimity, for example in tax matters.

On the issue of enlargement, he underlined his preference for a close partnership with Turkey, but remains opposed to its membership. He said “we should develop ties but should not go as far as far as full and total accession”. Sarkozy urged Europe to define its boundaries and its absorption capacity.

Concerning EU budget reform, he called for “ambitious reforms” and proposed the financing of the EU budget through European instead of national resources, as well as a coordination of national budgets spent on implementing EU policies in the area of mixed competences. He said “the EU does not only require new regulations. It needs the basic finance as well”.

Liberal MEP Andrew Duff  said: “Sarkozy’s mini-treaty is a little simplistic but has the merit of putting Europe back on the French political agenda.” He further stated “it is excellent that Nicolas Sarkozy has opened up the debate about the future of Europe. It will be impossible now for the French electorate or other presidential candidates to ignore Europe’s constitutional crisis.” Nevertheless, he also warned that this “cherry-picking” approach risked dismantling the complex consensus behind the constitutional package.

The Young European Federalists (JEF) welcomed Sarkozy's proposals but expressed doubts about the idea of a mini-treaty. "
We are more sceptical about the mini-treaty...proposed for adoption in the meantime
Its ratification through national parliaments looks like an entry into force of the rejected Constitutional Treaty by the back door," their press statement reads. JEF is also worried about Sarkozy's ideas on "reinforced cooperation", as it could make Europe "even more complicated and unnecessarily alienate the small member states".

The debate on the constitution seems to have come to a halt during the so-called reflection period. Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s interior minister, and also candidate for the 2007 presidential elections has restarted the debate. In contrast, Ségolène Royal, currently seen as his main contender in the run-up to the elections, promotes “l'Europe par la preuve” (see EURACTIV, 29 June 2006).

  • Ségolène Royal, Sarkozy's main contender for the presidential elections, will visit Brussels on Wednesday 13 September.
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Gul will pay a three-day visit to France starting Tuesday 12 September. He is expected to respond to Sarkozy's negative stance on his country's membership of the EU.

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