Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty presents France with new challenge as it takes over the EU presidency
The EU's blue flag with gold stars was flying high in Paris and the Eiffel Tower was lit up with the EU colours for the first day of France’s EU presidency.
Commission President José Manuel Barroso met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris ahead of a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe.
Barroso welcomed France’s leadership, saying “what we need most today is political courage and candour and Nicolas Sarkozy lacks neither.”
France had planned to concentrate on four main areas after it took over from Slovenia on 1 July, namely energy and climate change, the crafting of a pact on migration policy, the common defence policy, and agriculture.
But Ireland’s vote on the Lisbon treaty in June has presented a new challenge. Sarkozy is due to travel to Ireland later in July to hear firsthand from the voters. At their summit in June, EU leaders agreed to give Ireland time to reflect and to explore possible solutions at their next meeting in October.
On climate change, France wants to ensure that the EU is driving global efforts. France wants to conclude an ambitious energy efficiency package ahead of international talks next year on minimising climate change.
France is also pressing for measures to cushion the impact of surging oil and gas prices, which have prompted protests around the EU.
France wants progress on a common European immigration policy during its presidency. Sarkozy has called for a crackdown on illegal immigration, more legal access for skilled workers and more cooperation between countries along the path of migration.
The French President also wants to boost the EU's defence capability, with a particular focus on rapid reaction forces, military transport aircraft and crisis management structures.
One of the EU’s largest farming nations, France will also open debate on proposed changes in the common agriculture policy that would reduce EU support for farmers.