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France takes over rotating EU presidency from Slovenia - 03/07/2008

Various European Commissioners standing with François Fillon, the Prime Minister of France

Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon treaty presents France with new challenge as it takes charge of EU affairs

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, security and fighting terrorism, and agriculture.

But Ireland’s no vote to the Lisbon treaty in June has presented a new challenge. Sarkozy is due to travel to Ireland later in July to hear firsthand from 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 the EU is driving global efforts, and is keen 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.

And it hopes to see progress on a common European immigration and asylum policy during its presidency. Sarkozy has called for a crackdown on illegal immigration, more legal access for skilled workers and more effective controls at the EU’s external borders.

The French president also wants to boost the EU's ability to respond to security crises inside Europe and beyond, 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.

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