( dpa )- After European Union officials gave a cool response to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's vow to abandon the EU's fisheries quota system, his agriculture minister stepped in on Monday to clarify French policy, the website of the daily Le Figaro reported.
" France does not intend to advocate abandoning the system (of quotas)," Michel Barnier said. "However, it wishes ... to initiate a reflection on how to end the current difficulties of managing the quotas and improve the system by correcting certain weaknesses."
Barnier made his comments after a spokeswoman for Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said the EU's executive, the European Commission, "took note" of the pledge which Sarkozy made to French fishermen on Saturday.
However, the spokeswoman said that she was "not aware" that the French government intended to launch a debate on the issue while it held the six-month rotating presidency of the EU.
On Saturday Sarkozy told fishermen in the northern French port of Boulogne-sur-Mer , "The first thing is this matter of (EU fishing) quotas ... and we have an opportunity to get out of it when France takes on the EU presidency from July 1 to December 31."
Traditionally, programmes for the presidency are drawn up well in advance in close cooperation between the nation state hosting the presidency and the commission, which is tasked with turning the political deals forged by the host country into legislation.
Sarkozy has long targeted France's forthcoming presidency as a chance for the EU's second-largest state to set the European agenda and revitalize its influence across the 27-member bloc.
However, high-profile interventions such as his September criticism of the heads of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the group of states which use the euro have ruffled feathers in Brussels.
Initiatives such as his call for the creation of a union of Mediterranean states have nettled other European leaders, who accuse him of proposing eye-catching multinational plans without consulting the other nations involved.
And in early January Sarkozy reportedly infuriated the state which currently holds the presidency, Slovenia, when he outlined to the press his vision for the second half of the year on the same day that the Slovenian government presented its plans for the first half.