A rocky start for Sarkozy's EU presidency
The Eiffel Tower turned blue shortly before midnight Monday to celebrate France's assumption of the EU presidency, but Tuesday morning the mood in Paris turned just as blue, reported dpa.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's six-month term at the head of the Union got off to a rocky start when Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he would put the Lisbon Treaty on ice.
The Irish rejection of the treaty in last month's referendum had rendered it "pointless," and so he will not sign it, Kaczynski said in an interview published Tuesday in the daily Dziennik.
In addition, on Monday German President Horst Koehler suspended ratification of the Lisbon Treaty following a request to wait from Germany's constitutional court.
German opponents of the reform treaty went to the court demanding injunctions against its ratification. It may take until next year for the constitutional court to give a verdict.
With the Czech Republic also waiting on a court decision before ratifying, Sarkozy will doubtless have to spend much of the next six months trying to save the treaty.
Sarkozy admitted as much on Tuesday, saying that resolving the treaty crisis had become the top priority of the French EU presidency.
But France also wants to achieve "concrete results" on immigration, European defence, the environment and energy, Sarkozy said. These had been France's top priorities before the Irish "no" and the Polish "not now."
Sarkozy's office in the Elysee Palace warned Kaczynski that he risked preventing the Union from taking in new members, such as Croatia or Ukraine, which Warsaw had supported.
In an interview on French television late Monday, Sarkozy had said the EU would take in no new members until the Lisbon Treaty is ratified.
"There will be no enlargement of Europe if we can not reform its institutions," he said.
The Lisbon Treaty was drafted to make the Union more efficient in removing the need for unanimity in a number of domains. It also increases the powers of the European Parliament and creates the post of a European Council president, who serves for 30 months.
The treaty must be ratified by all 27 EU members to come into force before the next Europan Parliament elections, in June 2009.
But the Warsaw announcement was not the only bad news for Sarkozy on Tuesday. The spokesman for EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson reacted angrily to Sarkozy's criticism of his boss in the Monday television interview.
"Such criticism is wrong and unjustified," the spokesman said. "At a difficult time in world trade negotiations, the EU needs to maintain its unity."
Unity is precisely the element that is sorely lacking in the Union as Sarkozy takes centre stage. With the EU deep into another institutional crisis, he will have to be diplomatic, rather than confrontational.
However, he spent his Monday television appearance criticizing many aspects of the EU, such as the expertise of the European Commission's fisheries experts, the EU's value-added tax rigour, the European Central Bank's refusal to lower interest rates and Mandelson's policy on trade negotiations.
"Europe is worrying its citizens. There have been mistakes in the way Europe has been put together. We have to change the way it is being put together," Sarkozy said.