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France: No EU enlargement without Treaty

It is unwise for the European Union to embrace enlargement until it irons out problems regarding institutional reform, the French President has reiterated.

“I have nothing against enlargement because the European family must be brought together but I want to say that we must not make mistakes again,” Nicolas Sarkozy said. “If we stay with Nice (Treaty) then we stay 27, but if we need further enlargement we need new institutions,” he argued. The European Union currently functions according to the terms of the Nice Treaty, which laid the institutional groundwork for a maximum of 27 member states in the bloc. The Lisbon Treaty, as a successor to Nice, was agreed last year by leaders after years of wrangling over how to make the EU more manageable but needs approval by all member states to come into effect.

Last month, Irish voters refused to back the treaty in a referendum effectively stalling any program of institutional overhaul at the EU.

“I am in favor of enlargement towards the Balkans, to our Croatian friends or Serbian friends, but even those countries that are in favor of enlargement cannot say ‘No Lisbon, yes to enlargement’, ” Sarkozy said as he spelled out his priorities as France takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU. “We are not blackmailing, we are just being sincere,” he added.

Croatia is furthest along the road towards joining the EU among candidate countries and it hopes to conclude negotiations next year. “We must continue negotiations with Croatia, but everybody must show responsibilities,” Sarkozy said in Strasbourg. Macedonia has EU candidate status and hopes to get a start for the start of accession talks later this year, while other countries in the region have begun the process of meeting stringent EU guidelines.

The Lisbon Treaty was designed to give the bloc stronger leadership with a long-term president of the European Council of EU leaders, an enhanced foreign policy supremo with a real diplomatic service, easier decision-making rules and a greater say for the national and European parliaments. However the absence of a treaty effectively leaves the bloc without a rulebook for expansion. Concerns about enlargement were cited when French and Dutch voters in 2005 rejected an EU constitution that was later reworked into the Lisbon Treaty. (BIRN)