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Poland in new blow to EU treaty

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and Polish President Lech Kaczynski  - 28/5/08
Mr Kaczynski's comments mark an unhappy start for Mr Sarkozy

Poland's President Lech Kaczynski says he will not sign the EU's reform treaty at present, following its defeat in an Irish referendum last month.

He said it would be "pointless" to sign the Lisbon Treaty, even though Poland's parliament has ratified it. All 27 EU members must ratify the document.

Mr Kaczynski was speaking as France took over the EU's rotating presidency.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said "something isn't right" with the EU and warned citizens may be losing faith.

The Lisbon Treaty is intended to streamline EU decision-making following enlargement of the bloc, creating a new EU president and foreign affairs chief.

'Complicated'

Mr Kaczynski, a conservative who has long opposed the reform treaty, was speaking in an interview with the Polish daily Dziennik.

Something isn't right. Something isn't right at all
Nicolas Sarkozy

"For the moment, the question of the treaty is pointless," he said.

Although the Polish parliament ratified the treaty in April, it still needs the signature of the president.

The BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw says Mr Kaczynski's comments are unsurprising as he is opposed to deeper European integration.

Our correspondent says the president would be happy to see the Nice Treaty, which currently governs the way the EU operates and gives Poland disproportionate strength, remain in force for a while longer.

However, he is in conflict with Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who has said the EU will find a way to bring the treaty into force.

No voters celebrate in Dublin (file image)
Ireland's 'No' vote delivered a huge blow to the Lisbon Treaty

Mr Tusk said: "I hope the president will re-consider this position. I have no doubt that the treaty's ratification is in Poland's best interest."

Mr Kaczynski has joined his Czech counterpart in openly opposing treaty ratification.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, and many lawmakers, do not want to sign the treaty while its future is still uncertain.

German President Horst Koehler has also delayed ratification - until the country's highest court has delivered a ruling on legal challenges.

Mr Kaczynski warned EU members not to pressure Ireland to find a solution.

"If one breaks the rule of unanimity one time, it will never exist again," he said.

However, the president did say he thought the EU would carry on working. "Certainly it isn't ideal, but a structure this complicated couldn't be ideal," he said.

'Step backward'

There will be a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Tuesday to mark the beginning of France's six-month presidency, which it takes over from Slovenia.

But Mr Kaczynski's comments will mark a difficult opening to the French stint.

President Sarkozy expressed his concerns in an interview on French television channel France 3.

Mr Sarkozy said: "Something isn't right. Something isn't right at all."

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The Eiffel Tower is illuminated as France takes over the EU presidency

"Europe worries people and, worse than that, I find, little by little our fellow citizens are asking themselves if, after all, the national level isn't better equipped to protect them than the European level," he added, calling such thinking a "step backward".

Mr Sarkozy said: "The first priority is to pinpoint the problem with the Irish voters and to continue to allow other countries to be ratified, especially our Czech friends."

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The balancing act between an alliance of the like-minded and an integrated political entity has reached a tipping point
Paul, UK

Asked if Ireland should vote again, he said: "I don't want to say it like that because it would give the impression of forcing their hand."

Mr Sarkozy will travel to Dublin on 11 July to hear Irish voters' concerns first-hand.

EU leaders are due to meet in October to hear from Ireland's prime minister on how to move forward after the "No" vote.

France has set out ambitious plans on immigration, the environment, agriculture and defence for its presidency.

Mr Sarkozy also said he would also work for a Europe-wide cut in value-added tax on restaurant bills and oil to help consumers cope with soaring crude prices.

But his call for the EU to cut VAT on fuel has received little support from other member states.




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