Page last updated at 11:15 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Sarkozy attacks federalists in EU

French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressing European Parliament, 16 Dec 08
Mr Sarkozy said the EU had acted to prevent financial meltdown

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has criticised European federalists in his final speech to the European Parliament as holder of the EU presidency.

"It would be a mistake to want to build Europe against the nation states," he told MEPs, saying he opposed "European fundamentalism".

Mr Sarkozy also said the EU's legal guarantees to the Irish people would be added to Croatia's EU accession treaty.

Croatia will probably join the EU in 2010 or 2011, he said.

At last week's EU summit in Brussels the leaders agreed to give the Republic of Ireland "legal guarantees" on a range of issues, including state neutrality and family rights, in exchange for an Irish pledge to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

The controversial reform treaty, aimed at adapting EU institutions to the enlarged 27-nation bloc, was rejected by Irish voters in June. The No camp sees the treaty as a way for European federalists to impose their agenda.

The EU has pledged that the treaty will not affect Irish jurisdiction over taxation policy, state neutrality, abortion and the rights of the family - all concerns that figured in the referendum campaign in Ireland.

In return, the Irish government said it would strive to get the treaty ratified by next October.

Treaty 'only one year late'

"When we have the next enlargement of Europe, probably to take in Croatia in 2010 or 2011, we will then need a new treaty to extend the EU to admit the newcomer, " Mr Sarkozy said.

"So what we have proposed is that when this enlargement takes place - and only then - we will add to the Croatia accession treaty the so-called 'Irish protocol' with these guarantees."

The treaty was originally meant to come into force in January 2009, when France hands over the EU presidency to the Czech Republic.

"If things happen as I want them to happen, the Lisbon Treaty will become a reality only one year late," Mr Sarkozy said. The Czech Republic, Ireland and Poland are the only member states yet to ratify the treaty.

Lisbon's opponents say the treaty differs little from the defunct EU constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

A Green Party MEP, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, lashed out at Mr Sarkozy, saying "no-one here says they want a Europe against the nation states".

He accused Mr Sarkozy of having reduced the role of the European Commission - the EU's executive arm - to that of a "secretariat" for the presidents and prime ministers who form the European Council.

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