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EU report EU report
by Euro Reporter
2010-09-18 08:05:37
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Sarkozy fights back in Roma row at EU summit

Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, caused consternation in European Union circles this evening when he claimed that Germany was planning to follow France's example and clear illegal camps of migrants. Speaking in Brussels at the end of a summit of EU leaders, Sarkozy said he had received the information from Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, but the claim was immediately contradicted by EU sources. One said: "It simply didn't happen."

Sarkozy said: “Mrs Merkel informed me she would be evacuating a number of settlements and camps. We will see what effect that has on German political life.”  Sarkozy also claimed that he had “unanimous support” from all EU leaders at the summit for his view that Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, had made “insulting” and “outrageous” comments when she criticised France's treatment of Roma. Reding on 14 September alluded to the ethnic expulsions of the Second World War and accused French ministers of misleading the Commission. “All heads of state and government said it was shocking to see someone speak thus, to make such simplification which have hurt and shocked fellow citizens”, Sarkozy said.

He said that Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, had called him to “express her total solidarity”.  Sarkozy said that Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's prime minister, had also called him. Referring to comments by some French politicians that Reding had no right to criticise a large country such as France because she came from Luxembourg, a small country, Sarkozy said: “Luxembourg is a friendly country. I do not make any confusion between the country and someone who comes from there.” He said that José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, had “stepped away from sharp and violent words assimilating France's action to the appalling crimes of the Second World War”.  He added: “The words which have been used – a reference to the Jews, the deportation of the Jews – is something which deeply shocked us.” Sarkozy said that Reding had apologised for her remarks.


Ashton names EU ambassadors

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, made a first round of appointments to the Union's delegations around the world today (15 September). Markus Ederer, the head of policy planning in Germany's foreign ministry, is to head the EU's delegation in China. Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, Austria's permanent representative to the EU, has been named as head of delegation in Japan. The South Africa job goes to Roeland van de Geer, a Dutch diplomat who currently serves as EU Special Representative (EUSR) for the Great Lakes region.

Of the 28 heads of delegation and one deputy head named today, four are from the EU's new member states and seven are women. The most important posts – in China, Japan and South Africa – go to diplomats from EU member states. In all, the member states take 13 posts and the European Commission 16. No jobs have gone to officials from the Council of Ministers, although three of the 13 national diplomats are currently working for the Council. The best-represented member states in this round are Spain with five appointments and Ireland and France with three each. The positions of head of delegation in Brazil and Iraq and of deputy head of delegation in the United States are to be readvertised because no suitable candidate could be found. Another head of delegation post, for Bosnia and Herzegovina, was readvertised earlier this summer for the same reason. Today's announcement also included Vygaudas Ušackas, Lithuania's foreign minister, who was appointed EUSR and head of delegation in Afghanistan in March.

In announcing the appointments, Ashton said: “As promised to member states, the European Parliament and EU citizens, I have appointed the best people for the right jobs.” She said that she had “made a start” to address gender and geographical balance in the new European External Action Service (EEAS), a core demand of member states and MEPs. “These appointments show an improvement in both but there is more to do,” she said. The appointees named today will be transferred to the EEAS when the service launches in December or January. They will take up their posts once their future host country has granted their accreditation.


Leaders fail to agree on economic reform

EU leaders failed to make a breakthrough in overhauling rules on economic governance at their summit in Brussels today (16 September). The lack of progress imperils the EU's goal, agreed in the wake of the eurozone's debt crisis, to agree at the next meeting of the European Council on 28-29 October a package of reforms on enforcing fiscal discipline.

Leaders had already resigned themselves to continuing discussions after October on possible changes to the Lisbon treaty, which would supplement the initial package of reforms. But the negotiations on the initial round of reform has become bogged down. Member states are divided over whether countries should be stripped of EU funding, including regional aid and agriculture subsidies, if they fail to adhere to rules on fiscal discipline.

They are also divided over whether member states with irresponsible economic policies should lose their voting rights in the Council of Ministers, and over whether deficit hikes incurred through pension reforms should be exempt from sanction. “A lot of sanctions issues are still under discussion,” Brian Cowen, Ireland's prime minister, said. “There is no agreement at this stage,” he added.

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