Today on 1st July, France takes over the presidency of the Council of the European Union from Slovenia. The transfer takes place at a crucial point in time for the EU. Following the Irish referendum of 12th June this year, when Ireland turned down the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon (we reported earlier on the ratification process), the Union finds itself in somewhat of a crises. The much needed structural changes that where to be introduced by the Treaty cannot be put into place until all member States have ratified the Treaty. Following the result of the Irish vote, a further blow to the reform of the EU came in the shape of the presidents’ of Germany and Poland refusal to complete the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in their respective countries. So it is up to the French to now lead the way out of this predicament where we have heads of States and governments supporting the new Treaty framework (at least in principle) but where the people of the member States (and surely not only the Irish) rather want to dismiss it.
But despite the recent setbacks in the European integration process the French Presidency has by no means been modest in its plans for the coming months. The main areas which the Presidency will focus upon are climate change, immigration, food and farming, and defence (the whole work programe can be viewed here). Especially the latter issue may be of interest regarding the recent plans of France to return to NATO’s military wing. Also, the plans to create a new Euro-Mediterranean partnership will be worth keeping an eye on.