No EU enlargement without Lisbon Treaty: Sarkozy

June 20th, 2008 - 11:21 am ICT by IANS  

Brussels, June 20 (DPA) The European Union (EU) will not accept any new member states until its reforming Lisbon Treaty comes into force, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday. “Without the Lisbon treaty there will be no enlargement,” Sarkozy said after the first day of an EU summit in Brussels.

Asked whether this position would also affect Croatia, the next country in line to join the bloc, Sarkozy said: “I would like to remind you that unanimity (on this issue) is required.”

On July 1, France is set to take over the rotating presidency of the EU, putting it in a position to set the EU’s agenda over the last six months of the year.

Sarkozy’s comment directly contradicted the one made almost simultaneously by Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia, current holder of the EU presidency, who said that enlargement “should not be a victim” of the delay in EU reform caused by Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon treaty in a June 12 referendum.

The comment by Sarkozy is the most outspoken yet from such a high-level figure on the outcome of the referendum and risks provoking a storm of protest from countries that favour expansion.

There are currently three candidates for EU accession: Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia. Of the three, Croatia is seen as closest to membership, having already opened 20 out of a total of 35 so-called “negotiating chapters” with the EU.

Bosnia, Serbia, Albania and Montenegro all also aspire to EU membership, but have not yet become official candidates.

Slovenia has pushed strongly for an expansion of the EU into the western Balkans to include its former partners in the former Yugoslavia.

France, on the contrary, has emerged as the key opponent to Turkey’s EU hopes, with Sarkozy saying that he did not think the country should ever join the EU.

At an accession conference with the EU Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said that he hoped for a “fair” presidency from France.

At the same meeting, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic said that he hoped Croatia could close all 35 chapters with the EU by the time the current European Commission’s term of office comes to an end in November 2009.

That would pave the way for Croatia to join the bloc as soon as EU member states had ratified the decision - potentially in 2010.

The Lisbon treaty is designed to speed up the EU’s decision-making process and give it an enhanced role in the world following its expansion to accommodate 27 countries.

But Irish voters rejected the treaty in a June 12 referendum, blocking it from coming into force in the EU as planned.

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