France Sees Treaty, Budget Acceptance by EU

EU commissioner angers French minister with "Pandora's Box" comment

Although the rest of the European community is opposed to accepting a change in the Lisbon treaty that would freeze the voting rights of any nation that violates EU’s budget constraints, French European Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche said of the proposal on Thursday that "there is a sense of realism that will triumph at the end of the day….”

A Reuters report on the EU summit being held Thursday and Friday said that it was expected that EU rulers would accept sanctions against nations violating debit and deficit rules, but the sticking point was over a proposal put forth by Germany and France that would keep fiscal violators from voting.

In a Deutsche Press-Agentur report, Jyrki Katainen, Finnish deputy premier, said, “Many countries are opposing [the suspension of voting rights], so the primary target is to define the best and easiest possible way to build a permanent crisis resolution without treaty change.”

Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister, agreed: “Any sanctions imposed on countries which break the EU's borrowing rules should be economic, not going for voting rights.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had surprised the EU on October 18 in Deauville with their call for a permanent system to handle debt crises; since any such treaty change must be approved by all 27 member nations, consensus seems far off.

European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called the proposal “irresponsible” and said that having to change the treaty would be tantamount to opening a “Pandora’s box.” Lellouch, angered by her terms, struck back, saying that unelected officials had no right to criticize elected leaders: "Who is this lady to say an elected president and chancellor cannot propose this?"

The EU’s executive commission has been pressuring Sarkozy and Merkel to give up on their proposal, but upon their arrival at the summit Thursday they were holding firm.

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