Strain on presidency at home and abroad

The EU, joined yesterday by Sweden, Finland and Austria, will not get F rance's undivided attention, says Richard Dowden

France, never slow to offer leadership to Europe, faces three serious drags on its presidency of the European Union for the first half of 1995. No wonder Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, has stressed continuity as the basis of the French presidency.

The first drawback is the French presidential election at the end of April and the beginning of May. The second is the integration of three new member states - Austria, Sweden and Finland - and the third is the arrival later this month of Jacques Santer,the new Commissioner who is expected to take over from Jacques Delors later this month.

All these factors will prevent France giving the strong lead that one might expect from one of the founders and strongest members of the Union. All this comes at a time when many in Europe, including France, are questioning the assumption that Europe will become inevitably more integrated. Not helped by the fact that Mr Juppe is backing Jacques Chirac, the rival of his Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, in the presidential race, French politics will inevitably be more concerned with domestic issues than matters of European concern in coming months.

The new president and his government will barely have time to look in their in-trays before France must give a report on its presidency at the EU summit in Cannes at the end of June and hand over the baton to Spain which holds the presidency for the second half of the year.

In London recently, Mr Juppe spelt out his list of priorities for Europe. Economic growth and employment headed the list, followed by security, relations with countries bordering the Mediterranean, the protection and spread of European culture, preparations for the 1996 intergovernmental conference, and review of the European institutions. Although agreements about decision-making in a 15 member EU, the role of the Commission, monetary union and other fundamentals will not be taken until the 1996 meetin g, the broad decisions will have to be taken by the end of this year.

One of the pressing questions is whether the EU will expand to include some East European countries like Poland, Hungary, and the Czech and Slovak republics.

It is unlikely that substantial progress will be made until the second half of the year. In the meantime, France and Spain will point out that the arguments about security, and the need for prosperous and stable neighbours, applies as much to north Africa as it does to eastern Europe. France is more affected by civil war in Algeria than any other European state. It will be keen, therefore, to develop naval cooperation with Italy and Spain.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...