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Nicolas Sarkozy: Without the Lisbon treaty reforms, the European Union may stall

The Lisbon process is back on the road. The Irish will be consulted again. If we stick with the Nice treaty, we stay with a European Commission with a diminishing number of commissioners. If we move to the Lisbon model, every member state will have a commissioner. Political pledges were made to the Irish on neutrality, taxation and the family. These are recurrent, important themes for our Irish friends.

We put a compromise on the table allowing us to assure everyone that they won't have to go through a new Lisbon treaty ratification procedure because there won't be any change to the Lisbon treaty.

Second, I think that in the future the commission president's powers need to be strengthened. Let me explain why. It is very simple, because the more commissioners you have, the more authority the commission president has to have over the commissioners to ensure there is a doctrine, otherwise things are shambolic.

Finally, the commission needs very strong leadership at the head of the European Council, because if there isn't strong leadership at the head of the European Council, the commission finds itself in a situation of having to be guardian of the spirit of the treaties and, at the same time, act at the political level. The right balance for our institutions is to have a president of the political council giving a lead to a commission president, guardian of the spirit of the treaties, who, in perfect partnership with the president of the council, must do his job at both the technological and political levels.

Without strong leadership at the head of the council, the commission finds itself in a very disagreeable situation of being everything at the same time, which weakens it. This is the magic and subtlety of the European institutions. I very strongly believe in it.

I would like to end by telling you this: I have been enthralled by what I've been doing. I've been very happy to do it. It has been a great honour, in no way a burden. For me, it has been tremendously eye-opening. I hope all those who succeed me will love the job as much as I have, because Europe deserves to be represented, deserves to be defended and deserves to have a face. Happy Christmas!

The outgoing EU president, the French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, was speaking in Brussels earlier this week