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'Europe changed me,' Sarkozy tells MEPs

Latest update : 2008-12-17

"I tried to change Europe but Europe changed me," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told MEPs in his last address to the European Parliament as the EU's six-month rotating president.

AFP - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that he had tried to change Europe during France's six-month European Union presidency, but that Europe had changed him.

Giving his final address to the European Parliament before France hands over the EU baton to the Czech Republic at the end of the year, Sarkozy said: "I tried to change Europe, but Europe changed me."

"I really think that each head of state or government would benefit at some time from this responsibility... they would understand that whatever differences we have, there are so many things that bring us together."

"When one has the chance over six months to learn about and to solve the problems of the 27 (EU) nations, one gains tolerance, an opening of the spirit and one understands Europe.

"It is without doubt the best idea invented in the 20th century and which we need now more than ever," the French leader added.

Sarkozy also voiced confidence that the Czech leadership would succeed when it assumes the EU presidency for the first half of 2009.

Last week, during the last EU summit presided over by Sarkozy, the 27 EU member states agreed on three major policy initiatives: a 200-billion-euro (274-billion-dollar) economic stimulus package, an ambitious climate change and energy package and a deal for Ireland to hold a second referendum on the bloc's reforming Lisbon Treaty.

Having successfully forged consensus on those three key areas, there was wide, though not unanimous parliamentary approval for the French efforts.

Both the conservative and Socialist leaders in the European Parliament,  Joseph Daul and Martin Schulz respectively, called the French EU presidency a success.

"If the next presidency does the same I would be happy," said Schulz. "On the whole I find that the (French EU) presidency has advanced Europe".

Date created : 2008-12-16