FRANCE - EU

Sarkozy calls for a 'strong, independent' EU

In his televised New Year's address, French President Nicolas Sarkozy stressed the continuing need for a "strong, independent" Europe. He expressed plans to head to the Middle East Monday to discuss the violence in Gaza.

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AFP - French President Nicolas Sarkozy stressed the need for a "strong, independent" European Union in his televised New Year's address on Wednesday, in the final hours of France's presidency of the EU.

"In a period of crisis that the world has not seen for some time, I tried to change Europe," Sarkozy said.

"For a long time, I have had the belief that Europe should not suffer but act and protect," he said.

The French president pointed to the EU's responses to the financial crisis, the Russia-Georgia conflict and an agreement on climate change as evidence that "the world needs a strong, independent and imaginative Europe."

Sarkozy said Wednesday the French initiative to push for a summit between the G-20 heads of state and government had been essential to coordinate a common response to the global economic crisis.

France ends its sixth-month presidency of the European Union at midnight Wednesday, handing over to the Czech Republic.
 

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