French Presidency agenda regarded as ambitious

Danish Institute for International Studies

The French Foreign Minister’s speech at the Europe Day on 9th of May recently stated that the priorities of the French Presidency equal the normal workload of three presidencies. With its wide focus on energy, defence and migration besides the institutional issues regarding the future of the Lisbon Treaty, the agenda of the French Presidency is considered ambitious in Denmark.[1] The general expectation to the French Presidency is mixed. The Danish government and parliament support the priorities of the French Presidency on most points:
The effort of the European Commission to reform the European energy sector has previously been supported by the Danish Minister for Climate and Energy, Connie Hedegaard.[2] The French reform is therefore seen as a welcome step for Denmark, which considers itself a front runner in developing sustainable energy. Furthermore, the prioritisation of climate change is in tune with the global United Nations Climate Change Conference “COP15”, which is to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.

  • ·       The official Danish position towards developing the military dimension of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and the intent of the French Presidency to strengthen ties with NATO is positive. The Danish Defence Minister Søren Gade has hinted that it may be time to consider a planning unit that coordinates the European defence efforts. In his view this will strengthen the responsibility of Europeans for military peacekeeping missions.[3]
  • ·         The Danish government supports the French migration efforts and wants to enhance this part of the EU co-operation. Yet, Danish migration policy is a sensitive policy area due to a heated national debate, the relatively tight rules on family unification and the Danish EU opt-out from this policy area.
  • ·         The Danish government and parliament are in support of liberalising the Common Agricultural Policy.[4] This is, however, in opposition to the French wishes to defend the current model.[5]

While the ambitious agenda may set EU moving, it may be of concern from a Danish point of view if NicolasSarkozy creates too many unresolved EU issues before any possible referenda on the Danish opt-outs.[6]
The Danish debate on the future of the ESDP after the Lisbon Treaty has been overshadowed by the Danish opt-out in the area of defence policy. In this debate some critical observers in Denmark have objected that the ESDP does not explicitly restrain itself to participation in missions that are approved by the UN and that Denmark should therefore focus more on reforming the UN.[7] In practice, Denmark is bound by its defence policy opt-out that was adopted with the Edinburgh Agreement in 1992. The opt-out, which can only be removed by referendum, means that Denmark does not participate in the build up of EU military capacities or in EU military missions.[8] Thoughts of having a referendum on the future of the Danish opt-outs have recently been postponed due to the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.[9]

[1] Information: Fransk EU-formandskab i sværvægtsklasse, 24 June 2008, available at: (last access: 25 June 2008).

[2] Danish Ministry for Climate and Energy: EU’s klima- og energipakke – EU’s største grønne udfordring, available at: (last access 25 June 2008).

[3] Berlingske Tidende: Frankrig tilbage i NATO med krav om øget EU-forsvar, 17 June 2008, available at: (last access: 25 June 2008).

[4] Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries: Ned med landbrugsstøtten, available at: (last access: 27 June 2008).

[5] European Public Health Alliance: What can be expected from the French EU Presidency?, 5 June 2008, available at:: (last access: 27 June 2008).

[6] Europa: EU-formandskab giver Sarkozy ny chance, Ugebrev fra EU-Kommissionen i Danmark, 5 June 2008, available at: (last access: 27June 2008).

[7] Information: Skal EU’s militær adlyde FN?, 11 March 2008, available at: (last access: 25 June 2008).

[8] Ministry of Defence Denmark: Det danske forsvarsforbehold, available at: (last access: 25 June 2008).

[9] Ritzau: Fogh parkerer EU-afstemning, 24 June 2008, available at: (last access: 25 June 2008).