Jospin sets out French EU presidency plan

French prime minister plays down role of sustainable development in keynote presentation

France will use its EU presidency in the second half of this year to "lay the foundations" for a new European food standards agency, introduce tougher labelling rules for genetically modified foods and take forward EU thinking on how to apply the precautionary principle, prime minister Lionel Jospin said today. Mr Jospin was setting out the main priorities for the presidency term. France will succeed Portugal on 1 July, before handing over to Sweden on 31 December.

In his speech to French MPs in Paris, Mr Jospin put considerably less stress on environmental issues than in a speech he made last month during a meeting on sustainable development. Then he promised to make sustainable development central to France's presidency ambitions (ENDS Daily 6 April). Today, the phrase received not a single mention.

Mr Jospin reiterated that France would push for stronger maritime transport safety rules following its recent experience with the Erika oil tanker spill. He also pledged to ensure that November's crucial meeting of parties to the UN climate change convention would be a success.

Turning to the reform of the EU's institutions and procedures in preparation for enlargement, Mr Jospin called for changes that would make it easier for groups of EU countries to move ahead of others on individual policies. "Reinforced cooperation" has been advocated as a route towards higher environmental standards by some governments, arguing that less progressive countries have constrained their ability to achieve a high level of environmental protection.

Follow Up:
French prime minister's office, tel: +33 1 42 75 80 00, and Mr Jospin's speech.

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