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EU 'spirit of compromise'

Mark Mardell | 13:18 UK time, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

STRASBOURG 1030

"Europe turned up."

President Sarkozy was talking about the Georgian crisis, but it was the message of his whole speech - that the world needed Europe to be strong, and a strong Europe had to be united. After his speech the leaders of the political groups had their say.

Much of the French president's speech was pretty standard fare of course for speeches to the European Parliament - stress the need for Europe, and need for unity. It's what most here believe and want to hear.

He placed the blame for the financial crisis squarely on the shoulders of the American government: he said it began when they accepted the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. He also boasted that despite the difficulty of coordinating a response by the 27 countries with very different economic and political cultures, despite the misunderstandings and hesitations, Europe had got the response right. He said that the US had belatedly followed with a solution "based entirely on our plans".

He said there had to be a "re-moralisation" of capitalism, based on entrepreneurship, not speculation.

He told MEPs that when he first visited Dublin he had caused a fuss by saying the Irish would have to vote again on the Lisbon Treaty, but that is what a "courageous" Irish government had now decided. He said this wasn't easy for the Irish people, but Europe was about "a spirit of compromise" and this was what was being displayed. He predicted Lisbon would come into force, just a year late.

He concluded by saying Europe had to be built with the will of the nation states and labelled what he called "integrationalism" as an historic error. He'd enjoyed himself a lot, and the last six months had taught him a great deal. "Europe is the most beautiful invention of the twentieth century, Europe has moved me, it has changed me."

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