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Sarkozy's ambitious agenda

Mark Mardell | 08:15 UK time, Thursday, 11 December 2008

President Nicolas Sarkozy looks like a man who likes nothing better than being at the centre of a crisis, unless it's being at the centre of four of them at once. If the normal way of doing EU business is about delicate compromise, he seems more in favour of push, punch and swagger. But he wants a triumph at today's summit, to round off an exceptionally busy six months in the hot seat.

He's written to fellow leaders telling them that they face a series of decisions that will be highly significant for the future of Europe. Wagging his finger, even before they are physically in front of him, he tells them in a letter of invitation that he is determined that they live up to their responsibilities, and show vision and a spirit of compromise.

What are the big issues ?

CLIMATE CHANGE

Agreeing the climate change package will be the most difficult task. Although the commitment to cut greenhouse gases by 20% by the year 2020 is not being directly questioned, both the newer countries of the east and big industrial countries are worried that the package is too tough, especially during an economic crisis.

Germany wants nearly all its industry to be protected from foreign competitors, who will not have to meet similar standards. They want carbon trading to be cost-free for nearly all their industry.

The Poles are leading Eastern European countries who say that they need more help, and more money, converting from coal.

This Brussels summit takes place while the world's environment ministers gather in Poznan in Poland. Diplomats say if the EU can't get its act together then the global talks may be doomed to failure.

LISBON

The Irish are likely to signal they will re-run a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, after the summer's No vote. I wrote about this a short while ago and haven't much to add. I'm pretty sure this is going to develop during the day and I will update when I can.

ECONOMY

The Commission hopes that the prime ministers and presidents will back their 200bn-euro rescue package, but Germany isn't keen. The sign that the Commission has won is if the figure 1.5% of European Union GDP appears in the final documents. If it doesn't Mrs Merkel has blocked it.

AGRICULTURE

The French want to make some reference to the recent review of the Common Agricultural Policy. The British want to make sure it doesn't signal an end to reform.

DEFENCE

There will be a declaration that over the last decade the EU has become a global political player and has assumed more ambitious responsibilities. It will say that current military resources are inadequate and need to meet specific new targets. One of them is to be able to deploy 60,000 people within 60 days.

That is quite enough for a two-day summit. I'm told that the French desire for a conclusion by Friday afternoon is really serious: no lunch has been ordered for ministers. Although Chris Patten suspected that the French admiral who accompanied Jacques Chirac everywhere really had snacks, rather than nuclear codes, in his briefcase, President Sarkozy has nothing like that to fall back on.

By the way, I do intend to answer freebornjohn's serious allegations of bias. But I keep running out of green ink and patience. A post by the beginning of next week is not quite a promise, but it is an intention.

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