DURING 2008 the presidency of the EU will be in the hands of two very different member states. On January 1 Slovenia, a state of about two million people, took over the presidency from Portugal; on July 1 the responsibility will pass to France, a founder member of what has become the EU and one of its three most influential members. Slovenia is the first of the mainly Eastern European countries which entered the EU in 2003 to have this important role and it finds itself with the task of handling the delicate matter of the possible independence of Kosovo and the consequences for EU relations with Serbia. When France assumes the EU presidency there is likely to follow a period of heightened activity as many of the ideas that Nicolas Sarkozy has floated since his election last year are sure to be brought forward in a more concrete form. The proposal for some form of association of Mediterranean countries with the EU is already on the agenda and this week France's minister for Europe, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, surprised many people by suggesting a further expansion of the EU by opening accession discussions with such countries as Albania, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia. However, M. Jouyet said that although France has changed its mind on the principle of EU enlargement this shift will not extend to the admission of Turkey to which it remains strongly opposed.


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