France, Czech Republic and Sweden start to hammer out EU goals

France, the Czech Republic and Sweden, who will pilot the EU between mid-2008 and the end of 2009, launched talks in Prague Thursday aimed at coordinating their presidency priorities.

“The points we have in common focus on reform or reforms,” the Czech deputy prime minister in charge of European affairs, Alexandr Vondra, announced at the end of a first round of talks. “A competitive Europe” which is “closer to its citizens” are two themes which should be pushed during the period, he added.

“We have before us 18 months which will be exciting to prepare for,” said Swedish minister for European affairs, Cecilia Malmström, who singled out reform of the EU’s constitutional treaty and its budget as key issues.

French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, insisted on the need to “quickly conclude the European Treaty,” adding the wish that Europe asserts itself as “a world player capable of confronting global challenges.”

Security, energy, immigration and the environment were also discussed by the trio, the three ministers said during a joint news conference.

France will take over the six month rotating presidency of the 27-member EU during the second half of 2008, and will be followed by the Czech Republic at the start of 2009 and then by Sweden.