To take on board the misgivings of some of his European partners, Nicolas Sarkozy has postponed to 13 and 14 July the launch of his Mediterranean Union (MU) project, at a summit in Paris open to all the EU member states, during the French EU Presidency. The French president announced this change in timing in the company of the Italian and Spanish Prime Ministers, Romano Prodi and Jose Luis Zapatero, who called for support for the MU, following their joint working dinner on 20 December in Rome.

To reconcile the Mediterranean Union project with the principle of EU unity, it will be launched in two phases under a complex choreography. On 13 July, the heads of state or government of Mediterranean rim countries will meet in the French capital and will be joined the next day by all the leaders of the other EU member states, for an informal European Council on the French national holiday. 'The idea is to lean the Mediterranean Union on the EU,' explained a French spokesman.

Originally, France planned to organise a kick-off summit in June 2009, without awaiting its term in the EU Presidency starting on 1 July. The summit would have been held in Marseilles and would have brought together the leaders of the Mediterranean rim countries, giving observer' status to the other EU member states that wished to participate. That proposal flouted the Slovenian EU Presidency and consequently irritated a number of member states, particularly Germany, which fears that the MU project will turn its back on...

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