"Less than 17 years since becoming an independent state, Slovenia launched its presidency of the European Union this week – and received a swift lesson in how to have its spotlight stolen.
For three years the little Alpine nation had prepared for the proud day when it would bask in the spotlight as the first country once under communist rule to have the honour of leading the 27-member EU.
But when Tuesday came, so did Nicolas Sarkozy. As the Slovenes applied themselves to the humdrum task of hosting the European Commission at a conference centre outside Ljubljana, the French president was busy dazzling the world’s media at the Elysée palace.
While the Slovenes gave a succinct summary of the EU’s policy agenda between now and June 30, Mr Sarkozy, leapfrogging over them, sketched his vision for France’s EU presidency from July 1 to December 31.
Slovenia, a country of 2m people with centuries of experience of foreign domination – including a brief spell as part of the Napoleonic empire – says its contacts with France have been constructive at all levels. It is just as well.
Slovenia’s diplomatic service is so small that, over the next six months, France will provide representation in more than 100 countries where the Slovenes have no missions.
In similar fashion, Slovenia last year helped out Portugal, its predecessor as EU president, by representing it in Macedonia and Montenegro. But Slovenia’s reliance on France is on a different scale altogether."