A year after assuming the post of president of the French Republic in 2007, and while that nation held the rotating European Union presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy invited the heads of state of the EU's 27 members and those of 17 non-EU Mediterranean countries to attend a conference in Paris to launch a conference in Paris to launch a Mediterranean Union. In the words of Britain's Daily Telegraph regarding the subsequent summit held for that purpose on July 13, 2008, "Sarkozy's big idea is to use imperial Rome's center of the world as a unifying factor linking 44 countries that are home to 800 million people." Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, however, announced that his nation would boycott the gathering, denouncing the initiative as one aimed at dividing both Africa and the Arab world, and stating: "We shall have another Roman empire and imperialist design. There are imperialist maps and design. There are imperialist maps and designs that we have already rolled up. We should not have them again." The unprecedented summit was held with the intention of "shifting Europe's strategic focus towards the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans."