France took on Saturday at midnight, and for six months, the rotating presidency of the European Union with an ambitious program, a “powerful” and “sovereign” Europe, which however risks being jostled by the new outbreak of Covid- 19 and the April presidential election.
At midnight, it took over from Slovenia, which had chaired the Council of the EU since July 1, and will cede its turn in the second half to the Czech Republic.
Symbol of this relay, the Eiffel Tower and the Elysee were illuminated at the same time in blue, the color of Europe. Dozens of other emblematic monuments will be displayed throughout France during the first week of January.
A French ambition
The Council of the EU represents the interests of the 27 Member States vis-à-vis the Commission and the European Parliament. The six-monthly presidency convenes meetings of ministers, sets the agenda and conducts negotiations. For six months, France will therefore have a significant power of influence to advance certain subjects and find compromises at 27 even if the exercise, very supervised, involves neutrality and tact.
President Emmanuel Macron has set the bar very high for this “PFUE” (French presidency of the EU, according to a shortcut). “2022 must be the year of a European turning point”, he said Friday evening during his New Year’s greetings. It is about making “Europe powerful in the world, fully sovereign, free to his choices and master of his destiny, ”he had unrolled on December 9.
Ambitions that he has continued to display since his election in 2017, not without straining some of his partners, especially Eastern Europeans. He himself will not chair European summits or councils – a role devolved on the Belgian Charles Michel – but he will be able to influence the discussions and intervene in the event of a crisis.
The Franco-German couple still maneuvering
However, the EU is at a crossroads on a series of subjects, from security in Europe – tens of thousands of Russian soldiers are massed at the gates of Ukraine – to the health crisis which again obscures the horizon European economy.
Emmanuel Macron can count on the support of the new German Chancellor, the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, who will chair the G7 in 2022. In his first New Year’s speech, Angela Merkel’s successor pleaded for a “more Europe sovereign and strong ”. “Our French friends can count on our support,” added the head of German diplomacy, Annalena Baerbock, in a statement to AFP.
Three sites and borders
France has set itself three priority projects for its presidency: the establishment of minimum wages throughout the EU, the regulation of digital giants and the creation of a carbon tax on products imported into Europe according to their impact. environmental.
Emmanuel Macron also advocates a reform of the Schengen area in order to better “protect the European borders” in the face of migratory crises, a subject which will be at the heart of the French presidential campaign.
He also intends to put on the table a revision of the budgetary rules – the famous Maastricht criteria – which frame European deficits in order to be able to finance more European investments and growth. And continue to push forward in defense Europe, despite the reluctance of certain partners, concerned above all with the protection of NATO.