January marks the start of a new year with new resolutions and projects, in Europe it also marks the beginning of a New Presidency of the Council of the European Union, this time it is France’s turn to preside.
Domestically, the Presidency got off to a flying start, with several famous monuments dressed in the blue of Europe. Those who have had the chance to see the Eiffel Tower virtually painted with Sapphire blue and European stars, know the thrill that this view can provide.
When a few months ago a journalist asked me about my expectations of this French presidency, I answered that, despite the best intentions, (and we all know how convinced a European the current French president is), it could be negatively biased by the presidential election in France, which will take place in the first half of the year, precisely on 10 and 24 April. Facts did not take long to prove me right, since already on January 1st several candidates for the presidential election were quick to criticize the choice of the French government to celebrate this presidency by flying a European flag under the Arc de Triomphe.
In short, it will be necessary to deal with this calendar in the hope that whatever the result of this election in France, the country will able to ensure continuity until the handover to the Czech Republic on the 1st July of this year. It is all the more important that this French Presidency is launching a new trio which will end with Sweden in the first half of 2023. This is important both for a number of very concrete issues, because the French program is ambitious, but also, because France has the responsibility to drive political decisions, chair working meetings between Member States and above all draw up compromises. Without compromise, Europe would make too little progress.
Then on what subjects does France want to mark its Presidency?
The environmental dimension will be very present, with the French Presidency continuing to promote the Green Deal and targeting its efforts around a decarbonised economy, while preparing for the negotiations of the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP), involving actions in favor of biodiversity and mark its presidency with progress on circular economy. Speeding up the negotiations on battery regulations could be an example.
Social well-being depends on good economic health, and Europe must rise to the challenge of reconciling the interests of consumers, free competition and, above all, industrial independence and the ability to support a European industrial fabric capable of competing on the international markets. In this respect, the French Presidency has great ambitions for the Internal market and Industry. Perhaps because 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the signature of the Maastricht Treaty (which established the achievement of the internal market), the French Presidency will aim to deepen it to fully cover fiscal and social convergence objectives, and to contribute to the EU’s dual green and digital transition.
In conjunction with the promotion of European values, France will be keen to strengthen democracy. The French Presidency, as co-chair of the Conference on the Future of Europe, will actively contribute to the conference. A report on the work will be presented during a high-level event in Strasbourg in May.
Mirroring the domestic debates surrounding the presidential election in France on security, the French Presidency wishes to commit itself to the reform of the Schengen area, the continuation of work on asylum and migration, and the security of European citizens.
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