France takes the reins of the European Union for six months

France took Saturday 1is January for six months the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU) with an ambitious program, a Europe ” powerful “ and “Sovereign”, which however risks being jostled by the new outbreak of Covid-19 and the April presidential election.

At midnight, she took over from Slovenia, which had chaired the Council of the EU since 1is July, and will give way, in the second half of the year, 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. The European flag replaced the usual tricolor under the Arc de Triomphe, prompting strong reactions from right-wing and far-right presidential candidates. Dozens of other emblematic monuments must be adorned in blue throughout France during the first week of January.

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.

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Power of influence

For six months, France will therefore have a significant power of influence to advance certain subjects and find compromises at twenty-seven even if the exercise, very supervised, involves neutrality and tact.

President Emmanuel Macron has set the bar very high for this French presidency of the EU. “2022 must be the year of a European turning point”, he launched Friday evening during his wishes for the new year. It is about making “Powerful Europe in the world, fully sovereign, free of its choices and master of its destiny”, he had already stated on December 9.

Ambitions that he has continued to display since his election in 2017, not without straining some of his partners, especially from Eastern Europe. He himself will not chair the summits or the meetings of the European Council – 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.

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 European economic horizon.

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 national end-of-year speech, Angela Merkel’s successor pleaded for a “Europe more sovereign and stronger”. “Our French friends can count on our support”, added the head of German diplomacy, Annalena Baerbock, in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

A mandate disrupted by the elections in France

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 borders” in the face of migration crises, a subject that will be at the heart of the French presidential campaign.

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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.

This is the thirteenth rotating biannual presidency held by France since 1958 and the first since 2008. The presidential elections in April and legislative elections in June in France will however hit it head-on, reducing by the same amount the space-time to act. The surge of the Omicron variant will also thwart the agenda of the French presidency – some four hundred meetings are scheduled in France – at least in January, where many meetings will be left behind.

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France takes the reins of the European Union for six months

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