As of 1 January 2022, France has assumed the Council Presidency. In his speech, France’s President Emmanuel Macron outlined the priorities of the coming six months, summarising them in three keywords: European Sovereignty, a new European growth model and a human Europe.
At the start of the new year, France took over the six-month rotating Council Presidency from Slovenia. In his eagerly awaited speech on 9 December 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron had already outlined France’s priorities. “For the first time for more than half a century, we are faced with existential questions to answer regarding the climate, technology and geopolitics”, said Macron. With this in mind, the organisation of the European Union has to be fundamentally reconsidered and new political goals have to be defined.
“I believe that a sovereign Europe is first a Europe that is able to control its borders”, said Macron. As a central concern of the French Council Presidency, Macron therefore named the introduction of political steering of the Schengen Agreement by means of regular meetings of the ministers as well as the creation of an emergency mechanism in order to be able to provide rapid support at the external borders of the EU. Macron also wants to further strengthen the European Pact on Migration and Asylum. Furthermore, the European defence policy is to be further developed under the auspices of France. The stability of Africa and the Western Balkans shall be secured and their prosperity increased.
A new European growth model
The second main focus will be on creating a new European growth model. The main objective is to reconcile economic growth with climate ambition. In this sense, Macron wants to advance the legislative initiatives within the scope of the ”Fit for 55” package. The intention is to finalize the negotiations on the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) in the first half of 2022. With regard to digital policy, priority shall be given to the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA). Macron also referred to the debate on reforming the EU’s economic governance : “appropriate budgetary and financial rules to prioritize the necessary investments to support the transitions, particularly the climate and digital transition” are requried.
Moreover, the implementation of a global minimum tax within the EU is high on the agenda of the French Council Presidency. With regard to social policy issues, Macron wants to give priority to relevant initiatives such as the directive on minimum wages and the directive on pay transparency. The Women on Boards Directive, which has been blocked for several years, shall also be finally completed. On a critical note however, it has to be pointed out that France apparently does not want to set its own new social policy priorities, as had been done by Portugal and Germany for example. In particular with regard to the long awaited directive on corporate due diligence – as recently also addressed in an open letter by the AK to Commissioner Johannes Hahn – an attempt to by the current Council presidency to take action would have been more than desirable.
A human Europe
Macron’s ideas concerning a human Europe represent a pledge to European values. Hence, democracy, equality and human rights shall be key issues of the French Council Presidency. Macron announced a number of initiatives, among others the establishment of a support fund for independent investigative journalism, a strategy to fight racism and antisemitism as well as the implementation of EU legislation to fight violence against women. In order to ensure the compliance with fundamental democratic principles in Europe, Macron said that – in addition to sanctions – it is necessary to consider instruments to support the rule of law.
Since the Commission has declared 2022 to be the European Year of Youth, Macron wants to set concrete initiatives: The Erasmus exchange programme shall be complemented by a six-month citizen service open to young people under the age of 25 in Europe. France’s Council Presidency will also see the completion of the Conference on the Future of Europe. The conclusions of the Conference shall be debated with the European institutions, the governments of the Member States and with civil society stakeholders in May.