On January 1, France assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union, which changes every six months. At the same time, the presidential elections will be held on April 10 and 24, during which Macron will have to defend his office. And bringing all these things together is a “difficult task,” said Andreas Esel, an expert on the European Union from the Jacques Delors Institute in Paris.
“Macron has always positioned himself firmly in France as the most pro-European candidate,” Essel said. Accordingly, he will, of course, try to turn the initiatives he took in the presidency of the council into successes, so that he can distinguish himself at the local level.
France holds the presidency of the European Union
France will take over the presidency of the European Union in the next six months. The French president will be re-elected in April. The first campaign theme in France: immigration and border security.
Migration as a number one topic
Macron himself has already denied the accusation that the date was not chosen, so the argument, but a look at the issues seems to allow for a different conclusion: that immigration, for example, high on the agenda was chosen “deliberately” locally, Eisel says.
Because the topic also dominates the French presidential election campaign. Ultimately, Macron faces Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour, the two far-right and far-right populist opposition candidates.
“A sovereign Europe protects its borders”
In introducing the programme, Macron had already mentioned some points in the field of immigration that had to be addressed in his speech at the beginning of December. During France’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, for example, the Migration Agreement, which provides for a more equitable distribution of refugees in Europe, will be promoted. There should be regular meetings for this in the future.
Presidency of the Council of the European Union
The presidency changes every six months. It is responsible for “carrying forward the Council’s deliberations on EU legislation and ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda, the smooth operation of the legislative process and cooperation between member states. It has to act as an honest and impartial mediator”, says the EU. Before France it was the turn of Slovenia, after the presidency changed to the Czech Republic.
Macron calls for a “sovereign Europe” – according to him, this Europe “controlled its borders.” It is therefore important to improve the protection of the external borders of the Schengen area. In crisis situations, as is currently the case on the border between Poland and Belarus, EU countries have to help each other with border guards. Frontex Border Protection Agency should also make better use of it.
According to Macron’s plans, European defense is also an important topic, and a common strategy should be drawn up here – including armament projects and military exercises. A European defense strategy is needed to develop the EU’s military capabilities. Macron is also responding to criticism of the military operation in Afghanistan, in which European forces have relied on their American allies.
Climate protection is not the focus
On the other hand, the climate crisis is not at the heart of the council presidency’s plan, but according to Euractiv, it will be closely linked to Macron’s economic ambitions – the keyword “green growth”. For example, the long-discussed carbon dioxide tax should be promoted.
As an additional climate protection measure, it is planned to ban the import of products made for the production of cleared forests. Overall, Macron has described halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050 as two goals he “doesn’t want to waste a minute on”.
debt settlement review
Macron wants to put the EU on a growth path in the next six months. After the pandemic, the new European growth model must drive innovation, job creation and ensure competitiveness.
Macron wants to use the EU presidency to review tough EU rules on the national debt. He said that given the necessary investments after the coronavirus pandemic, it was necessary to “reorganize the budget” with the aim of easing debt rules.
Balkans and Africa in focus
In terms of foreign policy, special attention will be paid to the Balkans and Africa during the French presidency. While the Balkans revolve around European views, the focus in Africa is on stability – from the independent manufacture of vaccines to investments in the education of African youth and counter-terrorism. Macron said Africa in particular was the “great geopolitical project of the coming decades”.
An ambitious program presented
When asked what goal Macron was pursuing with the presidency of the council, he replied: “We have to move from a Europe of internal cooperation to a strong Europe in the world that makes free decisions and takes its destiny in its own hands.”
How much Macron has succeeded in this should become clear already in the first three months of the presidency – after all, most of the program items will take place before the presidential elections. “Macron has presented an ambitious programme, and we will see what he can start with and what can be implemented in a short time,” Essel said.
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