“We are now at work”, noted Emmanuel Macron, during a press conference, Friday, January 7. If it officially started on 1is January, the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union (PFUE) was really launched this weekend, when Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission and her twenty-six commissioners went to Paris on Thursday and Friday, to meet the president, the prime minister, Jean Castex, and several members of his government as well as parliamentarians.
Rather than making long speeches about Europe “Sovereign”, whom he has been calling for for five years that he has been at the Elysee Palace, Emmanuel Macron insisted on his desire that the PFUE be a “Useful moment for Europe”. Against the backdrop of the election campaign in France, at a time when Euroscepticism is gaining ground, the president knows that he must show, on this occasion, that community building can improve the lives of French people.
Very concretely, Paris intends to complete the negotiations between the Twenty-Seven and the European Parliament on certain draft directives, such as that on the European minimum wage, which aims to encourage the countries with the lowest social standards to increase salaries. the lowest, or the two texts which should enable the EU to adopt a new digital regulation.
Launch the Schengen reform
The Elysee also wants to advance certain issues, on which the member states have not yet agreed. With regard to defense Europe, France hopes that the European heads of state and government will adopt, during their meeting at the end of March, the “Strategic compass”, a defense white paper which analyzes the threats facing the Twenty-Seven and which provides in particular for the creation of a rapid deployment force of 5,000 men.
It also aims to launch the reform of Schengen, this area of free movement put to the test in recent years by the migration crisis, terrorist attacks and even the pandemic. If the Twenty-Seven agree on the objective – to strengthen the external borders in order to limit the controls at the internal borders -, the way to get there however gives rise to many debates.
Emmanuel Macron also recalled on Friday his desire to find a compromise with his counterparts on the border adjustment mechanism so that the EU can tax imports of goods produced in third countries with less strict environmental standards. A subject that also divides him, while some countries, like Germany, fear that it will be perceived as a declaration of trade war by the partners of the EU, foremost among which the United States, when others fear that it will translate into higher prices in these times of inflation.
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Emmanuel Macron wants to chair “a useful moment for Europe”