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French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a media conference at the conclusion of an EU Summit in Brussels, Belgium.

Macron lists priorities as France gets ready to take EU presidency

BRUSSELS (China Daily/ANN) -- France will take the presidency of the Council of the European Union on Saturday and is aiming to make progress on many ambitious goals in the six-month term that will coincide with its presidential election.
In a speech about the EU Council presidency early this month, French President Emmanuel Macron listed the priorities as defending European sovereignty, managing migration and reforming the border-free Schengen Area, building a new European model, advancing a carbon border tax, building a digital powerhouse and pushing forward with the EU’s relations with Africa.
Taking “recovery, power, belonging” as the motto for the presidency, Macron said, France’s aim is “to move toward a Europe that is powerful in the world, fully sovereign, free in its choices and in charge of its own destiny”.
The French presidency from Jan 1 to June 30, its first since 2008, will feature hundreds of events, conferences, artistic workshops, debates, films and collective activities all over the country to show the EU’s strength and weakness and to discuss what EU citizens agree on. Macron said the “EU has been pursuing a sovereignty agenda for the last four years” in economic matters with shared debt; ecological matters with carbon neutrality in 2050; defense with the first common military budget; and social matters with the revision of the posted workers-employees sent to work in other EU nations-directive. “This agenda for a sovereign Europe will be accelerated with the French presidency,” he said.
He said a sovereign Europe must first of all be able to control its borders, referring to the migration crisis in recent months at the borders between Belarus and EU member states Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
Macron vowed reform to improve the function of the Schengen Area and make further progress in pursuing European defense, a matter he first proposed in 2017 and strengthened when former US president Donald Trump neglected the EU and threatened to pull the US out of NATO. France was also deeply affronted when the US, the United Kingdom and Australia signed the trilateral AUKUS security pact in September and Australia abandoned its plan to purchase French submarines worth US$66 billion.
In his speech, Macron also vowed to build a new European growth model in which “we have to define our shared vision for Europe in 2030”. He talked about making Europe a major continent for production, innovation and job creation to reduce dependence and to “compete with China and the United States”.
Ding Chun, director of the Centre for European Studies at Fudan University, said that Macron, as the initiator of EU autonomy, will definitely push forward and secure the sovereignty agenda as his political capital and legacy.
“He will maintain the status quo when it comes to relations with China,” Ding said, citing Macron’s recent announcement that France will not join the US in a “diplomatic boycott” of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. He is skeptical that France would use much of its political capital to push for the ratification of the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. The CAI’s ratification has stalled in the European Parliament due to the tit-for-tat sanctions between the EU and China early this year.

(Latest Update December 28, 2021)

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