At midnight, France took over from Slovenia, which chaired the Council ofEU since July 1, and will make way for the second half of the year for the Czech Republic.
Symbol of this relay, the Eiffel Tower and the Elysée Palace were illuminated at the same time in blue, the color of Europe.
However, the installation of the European flag under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris also sparked controversy.
The far-right presidential candidates, Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour, said they were
outraged that the French flag has been replaced by that of EU
above the tomb of the unknown soldier.
The French flag will obviously be reinstalled, replied the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, denouncing
The CouncilEU represents the interests of the 27 Member States before the European Commission and the European Parliament. The six-monthly presidency convenes meetings of ministers, sets the agenda and conducts negotiations.
For six months, France will therefore have a significant power of influence to advance certain subjects and find compromises at 27, even if the exercise, very supervised, requires neutrality and tact.
The bar very high
President Emmanuel Macron has set the bar very high:
2022 must be the year of a European turning point, he said during his New Year’s greetings.
It is about making
powerful Europe in the world, fully sovereign, free of its choices and master of its destiny, he explained on December 9.
These are ambitions that he has continued to display since his election in 2017, not without straining some of his partners, especially Eastern Europeans.
He himself will not chair the summits of heads of state and government or European councils – 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.
Now theEU finds itself 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 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 and also pleads for a
Europe more sovereign and stronger.
” Together, we will work for a more digital, ecological and social Europe, whose voice is loud in the world. “
Three priority projects
The French Presidency of the European Union (PFUE) has set itself three priority areas: the establishment of minimum wages throughout theEU, the regulation of digital giants and the creation of a carbon tax on products imported into Europe based on their environmental impact.
Emmanuel Macron also advocates a reform of the Schengen area in order to better
protect borders in the face of migration crises, a subject that will be at the heart of the French presidential campaign.
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. He thus wishes to continue to advance Europe in defense, despite the reluctance of certain partners attached above all to the protection ofNATO.
This is the 13th rotating biannual presidency held by France since 1958.
The presidential election in May and the legislative elections in France in June, however, will hit it head-on, reducing the time to act accordingly.
The surge of the Omicron variant will also shake up the schedule, at least in January, when many meetings will be virtual.
The opposition denounces an instrumentalisation of the PFUE by Emmanuel Macron, very likely candidate for his re-election, even if he has so far refrained from any announcement.
It can be an asset for the French president […] but also a risk if his political opponents choose to attack him head on on his European policy, summarizes Thierry Chopin, professor of political science at the Catholic University of Lille.