Thursday, 19 May 2022 - 18 of Iyyar, 5782
EU

France’s EU presidency amid a presidential election: the right time for President Macron ?

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With Angela Merkel retired and the fact that the presidency of the EU Council comes for him at a right time, 44-year-old Macron has announced an ambitious agenda for the EU that could also serve his domestic campaign for re-election even though he has not yet officially announced his candidacy.

According to Haim Musicant, Vice President of Bnai Brith France, President Macron ‘’will try to launch some initiatives at the beginning of his 6-month term but Europe is not a success, not to say it does not interest the French at all or very little, who place in first place  Covid, price increase…. among internal topics.’’

Since January 1, France took over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, as presidential elections are to be held in the country in April. This gives French President Emmanuel Macron the opportunity of being considered as the leader of the 27-nation EU.

With Angela Merkel retired and the fact that the presidency of the EU Council comes for him at a right time, 44-year-old Macron has announced an ambitious agenda for the EU that could also serve his domestic campaign for re-election even though he has not yet officially announced his candidacy.

“The year 2022 must be a turning point for Europe,” the president said in his New Year’s Eve televised  address.

“The EU presidency gives him a welcome platform to put his European record to the forefront and differentiate himself from his rivals and bring new proposals, new ideas to the table,” said Claire Demesmay, an expert at the Marc-Bloch think-tank in Berlin.

The rotating presidency of the EU Council gives the member state an opportunity to set the official agenda for EU leaders and organise meetings of ministers.  The presidency of the Council is responsible for conducting meetings, determining the agenda and facilitating dialogues with other EU institutions.

EU leaders are to meet in Paris on March 10-11, a few weeks before the first round of the presidential election on April 10.

‘’The agenda for a sovereign Europe will be accelerated with the French Presidency. Europe must rise to the major economic, educational, migration and military challenges,’’ Macron said as he outlined the presidency’s programme in December. .

‘’The Presidency of the Council of the European Union will also be a time for France. In the coming months, we must discuss together Europe’s strengths and weaknesses, what it is lacking, and agree on what it should do,’’ he added.

‘’This is a time for Europe. Faced with health and economic challenges, the rise of aggressive powers and climate change, the best response is a European one,’’ he insisted.

President Macron has encapsulated his priorities of moving towards a Europe ‘’that is powerful and fully sovereign in its choices.’’

The French EU Presidency will be taking place against the backdrop of health, energy, and migration crises, especially amidst rising tensions on the EU’s eastern border as the Ukraine–Russia conflict brews.

In his presentation of the presidency, Macron highlighted among others improving European border control to avoid the challenges of migration by reforming the Schengen border-free area by establishing a political steering committee.

According to Haim Musicant, Vice President of Bnai Brith France, President Macron ‘’will try to launch some initiatives at the beginning of his 6-month term but Europe is not a success, not to say it does not interest the French at all or very little, who place in first place  Covid, price increase…. among internal topics.’’

‘’Moreover, Macron will have to announce one day his candidacy for re-election and it will be difficult for him to lead both the EU presidency and the electoral campaign,’’ he told European Jewish Press.

Musicant believes also that ‘’there is no time for France to launch a European initiative in the Middle East.’’

On the international stage, Lebanon is likely also to be among the French president’s priorities. On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that the United Arab Emirates – which Macron recently visited together with Saudi Arabia- will contribute to a joint Saudi-French initiative which aims to address the grave crisis in Lebanon.

Macron is also expected to develop EU’s relations with Africa but will leave the EU’s foreign policy ”day-to-day” handling to EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell.

Israel for its part is likely to cultivate its relations with France to press for a tougher stance on Iran. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke last week with Macron several weeks after his visit in Paris.

‘’The conversation dealt with regional challenges, the nuclear talks and Israel’s demand to put pressure on Iran,” the Israeli foreign ministry said as talks between the world powers and Iran on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal are ongoing in Vienna.

The two also discussed relations between Israel and the European Union.

What does the Presidency of the Council of the European Union involve?

Each Member State holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union for six months on a rotational basis. France will hold the Presidency of the Council of the EU from 1 January to 30 June 2022. It follows Slovenia and will be followed by the Czech Republic on July 1.  The Presidency of the Council organizes meetings, brokers compromises, submits conclusions and ensures the coherency and continuity of the decision-making process. It ensures good cooperation between all Member States and acts as a liaison between the Council and the European institutions, in particular the Commission and European Parliament.

What is the Council of the European Union?

The Council of the European Union, also called the Council of Ministers, or simply the Council, brings together the ministers of the EU Member States who meet in configurations by sector of activity. It serves as the co-legislator of the European Union, along with the European Parliament.

Concretely, ministers will chair ten sectors or configurations of the Council of the EU:

  • general affairs;
  • economic and financial affairs;
  • justice and home affairs;
  • employment, social policy, health and consumer protection policy;
  • competitiveness (internal market, industry, research and space);
  • transport, telecommunications and energy;
  • agriculture and fisheries; environment;
  • education, youth, culture and sport;
  • trade.

Exceptionally, the Foreign Affairs Council is chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, currently Josep Borrell.

The Council also has budgetary powers; it adopts and amends the European budget with the Parliament. Lastly, the Council adopts certain decisions as well as non-binding recommendations, concludes international agreements on behalf of the EU, and appoints members of certain institutions such as the European Court of Auditors, the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Committee of the Regions. The Council’s deliberations and votes on legislative texts are public

 

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