Macron takes EU reins as election looms





France takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union on Saturday (1 January), affording President Emmanuel Macron the prospect to pose because the EU’s de facto chief within the run-up to nationwide elections in April.

The 44-year-old has by no means made any secret of his ambitions to be the motor for additional European integration, serving over the past 4 years as a dynamic sidekick to the extra regular German chancellor Angela Merkel in Europe’s energy couple.

With Merkel now retired and the well timed present of the rotating presidency of the EU Council from January 1, Macron has introduced an formidable agenda for the 27-member bloc that would additionally serve his home marketing campaign for re-election.

“The 12 months 2022 have to be a turning level for Europe,” he mentioned in a New Yr’s Eve nationwide tackle that hailed the EU’s position in the course of the Covid-19 disaster.

Referring to the French presidency, he vowed that “you’ll be able to rely on my full dedication to make sure that this era, which comes round each 13 years, is a time of progress for you”.

The centrist, who made his Europhile views a key a part of his political marketing campaign when profitable the presidency in 2017, is hoping it would once more serve him in elections scheduled for 10 and 24 April.

“The EU presidency offers him a welcome platform to place his European report to the forefront and differentiate himself from his rivals and convey new proposals, new concepts to the desk,” mentioned Claire Demesmay, an professional on the Marc-Bloch think-tank in Berlin.

Strutting on the worldwide stage has additionally lengthy been a preferred transfer for any French president.

“The French like nothing greater than the picture or impression of France being ‘on the controls’,” mentioned Pierre Sellal, a former French diplomat on the French mission to the European Union.

To mark the beginning of the six-month presidency, France illuminated historic buildings throughout the nation together with the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe within the blue of the EU flag on New Yr’s Eve.

Different observers have famous that the French emblem for the presidency contains the letters U and E for “Union Europeene” with a gray arrow within the center that seems to create one other letter — a sideways M for Macron.

Every European nation will get an opportunity at holding the rotating presidency of the Council, which supplies the member state a chance to set the official agenda for fellow leaders within the bloc — inside limits — and organise conferences of ministers.

However though the primary French presidency since 2008 affords alternatives for Macron, additionally it is seen by observers as holding dangers.

His agenda to make Europe “highly effective” — in defence, know-how or its personal border safety — dangers being overshadowed within the quick time period by the accelerating Covid-19 well being disaster.

Sébastien Maillard, director of the Jacques Delors Institute, a pro-EU think-tank based mostly in Paris, says Macron will even face strain to ship after having ramped up expectations.

“He can’t get to the primary spherical (of the presidential election) on 10 April with out having obtained some outcomes from the European presidency,” Maillard mentioned. “That’s the problem for him, but it surely will also be an actual alternative.”

European leaders are set to satisfy in Paris on 10-11 March, which could possibly be an opportunity for them to agree on a significant reform of the bloc’s finances guidelines.

A lot will rely on Germany’s new chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose coalition authorities is seen as sceptical on finances reforms, however supportive of Macron’s agenda.

France’s presidency is “an necessary alternative we need to seize collectively to strengthen Europe and make it match to rise as much as tomorrow’s challenges,” German Overseas Minister Annalena Baerbock advised AFP on Friday.

Different European leaders equivalent to Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whom Macron labelled a “political opponent” in December, is perhaps in no temper to bolster the French chief’s probabilities of re-election.

As symbolic head of the European Council, Macron should stroll a advantageous line as he additionally launches his marketing campaign for re-election, which is anticipated to be introduced formally in February on the newest. Sellal, the previous French diplomat, mentioned France’s companions would take a dim view of “makes an attempt to instrumentalise the presidency for electoral causes”.

Domestically, opponents have already accused Macron of electioneering and say he ought to have delayed France’s flip on the helm till after the elections.

“It’s a mistake. He’s doing it for his personal pursuits, not these of France,” his rightwing rival Valerie Pécresse from the Republicans social gathering mentioned final month.

Eurosceptic opponents equivalent to far-right figures Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour will even waste no alternative to painting the entire train as meaningless.

“It’s been four-and-a-half years that he’s been in energy and he’s obtained nothing and accomplished nothing within the European area, aside from attaining a kind of submission to Germany within the identify of the Franco-German couple,” Le Pen advised RMC radio in mid-December.


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