December 2021

By Étienne Bodard and Mathilde Defarges

On Thursday 9 December, French President Emmanuel Macron gave a marathon speech to present his country’s priorities for the six-month French presidency of the Council of the EU that will start on 1 January 2022. Under the motto “Recovery, Power, Belonging”, President Macron presented three pillars: “A new European model,” “EU Sovereignty,” and “A more humane Europe.”

With regards to “A new European model,” President Macron gave the following details:

  • One basket of priorities fell under climate change and involved completing the proposed carbon border adjustment mechanism, inserting more social and environmental clauses in EU trade deals with third countries, and rethinking the EU’s budgetary rules to free up the investment needed to successfully conduct the climate transition.
  • Another basket of priorities concerned how to better position EU economies in the 21st A key part of this objective revolved around reinforcing European digital sovereignty by boosting investment and strengthening the EU’s legal framework with upcoming texts like the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA). It also included investing more into strategic sectors like transportation, cloud technology or health, with a renewed emphasis on the need for European industrial champions in those sectors, implying a possible shift away from strict enforcement of EU competition rules.
  • The last basked of priorities under this pillar included more redistributive measures, most notably planned legislation on minimum salary levels in Europe and the implementation of OECD global taxation deals. Macron also said that France intended to advance legislation meant to shrink pay gaps between men and women, and finalize rules for quotas in executive boards.

The “EU Sovereignty” pillar revolved around deepening European Defense and better defining common European interests to develop a shared strategy. All this with the aim of entering a more operational phase in the medium term.

Finally, “A more humane Europe” encapsulated a broad range of societal concerns. For instance, Macron highlighted the improved participation of ordinary European citizens to EU decision-making through the ongoing Conference on the Future of Europe, the planned strengthening of rule of law through the development of an EU strategy against racism and antisemitism, and the creation of a European civic service that would provide people below 25 with six-months long academic exchanges, apprenticeships, or civil society experiences.

The jury is out on how much of this ambitious program the French will be able to move forward, let alone push over the finish line, in the course of their six months at the head of the Council, especially given that some EU Member States disagree with President Macron’s priorities. The looming French presidential election, which will take place in April and May 2022, risks further straining French officials’ bandwidth and could terminally derail Macron’s plans if he is not re-elected. But the French president seemed undaunted last Thursday as he encouraged Europeans to think beyond 2022 and imagine a new European model for 2030.