France takes over from Slovenia and begins its six-month stint in the presidency of the EU Council
Last Saturday, January 1, France took over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union from Slovenia. To mark the event, both the Elysee Palace and the Eiffel Tower were illuminated in the blue colour of Europe.
In his New Year address to the nation, President Emmanuel Macron promised an ambitious programme, “You can count on my total commitment. To make this moment, which only occurs once every 13 years, a time of progress”.
He continued, “A time of progress for the control of our borders, our defence, climate transition, equality between women and men, the construction of a new alliance with the African continent, supervision of the major platforms of the internet, and culture in Europe. 2022 must be the year of a European turning point”.
Macron faces a tough time with the rapid spread of the Omicron strain of coronavirus that is currently sweeping across Europe. There are also the presidential elections coming up in May.
Three European priorities have been pinpointed by the French president: he wants to introduce a minimum wage; regulate the digital giants; according to their environmental impact, create a carbon tax on products imported into Europe. Defence policies will also be a topic of discussion.
He also wants to bring about a reform of the Schengen area to protect Europe’s borders from the migration problem. The famous Maastricht criteria will also be addressed, with Macron reportedly wanting the freedom to be able to finance more European investments and growth, thus he is intending to table a revision of the budgetary rules.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, tweeted on Saturday, “Together, we will work for a more digital, ecological and social Europe, whose voice is heard in the world”.
Not everything went smoothly with the transition in Paris though, as the EU flag was installed under the iconic Arc de Triomphe, which triggered outrage among some politicians in the country.
Marine Le Pen, and Eric Zemmour, the presidential candidates from the far-right, voiced their outrage that the European flag had replaced the French flag “over the tomb of the unknown soldier”.
Clement Beaune, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, was quick in his response, denouncing “sterile polemics”, and telling them, “The French flag will obviously be reinstalled”, as reported by euronews.com.
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— Lucas Kornexl (@KornexlLucas) January 2, 2022