This first meeting of the year will be a sort of dress rehearsal, before Emmanuel Macron’s grand oral before MEPs on January 19 in Strasbourg. On January 6 and 7, the French president is due to host the college of European commissioners to discuss France’s ambitions in this semester of Council presidency. The exercise of presenting the issues, behind closed doors, will be very different from that which will be carried out twelve days later in the hemicycle under everyone’s gaze, filmed, in front of directly elected MEPs and from all political stripes.
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Between dinner, tribute and thematic debates
The stated priorities will necessarily make winners and losers, among the 27 members of this institution (one per country, including its president, the German Ursula von der Leyen), the European Commission, the executive body responsible for proposing future laws. Arrived at mid-term, it is at a legislative peak with nearly 250 texts on the table. Some will be accelerated, others put aside until later.
These two days in Paris will be very formal. The commissioners are due to arrive on Thursday around 5 p.m., before a dinner organized at the Elysee Palace at 8:30 p.m., with French ministers and representatives of the national parliament. The next day they will participate in a tribute to Jean Monnet and Simone Veil at the Panthéon. Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen will then meet for an hour, before giving a press conference. After a working lunch at the Quai d’Orsay, the college will then go to the National Assembly and the Senate.
A myriad of sites
No mystery about the prioritization of files. The program of the PFUE was detailed at length during a press conference at the Élysée Palace on Thursday, December 9. It is about making “Powerful Europe in the world, fully sovereign, free of its choices and master of its destiny”, Emmanuel Macron explained. The commissioners have planned to debate in large thematic tables, structured around three priorities. They will work on the questions of “Sovereignty” (Schengen reform, protection of external borders, reform of the asylum and migration package, African and Balkan neighborhoods), “Growth model” (production, innovation and quality employment, climate, digital, social) and on the concept “Human Europe” (Rule of law, aid for independent journalism, etc.).
The Élysée is adding new priority issues: consolidation of Europol’s mandate, trade defense instruments, investment screening, reciprocity in the area of public procurement, strengthening of cybersecurity and sustainable finance, etc.
Some expected outcomes
However, the projects that could be completed during the semester are not so numerous. “We necessarily remain cautious”, one emphasizes at the Elysee. “On certain texts, we are not completely sure of success, also because the Commission calendar was late, and there is always an instruction time to be respected. But in the coming months, by March, we will have initial results on several files ”, We are assured in the entourage of Emmanuel Macron.
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Paris hopes to succeed on the issue of minimum wages in Europe. The Élysée also expects to reach a consensus on a carbon tax at the borders by the end of March. The same applies to the regulation of the digital sector, to the “DMA” provision aimed at limiting the dominant position of Internet giants, and the “DSA” provision targeting illegal content. The first could be decorrelated from the second if the development work should take too long.