EU adopts five-year strategic agenda
European Union – Press conference given by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, at the European Council (excerpts)
Brussels, 21 June 2019
We’ve just brought to a close a European Council and a Euro Summit which were important first for the fundamental issues they included. I’m aware that these aren’t necessarily the most talked-about issues, but I nevertheless want to repeat them here, at any rate to stress a few points.
Yesterday we adopted, less than a month after the European elections, a five-year strategic agenda which in my view contains the most fundamental policies. The next few weeks and months will be decisive, and I for one still think that once the new team – if I may refer to Europe like that – is appointed, it will be essential to have a strategic discussion based on this document so that we can genuinely establish our priorities for the next five years.
I’m obviously thinking about the climate priority, which was reaffirmed in the document. I’ll also come back to this in the light of our discussions yesterday, and it remains extremely important. Secondly, on European defence and border protection – i.e. everything which protects Europe and ensures its sovereignty –, the priorities were reaffirmed in this strategic document for the next five years because we’ve got some absolutely key decisions to take. As regards social rights, headway has been made here too, and I championed the idea that in the next five years we’ve got to build a new economic and social model for our Europe, which has to include competitiveness and an ability to invest in our priorities, and at the same time build social convergence, which we’ve sometimes forgotten about. This is why during the European campaign we championed the idea of having a minimum wage in every country. We have a social agenda which must regain its importance, as this document recognizes. And finally, defending the rule of law, which incidentally is obviously a battle largely being fought by the current Commission, but it’s one where we must be more effective and about which no one must have any doubts in their minds or in the approaches they take.
I must say, there was strong consensus on this strategic document. Of decisive importance now will be the next few stages, and our ability to set three or four clear, concrete objectives for the Commission, the Council and the Parliament, which will be in place in the coming months. (…)
As I said, an absolute priority of this road map must be the climate ambition, and this is the very concrete message our young people have been promoting throughout Europe for months. It’s also the message our fellow citizens put across to us during the European elections. It’s the message our scientists all over the world have been promoting for several years. And I think the commitment we’ve got to make and go on making and implement is, in this respect, of key importance. Yesterday’s meeting secured not unanimity but a key step forward on this. Indeed in March, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France – so, four of us – championed carbon neutrality by 2050, which is part of the agenda – let me repeat – of the Paris Agreement, and this is what we must move towards, what we’ve committed to doing. There were four of us. In Sibiu, in May, we managed to start building a coalition of eight member states and yesterday we noted that 24 member states subscribed to this goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. This is what the text of our conclusions reflects. I would have preferred unanimity, but we didn’t want to sacrifice this ambition for 2050 by watering down our goals so everyone would agree.
I think we’ve got to continue this battle – the past few months show that there’s been genuine progress and momentum, and we’ll continue it at European level by completing this work and also taking the decisions we need to take as regards the price of CO2 and border taxes. This will be part of the discussions in the coming months. But it’s also what we’ll be fighting for at the G20 – where obviously the climate ambition will be discussed –, this summer in Biarritz at the G7, for which France holds the presidency and where several initiatives will be taken, and at the United Nations, since the United Nations Secretary-General has made the climate his priority and organized a summit for the climate in September, for which, as you know, France and Jamaica have been tasked among other things with financial matters. (…)
Yesterday’s discussions also provided an opportunity to discuss external relations. I’ll probably come back to several aspects in the questions, but I also wanted here to restate the commitment reiterated by the whole Council in support of and in solidarity with Cyprus following the Turkish incursions into the exclusive economic zone and the fact that our language was clear on the issue, to ensure that no ambiguity is allowed. Indeed, I want to reiterate this full support here to our Cypriot friends.
Euro Area budget
This morning we talked about strengthening the Euro Area, in the presence of Mario Draghi and Mario Centeno, President of the Eurogroup. Following the Franco-German agreement in Meseberg, which I remind you was in June 2018, we reached an agreement of the 27 in December 2018 to strengthen our rescue mechanisms in the event of a crisis and create a Euro Area budget to encourage convergence between our economies. And so this morning’s summit took stock of our finance ministers’ work. An overall agreement to set this in motion was reached last week by our ministers, and we supported it this morning. But I’m going to be very clear here: it’s good progress, it’s in line with our demands, and in my opinion it’s progress that forms a package. There’s the progress made on the European Stability Mechanism, in particular simplifying these mechanisms in the event of a crisis, and there’s the progress made on the Euro Area budget, with this goal of convergence and competitiveness. It’s a package, and the one can’t work without the other.
However, last week’s agreement was a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough because it didn’t reflect several issues that are clearly essential in order to make such a budget work: the governance issue and the funding issue. It’s clear we must be able to call upon additional funding in this budget, and it’s clear we need a 19-strong governance if we want this to be a Euro Area budget, and so I asked once again this morning for work to continue in order for these issues to be clarified. Indeed, we need a sufficiently large, credible budget that meets its ambitions and has its own governance so that it’s not confused with a budget line of the 28. I also recalled that there had been no consensus last December on setting this budget a goal of stabilization, which was endorsed between France and Germany, because several of our colleagues didn’t agree with that. I personally believe we mustn’t lose this goal of stability, stabilization. Why? Because convergence is one thing we reaffirmed, it’s one of the goals of this budget, but stabilization is essential: if we want the Euro Area to work properly, every theory shows that when you share the same currency you must have the instruments enabling you to respond to asymmetric shocks and must therefore have a stabilization mechanism. In fact this function of a budget is currently fulfilled by the ESM, the European Stability Mechanism, which I was recalling earlier and which we’ve modified, but we can see this mechanism isn’t complete. And so we’ll also have to continue this stabilization function, and that’s why today’s text commanded consensus. It’s a step in the right direction, it enables us to move forward in line with our December conclusions, but for me it’s only a stage, and both the new Commission and the next five years must be an opportunity for us to promote these ambitions, take them much further, carry through the stabilization function, obviously endorse the reform of the European mechanism, but [also] build a genuine budget with its own governance and sufficient funding.
Selection of EU leaders
Finally, during yesterday’s dinner and in many separate conversations, we quite obviously discussed the issue of European appointments and therefore the women and men who will have to carry the project forward with the heads of state and government in the coming years. We didn’t finish that work yesterday evening, as you know, but we made progress by clarifying the situation and setting ourselves rules. What emerges from the discussions of yesterday evening, or rather yesterday? First of all, it was clear yesterday morning that there was no majority in the European Parliament for the candidate of the party that came out in the lead. This was mentioned in the discussions made public by the heads of groups, even before our meetings began.
Secondly, President Tusk clearly established when our discussion began that there was no clear majority and therefore that there were, at least, blocking minorities – or even more – against all the candidates emerging from the Spitzenkandidaten system. In other words, that system wasn’t deemed valid, because – I repeat, and I’ve constantly repeated – in order to be Commission president you need a double majority: a majority in the Council, which proposes, and a majority in the Parliament, which accepts, and none of the three candidates emerging from this procedure – created five years ago, in fact – emerged as commanding consensus. On that basis, we made sure it was impossible for those three candidates to hold the Commission presidency in particular, and we decided to relaunch a procedure that will be led by Donald Tusk, consisting in other names emerging and balances being struck between the heads of state and government around the table so that the approaches emerging from our European elections can bring out in particular the four main names, or rather the three for whom the Council has a special role in the coming week. This procedure, which will therefore be the subject of consultations throughout the week by President Tusk, will be combined with consultations between the political families in the Parliament, in accordance, incidentally, with the spirit and letter of our treaties, in order to achieve a result. This means that we’re freed of obligatory names, but that the choice will be made as part of this consultation, reflecting the political approaches emerging from the elections.
The other important point emerging from our discussion yesterday is the commitment by all the heads of state and government for us to complete this work on 30 June. It’s about credibility first of all, one month after the European elections; it’s about the proper functioning of the institutions, because it means making a commitment to do so before the first session of the European Parliament and therefore having a Parliament that meets in full transparency about the decisions made by the Council on what it’s responsible for.
I personally want us to respect several criteria in this process which have been reiterated and are also subject to shared commitments. The first, as I’ve just said, is a swift decision, for us to stick to the 30 June target, and I don’t believe for a single second that procrastinating will help find a solution. We’ve shown in the past that whenever we’ve tried, that method has been unproductive. The second is for us to move towards choosing balance in the four posts: balance on the one hand between women and men – I personally won’t support a solution that isn’t balanced on that issue – and geographical balance too: we must respect all Europe’s geographical components, and it’s clear that the eastern and southern countries in particular must be represented, or at any rate reflected in this overall balance. And the third criterion is a requirement for competence at the highest level, and experience in order to carry the project forward, embodying it in a world where Europe must make its voice heard loud and clear.
I’ve said repeatedly I’m not fighting for one nationality. I’ve been asked the question several times. Clearly, when you’re a head of state or government, you always try and ensure that balances are stuck to, that you’re not marginalized and that someone else isn’t over-represented, because that means Europe is moving forward in the wrong way. Our European Union isn’t a matter of hegemony, but I think the criteria we must all pursue are those of competence and quality, because too often in the past we’ve reached compromises in favour of figures who perhaps didn’t promote the project in the strongest way, and so I’m in favour of us having the best people around the table. At the beginning of July we’ll have this strategic agenda, a Europe team, and in this way we’ll be able to set in motion a new stage in the European project which, in my view, is absolutely essential. (…)./.