Sovereignty was central to French EU presidency, says PM

Council of Ministers – Results of the French EU presidency – Statement

Paris, 7 July 2022

The Prime Minister made a statement on the results of the French presidency of the European Union.

The French presidency of the Council of the European Union has come to an end. The Europe of June is no longer that of January 2022; a new European era has begun.

Faced with the return of war to our continent, the EU chose to act in proportion to its power, its interests and its values. It welcomed millions of displaced people who benefit from temporary protection on our territory, i.e. immediate access to employment, education and social welfare. It became a major provider of humanitarian aid (€335 million), military aid (€2 billion) and economic aid (€2 billion, which could be accompanied by an additional €9 billion) to Ukraine, and it will lend support for its reconstruction. In the space of a few weeks it imposed six sanctions packages targeting the Russian and Belarusian regimes and war economies. It gave itself the means to help gather evidence of crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine in order to combat impunity. Finally, on 23 June, all the European leaders decided to grant Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova the status of candidates for European Union membership. The French presidency played its full role in this historic effort.

Alongside these immediate measures, at the Versailles summit of 10 and 11 March, in a huge collective effort to reduce our dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, the European Union pledged to diversify our supplies in critical sectors (raw materials, food, digital technology, health) and ensure sufficient gas stockpiles, as well as swiftly strengthen our defence capabilities and put an end to decades of under-investment in European industry in this area.

The European Council of 23 and 24 June endorsed France’s proposal to create a European Political Community. Its first meeting will be held this year, under the Czech presidency, with a view to strengthening Europeans’ cohesion as of now. The Community will bolster political, economic, cultural and security ties across our continent with those European States that share a bedrock of democratic values with us.

In that context, we did not slacken our efforts to act on other future challenges. The war only confirmed the urgent nature of the priorities we had set out. We achieved the expected results despite the geopolitical situation, thus reinforcing the EU’s pioneering role in three major areas:

- the fight against global warming, and protecting the planet: the Member States reached an agreement on the 13 pieces of legislation enabling us to achieve our goal of reducing our emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 [levels]. Those rules will enable us to introduce a European carbon border tax so that we no longer face competition from less stringent countries, extend the carbon market to sectors that were not affected, end the sale of new petrol- or diesel-powered internal-combustion vehicles in Europe by 2035, and create a Social Climate Fund of €59 billion to support households and small businesses. Never has such an ambitious package been adopted so quickly by the Council of the European Union, and alongside the Czech presidency we shall be keen to ensure the negotiations with the European Parliament are concluded successfully. Finally, the agreement reached on the fight against imported deforestation will enable us to prevent products causing forest degradation from entering the European market. Concrete progress was also achieved on the publication of sustainability information by companies.

- regulation of the digital giants, through the adoption of two major European acts on markets and digital services, to force the major digital players to respect competition and remove illegal products, hateful and racist speech, and bullying content. The resilience of our information networks and systems was also the focus of enhanced legislation. The texts will enable us to restore the equity – what is banned offline must not be allowed online – and the safety essential to the functioning of our democracies, which for too long have been weakened by the law of the digital jungle and its exploitation by our enemies around the world;

- the promotion of social rights, with the guarantee of a minimum wage for all European workers, to end the race to the bottom and enable everyone to live more decently off their salary. It is an essential stage. With regard to gender equality, we succeeded, after 10 years of deadlock, in setting the goal of 40% representation of women on listed companies’ boards of directors by 2026.

In other areas where the European Union must assert itself still more, we achieved significant progress:

- with regard to sovereignty on our borders, on the one hand through a reform of how the Schengen Area functions in order to protect people better in the face of crises, govern this common space more effectively at political level, and control entries at our borders more effectively, while maintaining free movement in our common space; and on the other hand, through the progress made on the Pact on Migration and Asylum in order to increase solidarity with countries of first entry, step up cooperation projects with countries of origin and transit, and handle arrivals at our borders and secondary movements more effectively.

- on security and defence, with the adoption in March of the Strategic Compass, Europe’s first security and defence “white paper”, which sets a road map for the next 10 years, with a strategic vision but also concrete actions in terms of operations, resilience, defence investment, and partnerships;

- on economic sovereignty, with instruments for guaranteeing reciprocity with non-EU States in the opening of our procurement contracts and preventing unfair subsidies to foreign companies. Several of our European policies were strengthened during the French presidency, with renewed ambitions and concrete results, particularly in the areas of industry, space, consumer protection and the financing of our economies;

- on links with the regions our future depends on: Africa, with which we renewed our partnership at the European Union-African Union summit, on the basis of an economic and financial New Deal, an agenda on education, health and the climate, the development of plant proteins, and a security partnership; the Indo-Pacific, with the holding of the very first Indo-Pacific Forum, which provided an opportunity to collectively assert our desire to commit long-term to that region, which is essential to our interests, and identify concrete actions in the fields of security, the environment, connectivity and digital technology; the Western Balkans, whose prospect of a future in Europe was reaffirmed and must be more practically embodied throughout the path to accession; and finally, the transatlantic relationship, which was strengthened in the Ukraine crisis through coordination between the European Union and the United States.

Finally, the war emphasized the issue of belonging, which forms the basis of the European project and motivates accession countries as well as those wanting to oppose our model, including through violence, as we are seeing from Russia in Ukraine. This model is not imposed from above; it is based on three elements, which the French presidency highlighted: defending the rule of law in Europe, promoting justice and the fight against hatred and discrimination, and spreading culture and ideas (deployment of micro-folies (1) in all countries wishing to be involved). With the Conference on the Future of Europe, initiated in 2019, hundreds of thousands of citizens across the continent were able to sketch out the face of Europe for the coming decades: a powerful, bold Europe which protects and takes on its role in terms of the environment and defends its values, a more effective Europe too, which gives citizens their full part to play. We must now ensure that the results of the conference are stringently followed up, which will give way to a feedback-up event in autumn 2022.

The French presidency of the Council of the European Union wanted to set a clear course: sovereignty in everything – economically, militarily and in terms of energy. Europe must give itself the means to act, because people expect it and the circumstances demand it. In this, we were true to our chosen motto: recovery to deal with the ecological and digital transitions, strength to defend our values and our interests, and the sense of belonging which forms the foundation of the European project and its future./.

(1) “Digital museums” providing free online access through screens, tablets and virtual headsets to works of art in French cultural institutions.

Published on 12/07/2022

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