First common military budget on schedule as France prepares to take EU presidency

France will take the presidency of the Council of the European Union on Saturday and aims to make progress on many ambitious goals in the six-month term that will coincide with the presidential election.

In a speech about the EU Council presidency this month, French President Emmanuel Macron listed the priorities as defending European sovereignty, managing migration and reforming the border-free Schengen Area, building a new European model, advancing a carbon border tax, building a digital powerhouse and pushing forward with the EU’s relations with Africa.

Taking “recovery, power, belonging” as the motto for the presidency, Macron said, France’s aim is “to move toward a Europe that is powerful in the world, fully sovereign, free in its choices and in charge of its own destiny”.

France’s EU presidency from Jan 1 to June 30, its first in 14 years, will feature hundreds of events, conferences, artistic workshops, debates, films and collective activities all over the country to show not only the EU’s strengths but also its weaknesses and to discuss what its citizens agree on.

The French president said the “EU has been pursuing a sovereignty agenda for the last four years” in economic matters with: Shared debt, ecological matters with carbon neutrality in 2050, defense with the first common military budget and social matters with the revision of the directive on employees posted in other EU countries.

“This agenda for a sovereign Europe will be accelerated with the French presidency,” Macron said.

A sovereign Europe must first of all be able to control its borders, he said, referring to the migration crisis on the borders between Belarus and the EU member states Poland, Latvia and Lithuania in recent months.

Macron said the function of the Schengen Area would be improved and that there would be progress in pursuing European defense, a matter he first proposed in 2017 and strengthened when former US president Donald Trump neglected the EU and threatened to pull the US out of NATO.

Affronted by allies

France was also deeply affronted when the US, the United Kingdom and Australia signed the trilateral AUKUS security pact in September and Australia abandoned its plan to buy French submarines at a cost of $66 billion.

In his speech, Macron also said a new European growth model would be built in which “we have to define our shared vision for Europe in 2030”. He talked about making Europe a major continent for production, innovation and job creation to reduce dependence and to “compete with China and the United States”.