French President Macron outlined to MEPs on Wednesday the main goals and the political strategy for France’s semester steering the EU.
In a debate in the Strasbourg hemicycle, President Macron explained that the promises on which the EU was founded -democracy, progress and peace- are now under threat, and called for a commitment “to give them new life”. He warned that the end of the rule of law is the beginning of authoritarianism and stressed that the EU needs to use dialogue to win back those that are “drifting away” from democratic principles.
He assured MEPs that the French Presidency will prioritise legislative files that improve the quality of employment, ensure decent salaries, reduce the gender wage gap, give rights to platform workers, fight discrimination and guarantee gender balance on company boards. He also proposed to include the right to abortion in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. President Macron also referred to the climate, digital and security challenges, areas in which draft laws should be advanced during this semester.
In the field of defence, President Macron stressed that Europe must be able to anticipate risks and guarantee its own safety. He underlined that we have to stand firm in the face of interference and attempts to destabilise Europe, in particular from Russia, and effectively punish those who violate international rules.
“Europe should become a cultural, democratic and educational power (…) we have the strength and the means”, he concluded.
On behalf of the Commission, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič pointed to the fact that European security is being challenged: “We are ready to take action if necessary”. He cited the strategic partnership with Africa, relations with Western Balkan countries as well as Europe’s economic and technological sovereignty (“we’re bringing technology back to Europe”) as priorities for the coming months. With regard to the United Kingdom, he said that the Commission will show good will, but that Europe needs a partner who does the same.
In their reactions to President Macron’s speech, group leaders largely welcomed the French priorities but added further deliverables, including ending unanimous votes in Council in the field of foreign affairs to be able to respond firmly to, among others, Russian President “Putin’s behaviour”, tackling the imbalance between men’s and women’s salaries, and reviewing the Fiscal Pact. Several speakers demanded progress on rule of law issues concerning Hungary and Poland, and criticised French Government support to the inclusion of nuclear power in the new green taxonomy proposals.
You can catch up with the debate here.
You can also watch the individual interventions clicking on the names: