As French President Emmanuel Macron spelled out, the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union focused on recovery, strength and a sense of belonging. It embodied Europe’s key priorities: cooperation, sovereignty and strength to speed up the green and digital transitions by 2030 and stimulate economic recovery
It was on 1st January 2022 that France took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union with three main themes in its focus: Europe’s sovereignty; climate, social and digital transition; and Europe for 2030: investment, values, youth, culture, health.
French President Emmanuel Macron explained the focus of the Presidency with three words: ‘recovery, strength, belonging’, in an effort to embody Europe’s key priorities: cooperation, sovereignty and strength to speed up the green and digital transitions by 2030 and stimulate economic recovery.
France also focused on emphasising the need for Europe’s technological sovereignty and the relocation of its flagship industries in Europe, such as in the fields of hydrogen production, batteries, semiconductors, outer space, cloud infrastructure technologies, defence and healthcare.
However, a more sovereign Europe also means completing the green and digital transitions, building a more social Europe on the basis of the principle of “equal pay for equal work in the same workplace”, European defence integration through the first joint military budget and the European Intervention Initiative and strengthening the European economy.
These goals were formed on the basis of the wishes of European citizens who, according to President Macron, wish for the EU to take more action and work on economic issues, ecological matters and defence integration. The French agenda was based on President Macron’s 2017 Sorbonne speech.
The Presidency aimed to provide the final version of the Platform Work Directive, i.e., the economic regulating and accountability of work platforms, as well as the establishment of carbon pricing for imported products at EU borders. This is an issue of economic and ecological efficiency and establishing European legislation on minimum wages.
Furthermore, the French Presidency aimed to complete the groundwork for far-reaching changes, such as devising a new growth and investment model for the European Union and the euro area; protecting European values by fortifying democratic values and tools, and expanding the Erasmus programme; introducing intellectual debates bringing together some 100 academics from 27 countries in all subjects of concern to the future of Europe and placing a greater focus on health.
The new European growth model focuses on making Europe a land of production, job creation, innovation and technological excellence
When it comes to the Sovereign Europe gaol, this implies strengthening the Schengen area, protecting European borders, controlling migration and improving the asylum policy in line with Europe’s values and the EU’s international commitments; building a stronger Europe that has an improved capability to take action in the fields of security and defence; taking action for the prosperity and stability of its neighbours, particularly through its engagement in the Western Balkans and its renewed relationship with Africa; and by bringing forth solutions to global challenges.
The new European growth model focuses on making Europe a land of production, job creation, innovation and technological excellence, where economic development is aligned with climate goals, supports innovation and the growth of European digital players and sets its own rules for the digital world. Furthermore, it has to offer highquality, high‑skilled and better-paying jobs.
This Europe also has to be more humane and more eager to listen to the concerns expressed by its citizens through the Conference on the Future of Europe; able to defend the rule of law and uphold its values; and take pride in its culture, science and knowledge.
These priorities represent a continuation of the achievements of the preceding Slovenian Presidency and are aligned with the broader programme of the trio of presidencies codeveloped with the upcoming Czech and Swedish presidencies.
When it comes to achievements, the French successfully concluded negotiations with the European Parliament on the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the International Procurement Instrument (IPI), but no agreement was reached among the governments of member states on the directive to implement the global corporate minimum tax in the EU, which the French presidency has hoped for.
In a success for the French Presidency, negotiators from the EU Parliament, member state governments and the EU Commission agreed on the minimum wage directive, defining a framework for adequate statutory minimum wages where they exist and pushing member states to strengthen collective bargaining.
The final text of the directive on adequate minimum wages states that statutory minimum wages could be considered sufficient provided they are set at a level of at least 60% of a country’s median salary or 50% of the average.
Furthermore, the French Presidency saw the groundwork completed for the ‘Health Union’, with the joint declaration known as the ‘Grenoble Declaration’. It sets a proposal for a European public health strategy focused on turning Europe into the leading continent in terms of “purchasing, producing and donating vaccines”.
France also proposed several changes to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act, to ensure its better alignment with the new legislative framework – the EU’s legislation regulating market surveillance and conformity assessment procedures. The changes also relate to the designation of competent authorities and the high-risk AI database. The final text is still being debated.
The French Presidency also pushed for a faster agreement on the regulating of batteries. The batteries regulation aims to regulate the entire life cycle of batteries and promote the implementation of a circular economy.
The presidency presented a progress report in mid-June on the state of play regarding the proposed directive on improving working conditions in platform work. The goal of the proposed law is for people working through digital working platforms to be granted a legal employment status that corresponds to their actual work arrangements – and thus enjoy the labour rights and social benefits to which they are entitled.
All activities undertaken during the 2022 French Presidency can be found at www.presidence-francaise.consilium.europa.eu/en/