Week ahead: Les jeux sont faits
The Presidency, while governed principally by the already bulging agenda of the EU, can be an opportunity for the incumbent to put the foot on the pedal for certain dossiers. The EU is a constant negotiation and any presidency has to pick its fights, Macron is ambitious and a fighter so expect plenty of them.
Macron received some criticism for taking on the Presidency (the order can be reshuffled) when he will also be fighting a presidential election. While he hasn’t yet formally announced his nomination, it is thought that he will use the additional presidential role to highlight what France can achieve as a (or maybe even ‘the’) leading light of the European Union. In an otherwise euro-skeptical to euro-cynical field, this sets him aside from the other runners. The highly ceremonial visit to the Panthéon to honour and mark the role of Jean Monnet and former-European Parliament president Simone Veil, underlined how the EU is part of the French ‘patrimoine’ and as much a part of its identity as the Arc de Triomphe.
There is a long list of priorities, including getting the Digital Market and Digital Services Act over the line, agreeing to a minimum corporate tax, as well as minimum wage rules, a new security architecture for Europe and a large EU-Africa summit. This is a list that addresses some of the French population’s concerns about the European Union as a project that advances corporate interests with little heed to the struggling worker or smaller business, but which also embraces the need to tackle the challenges of the future head on. With the incorporation of nuclear energy in the taxonomy for green investment, Macron can already notch up one important victory.Advertisement
‘Events dear boy, events’
What can go wrong? Over quoted, I know, but when former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked about the challenges for his administration by a journalist he is said to have replied : ‘Events, dear boy, events’.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called an extraordinary meeting on Friday to discuss the extensive build-up of Russian troops at Ukraine’s borders, threatening an imminent invasion. NATO and the EU have promised to respond with prohibitive sanctions should Russia take any further action. The situation has been further complicated by turbulence in Kazakhstan with a request from President Tokayev for the assistance of Russia through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to restore stability. The CSTO is a collective security organisation that considers itself similar to NATO, but among the obvious differences, NATO has never been called in to protect one of its members from domestic protests.Advertisement
All eyes will be on US-Russia discussions in Geneva today. Russia comes to the table with a long list of what are unacceptable demands. The US is keeping its cards close to its chest, but a spokesperson last week said: “There will be no firm commitment made in these talks, which will be serious and concrete, but exploratory in nature. Everything discussed will need to both come back to Washington for consideration and also to be taken up with partners and allies later in the week.”
EU defence and foreign affairs ministers will meet informally in Brest, in France, later in the week to discuss developments.
Up, up and away
Europe’s inflation reached a new high of 5% last month. As a new President of the Bundesbank takes up office there will be increasing concern about whether it will remain something that is likely to ease in the coming months. as supply chains adapt and energy prices — hopefully — ease. Recently, Isabel Schnabel Executive Board of the European Central Bank acknowledged that there are significant upside risks presented by the green transition: “The combination of insufficient production capacity of renewable energies in the short run, subdued investments in fossil fuels and rising carbon prices means that we risk facing a possibly protracted transition period during which the energy bill will be rising.”
The European Parliament returns to work, for a busy pre-plenary set of committee and political groups’ meetings in Brussels. Decisions will be made about the Parliament’s future presidency with the accolade expected to go to Maltese EPP MEP, Roberta Metsola.