New EU Council President France vows to implement Green deal

At the turn of the year, France took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), after Slovenia. The Council consists of a representative of each Member State at ministerial level and is the co-legislator of the EU along with the European Parliament. While it is the European Commission, the EU executive, that has the power to propose new EU legislation, the co-legislators can in principle amend and adopt such proposals. The Council Presidency alternates between EU Member States every six months. It advances the work of the Council on EU legislation and ensures the continuity of the EU agenda (in cooperation with the European Commission and the Parliament). In practice, the main tasks of the Council Presidency are to plan and chair the approximately 2,000 formal meetings and 150 informal meetings and conferences of the Council and its preparatory bodies during its six months and to represent the Council in its relations with other EU institutions.

In turn, France will be followed by the Czech Republic and Sweden. The three countries form the so-called “trio” of the Council, a system established in 2009. They set long-term goals and agreed on a common program for an 18-month period.

As part of its program entitled “Recovery, strength and feeling of belonging”, the French presidency has three high-level ambitions:

  • A more sovereign Europe (including in terms of security and defense),

  • A new European growth model (in which economic development is aligned with climate goals and which supports innovation and growth of European digital players and sets its own rules for the digital world), and

  • A human Europe (without discrimination).

The presented program is supposed to be in line with the European Commission’s 2022 work program for 2022 (and its annex; please see the sustainability outlook for October 2021).

Regarding sustainability policy, the French Presidency declared that it would continue to “enforce” the European Green Pact, the vast political program on climate, energy and the environment presented by the European Commission in December 2019. The French Presidency will coordinate the works around four main Components:

  • Accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy become climate neutral by 2050;

  • Reinforced measures to preserve biodiversity;

  • Promote a plus circular and durable economy; and

  • Make the transition to a healthier environment.

At decarbonization, the Presidency wishes to continue negotiations on the legislative package “Worthy of the 55”. This can be interpreted as indicating that France is not convinced that it will be able to conclude the negotiations in this vast package of legislative proposals, like Slovenia six months ago. In terms of energy priorities, France declares itself convinced that nuclear power is an essential tool for decarbonizing European industry, achieve emissions reduction targets and strengthen energy sovereignty and independence.

Regarding biodiversity, France wishes to initiate or advance negotiations on regulations on deforestation-free products and on ecosystem recovery, as well as prepare Council conclusions on the EU’s position at the COP15 of the United Nations Convention on biodiversity, as well as other international conventions.

On the circular economy, the Presidency wants to speed up negotiations on the Batteries The regulations, which “have a high level of ambition in terms of reducing the carbon footprint […] and the strategic autonomy of the EU ”. France intends to “continue to examine” the revision of the Waste shipments settlement and start negotiations on the Sustainable products Initiative. It will also monitor the Commission’s strategy for Sustainable textiles, which would support the sector in its recovery. France “will endeavor to defend” a great European ambition within the framework of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5), and wishes to initiate negotiations on a international binding treaty on marine litter and plastic pollution in the framework of).

As part of his work for a healthier environment, France wants to take better account of the fight endocrine disruptors in all EU legislation, start work on revising the regulations on ozone depleting substances and fluorinated greenhouse gases, continue with changes to the regulations on Persistent polluting organisms (POP) and coordinate work under several international chemicals conventions.

An unusual aspect of the next six months will be that France will elect a new President and a National Assembly during his presidency of the Council. The country will hold its presidential election on April 10, most likely followed by a runoff on April 24. The two rounds of the election to the National Assembly will be held on June 12 and 19. The outgoing French president Emmanuel Macron, who has been in power since 2017, leads in recent polls, but with just 26%, among a wide range of presidential candidates. His current prospects for the second round depend somewhat on the other candidate who will proceed: he leads 57% to 43% against Marine Le Pen (National rally), and 53% to 47% against Valerie Pécresse (The Republicans).

© Copyright 2022 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 7

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