Ever since the beginning of this year, the European Union has been everywhere. In the media, the subject keeps making headlines. But why? France is indeed becoming President of the EU Council until June 2022 – but this is not the first time. So why all the fuss?
The Euronews channel (a 24-hour news channel, partly financed by the European Union) proposes to take a closer look at what makes (or does not make) this French Presidency special. A political scientist and a historian complete the explanation to help you see things more clearly.
Need help understanding what the EU Council Presidency means? Click here.
First of all, the obvious: the European Presidency must be put into perspective with current French politics. 2022 is a presidential election year. However, in the history of the EU, the combination of a presidential election and a presidency of the EU Council is far from being unheard of. In France, moreover, the situation arose in 1995, when François Mitterand lost the election to Jacques Chirac and therefore handed over the files of the current Presidency of the EU Council.
This was the same case study then, but with a notable difference: although Mitterand and Chirac were not from the same party, they shared a certain continuity in their European policy. In contrast, the 2022 election pits candidates with very different views on Europe against each other (notably Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour).
Another difference is the current context: the Covid crisis is shaking the whole world and is a priority (and a time-consuming one) for the heads of state. Will Macron have time to deal with the issues, then? To put a similar situation into perspective, the video goes back to 2008, during another French Presidency of the EU Council. Nicolas Sarkozy had to deal with tensions with Russia and a huge stock market crisis. The planned agenda for Europe was turned upside down by the management of these crises.
Above all, the timing of this Presidency is significant: it comes directly after the end of the “Merkel era“. The true face of the EU for more than 15 years, she had embodied a Europe that was tightening its belt, rather strict financially. With Angela Merkel out of the political picture, Macron could reorient fiscal policies, which are totally different in a post-Covid world.