Will the European presidency help Macron secure a second term?
The French president, whose leadership will be challenged in April, may seek reforms as he guides the EU. With months to go until its presidential election, France took on the rotating presidency of the European Council on January 1.
French President Emmanuel Macron will shape the priorities of the European Union and drive its legislative agenda for the next six months.
He has not yet announced his candidacy for the April election at home, but it is widely expected that he soon will.
Known as a headstrong leader who regularly clashes with far-right Eurosceptics, the 44-year-old likely hopes his temporary title within the bloc will boost his campaign and secure him a second term in office.
A new momentum for EU reforms
There is a saying in the EU that nothing can be done without France and Germany – the bloc’s two biggest economies – being on the same page.
For the first four years of his term, Macron sometimes expressed his “frustration” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s lack of ambition for the European project.
But “Frau Nein” (“Mrs No”) – a nickname earned by Merkel during the European debt crisis of 2010-2015 that nearly led to Greece exiting the eurozone – retired in December last year. A new coalition, made of the Social democrats, the Greens and the Liberals, came to power in Berlin with a renewed vision for the continent.
“We may be at the beginning of a turning point in the EU’s history. The words ‘treaty changes’ are no longer taboo in Germany and other capital cities,” said Crespy.
In a recent op-ed, Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi pleaded for a reform of the EU fiscal rules to “have more room for manoeuvre and enough key spending for the future and to ensure our sovereignty”.
Draghi’s words matter; he is regarded as the man who “saved the euro” back in 2012 when he headed the European Central bank.
- “The planets are aligned,” Claude-France Arnould, a former French ambassador to Belgium and now senior adviser at the French Institute of International Relations, told Al Jazeera.
“This is very positive because there is a need to push the EU forward in key areas, such as the green and digital transitions, migration, common defence.”
Boosting European defence
In 2019, Macron declared NATO was “experiencing a brain death”.
At the time, the line sparked outrage in many countries around Europe that rely on NATO and the US’s military might for defence.
- But, in a world reshaped by the competition between China and the United States, “more and more leaders in Europe increasingly believe the EU must no longer be dependent”, said Arnould, who also headed the European Defence Agency between 2011 and 2015.
“France has championed the idea of an autonomous European defence for years, consistent with Macron’s idea of a ‘European sovereignty’. But it now goes well beyond that. Green techs, health, space, digital … European leaders know the EU needs to more ‘sovereign’.”
> Read the article on AL Jazeera website