After France took over the EU Presidency at the start of the new year it welcomed the European Commission on 6 – 7 January in Paris for working meetings to prepare legislative deadlines and to agree on key joint priorities for the months to come.
The meetings marked the formal start of the French Presidency. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her college of Commissioners met the French President Emanuel Macron and the Presidents of the French Senate and the National Assembly. The visit allowed for discussions between the members of the French Government and the Commissioners.
In addition to these institutional aspects, tribute was also paid to the founding figures of the European Union when von der Leyen and Macron laid wreaths before the graves of Jean Monnet and Simone Veil at the Panthéon.
The programme of the French EU Presidency, under the motto Recovery, Strength and a Sense of Belonging, has been translated into English and can be found here. The 75-page long document covers all relevant policy areas on the EU agenda but details and commitments have largely been left out.
At their meetings, the French government and the Commission discussed a number of topics such as the environment and fight against climate change, a new budgetary and financial framework, EU industrial and digital policies, trade policy, European defence and relations with Africa, the Western Balkans and the Indo-Pacific region, and European social affairs and public health.
Judging by the joint press conference on Friday, Presidents von der Leyen and Macron seem to see eye to eye about the challenges facing the EU ahead and expressed cautious optimism that they will be overcome.
In her speech at the press conference, von der Leyen referred to both the worrying COVID-19 situation and the considerable tensions at EU’s doorstep, as shown by Russia’s military pressure on Ukraine and its intimidation of Moldova.