France will be holding the rotating six-month European Council presidency in the first half of 2022 and president Emmanuel Macron announced the priorities for the block during its tenure: rethinking the EU budget, dialogue with Russia and Vladimir Putin, and the ongoing dispute with the post-Brexit British government.
Macron pointed out that his project can be defined as Recovery, power, belonging, and a strong, fully sovereign, and united Europe. France aims to move towards a Europe that is powerful in the world, free in making its choices and in charge of its own destiny.
The French president started by saying that he would not be following on the footsteps of US, UK, Canada and Australia in their diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, scheduled for February 2022.
On the budget Macron said it was possible the bloc would need to go beyond the initial €750-billion coronavirus recovery package and anticipated an extraordinary summit of the bloc's 27 member state leaders in Paris, on March 10 and 11, (a month before presidential election in France) to help define a new growth model for Europe.
Macron also said the new budget rules must help boost investments in the digital sector. For that we must start building a budgetary and financial framework that is credible, simplified and transparent, he said. Likewise, whether budget stimulus is enough, and if certain national investments can be allowed to go beyond the bloc's allowance.
However there was some bashing for the British government over fisheries, migration and security policy because the British government cannot be trusted.
The problem with the British government is that it does not do what it says, Macron said, albeit swiftly adding how much he loved Britain and its people. But I have an overwhelming desire to have a British government that wants to work with us in good faith.
Referring to UK's role in arranging the sale of US-designed nuclear submarines to Australia at the expense of French traditional units, Macron said this was not the most obvious sign of friendship, before adding that his formulation was an understatement.
Macron also said he planned to hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin online as he seeks reassurances over the Kremlin's intentions in Ukraine. He would be speaking next week with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Tensions between the EU and Russia have escalated in recent months amid reports of Russia amassing troops near its border to Ukraine. This is further compounded by Moscow's close relationship with Minsk, and Brussels accusing Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of masterminding a migration flooding aimed at weakening the EU block.
Finally, several countries have said they will not be sending officials to the event in the Chinese capital, but Macron said he was in favor of action that has a useful outcome. To be clear: You either have a complete boycott, and not send athletes, or you try to change things with useful constructive actions.