Tuesday

21st May 2019

Chirac draws up wishlist of concrete EU projects

French president Chirac is drawing up a wish-list for new EU action in concrete policy areas under the union’s existing treaties, while urging less EU interference in some tax matters.

British papers write that French officials close to Mr Chirac over the weekend unveiled concrete elements of the French leader’s idea of a "Europe of projects", mooted earlier this year in more general terms.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

According to the French president, the EU should regain the confidence of its citizens by embarking on a series of high-profile practical measures, possible to adopt without the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters last year.

Of these measures, Mr Chirac will pick "four or five" to present to EU leaders at summits in March and June, according to the Telegraph.

The proposals include an EU disaster relief force which should offer humanitarian emergency relief without relying on US logistics, a doubling of funds for the EU's Erasmus university scholarship programme, a European civil service corps for youngsters and an EU border guard force.

More controversial is a plan to introduce lessons on the EU and European values at high schools across the union.

Boosted Solana role

Mr Chirac's idea of a "Europe of projects" appears to be in line with a broader shift in EU leaders' thinking away from constitutional designs towards concrete political action, as it emerged at a recent conference on the future of Europe staged by the Austrian presidency in Salzburg.

But the French president's plans are not entirely neutral from an institutional point of view, as Mr Chirac also favours a stronger role for Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, who would be asked to effectively operate as the union’s foreign minister.

Also, Paris wishes to see some EU competences repatriated to the national level, notably in the area of taxation.

French diplomats earlier used the argument of "subsidiarity" – the idea that the EU should only interfere where absolutely necessary – to complain about the EU's refusal to allow lower VAT rates on French restaurant meals.

Mr Chirac is now set to plea for renewed national sovereignty over some EU tax matters, including VAT issues not affecting other member states, following last month's blockade by Germany of his election promise to slash restaurant bills.

Chirac and Sarkozy

Mr Chirac's initiative comes after a speech on the EU’s future earlier this month by his main political rival, French interior minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr Sarkozy favours a more institutional approach, proposing a three-stage plan for a better-functioning union.

According to Mr Sarkozy, the EU could implement a number of proposals in the constitution enjoying a "large consensus," such as the new system of voting weights, a limitation of the national veto, creation of an EU foreign minister and increased checks against overregulation by national parliaments.

Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reports that Mr Sarkozy's advisor, Francois Fillon, announced that France also wants to start a debate on the final borders of Europe at the upcoming EU leaders’ summit in June.

"French people don't like it, that the EU has not defined how far it wants to stretch. In our opinion, the borders of Europe will appear after the accession of Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia," the French senator said.

"Further enlargement would require some kind of justification, which I don't see," he added.

The Sarkozy ally also said a re-introduction of the entire EU constitution was out of the question.

"If we came out today with a new EU constitution project, the French would see it as disrespectful toward their decision. So the strategy is, during the presidential election campaign to clear up a few internal French disputes, which are linked with Europe."

Analysis

Sibiu: EU leaders prepare post-Brexit show of unity

With the European elections just three weeks away, the EU-27 will try to set the agenda for the next years for the EU institutions. But with persisting divisions on key issues, unity will be an achievement in itself.

Exclusive

Ombudsman backs EUobserver on MEP expenses

The European Parliament should have granted access to documents on a decision about how transparent MEPs should be in future with their office expenses, says EU Ombudsman.

EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

EU institutions want Facebook to relax its rules, to allow pan-European political groups to carry out EU-wide campaigns. Facebook has yet to implement the demands - posing questions on the extent to which Europe relies on the US tech firm.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden Democrat MEP ousted for revealing sex harassment
  2. 80% of Erasmus students find job within three months
  3. September elections in Austria after Strache scandal
  4. Swiss voters approve tighter gun controls in line with EU
  5. Report: May's fourth Brexit vote a 'retread' of old ideas
  6. Turkey insists on right to drill for oil off Cyprus coast
  7. Anti-Salvini banners become new trend in Italy
  8. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us