Thursday

17th Aug 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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."

Europeans more optimistic about EU since Brexit vote

Perceptions of the EU have increased significantly in France, and Europeans generally feel more optimistic about the future of the bloc since last autumn - despite Brexit and a surge in populism.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

Opinion

Setting course for strong and focused EU

From strengthening the internal market to completing the energy union, the prime ministers of Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland set out their vision for the EU.

Europeans more optimistic about EU since Brexit vote

Perceptions of the EU have increased significantly in France, and Europeans generally feel more optimistic about the future of the bloc since last autumn - despite Brexit and a surge in populism.

News in Brief

  1. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  2. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  3. Russian power most feared in Europe
  4. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  5. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  6. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns
  7. Danish police to investigate misuse of EU fishing rules
  8. German constitutional court questions ECB's €2tn spending

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides