Friday

14th Dec 2018

France says it has no preferred EU president candidate

Paris is not officially supporting anybody for the post of EU president, French EU affairs minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet has said, while describing France's ideal candidate for the top job.

"Any choice now would be premature […] We will see when the time comes, and not before the end of the year," Mr Jouyet said during a debate organised by Brussels-based think-tank The Centre on Tuesday (26 February).

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

  • "There is no Mediterranean Union," says Mr Jouyet (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Nonetheless, France would like the person occupying this post to be "a personality who has charisma, experience, and enough drive to energise the work of the European Council," Mr Jouyet underlined.

He stopped short of pointing to specific individuals, however.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who last October first mentioned former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Luxembourg's premier, Jean-Claude Juncker, as possible candidates for president of the European Council – representing member states at EU leader level - is seen as backing Mr Blair for the job.

But his views are not shared by everyone.

"Having [personal] affinities is one thing, having candidacies [for the post] is another," Mr Jouyet said.

For some, it is unacceptable that a national of a country that is not part of core EU projects such as the eurozone and Schengen – the EU's borderless zone – could represent Europe. The UK take part in neither of these areas.

"It is clear that having a solidarity – be it in a monetary framework [with the euro] or in a legal one, with Schengen, " would not be detrimental to any personality willing to preside over the EU, "regardless how strong this personality may be," France's EU minister said without explicitly mentioning Mr Blair.

But Mr Jouyet had already spoken against the former prime minister's candidacy. He was quoted as saying earlier this month that while Mr Blair had indisputable leadership qualities, he does not "meet all the criteria" required for the job.

The post of president of the European Council is set to be a high-profile job, which can be held for up to five years. It is enshrined in the EU's Lisbon treaty, expected to come into force next year.

A Union for the Mediterranean, not a Mediterranean Union

During the one-hour debate, Mr Jouyet also indicated a certain change in France's plans to create a Mediterranean Union.

"There is no Mediterranean Union", the minister said, specifying that one should now speak of a "Union for the Mediterranean" which is a "semantic shift that is not neutral."

The French idea of a Mediterranean Union involving a union of EU and non-EU Mediterranean states, has been particularly criticised in Germany, which fears it will be detrimental to the already existing EU policies in the area.

Earlier this week, a postponement of a Franco-German meeting initially planned for 3 March prompted speculation that disagreement over this specific project was the cause.

Mr Jouyet tried to reassure opponents of the project during Tuesday's debate.

The proposed Union for the Mediterranean is only about "completing and enriching" the already existing policies, as the Mediterranean is an important EU border, he said.

"For my part, I am optimistic that we will find together with our partners, in particular with our German friends, an agreement on the modalities [of the project]," he added.

Anti-semitism 'disturbingly normalised' in Europe

Almost 40 percent of European Jews contemplate leaving their home country because they no longer feel safe, and almost 85 percent say their number one concern in Europe is anti-semitism and racism, according to a new EU survey.

Merkel loyalist AKK wins CDU leadership battle

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, seen as championing similar policies to Angela Merkel, has won the CDU party leadership contest and is thus the frontrunner to become chancellor once Merkel leaves. But a split party will mean challenges.

Analysis

CDU election - Merkel's big gamble or master move?

As the functions of Christian Democratic Union party leader and chancellor have historically always been held by the same person, the next CDU leader could take over Merkel's main job as well.

EU warns tech giants on Russian fake news

Social media platforms are told to tackle fake accounts and the spread of fake news more effectively before the European elections next May - or face regulation.

Soros' university forced out of Budapest, despite EU pledges

The American university is forced to move to Vienna, as EU institutions fail to curb Hungarian nationalist premier, Viktor Orban's push against academic freedom. "It is a dark day for Europe and a dark day for Hungary," the rector said.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. EU leaders stuck on asylum reform
  2. Orban and other PMs spread fake news, says Juncker
  3. Fishing quota and no-deal Brexit preparation This WEEK
  4. Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say
  5. EU needs election-meddling stress tests
  6. Russian and US obstruction was 'insult' to climate scientists
  7. EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit
  8. Rutte: New EU sanctions are informal 'Magnitsky law'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us