France aims for ‘a true ecological sovereignty for Europe’ at informal EU talks

The three days of meetings will focus on the decarbonisation of the economy and society, the protection of biodiversity, the fight against chemical pollution and the development of the circular economy. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

Paris, which currently holds the six-month EU Council presidency, has highlighted the objective of achieving greater EU sovereignty on energy and environment as EU ministers dealing with these issues embark on a three-day informal meeting in Amiens. EURACTIV France reports.

France aims to establish “a true ecological sovereignty for Europe,” in line with the concept of strategic autonomy desired by President Emmanuel Macron, according to the office of Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili.

Paris intends to follow up on the efforts already launched by the European Commission in this area, notably in the supply of raw materials, the production of decarbonised energy and the development of green technologies.

The three days of meetings, which will take place in Amiens on 20-22 January as part of the French EU Council presidency, will focus on the decarbonisation of the economy and society, the protection of biodiversity, the fight against chemical pollution and the development of the circular economy.

Several working sessions will focus on the agro-ecological transition, notably the coherence and EU harmonisation with regards to plant protection products. Also on the table will be measure to combat imported deforestation, the role of the forest and wood in environmental, energy and climate policy, as well as the price of energy for EU consumers and energy efficiency.

A series of lunch meetings on chemicals, the just transition, and hydrogen in Europe will also be held.

Macron presents France's EU Council presidency priorities

French President Emmanuel Macron gave an overview on Thursday (9 December) of the priorities France wants to pursue when it takes over the EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2022. Reforming the border-free Schengen area, setting up a European defence system and a new European model were among the priorities he outlined. EURACTIV France reports.

Not enough progress

In concrete terms, France hopes to “reach the first compromises” in the negotiations on the ‘Fit for 55’ package, which aims to achieve a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 2030.

On biodiversity, the ministers are expecting proposals from the European Commission by the end of March. On the circular economy, some texts have been postponed to March or April, “so we will not go as far as we had hoped”, Pompili’s entourage confirmed.

All these subjects are related, in one way or another, to the European Green Deal, a legislative package that aims to make the EU climate neutral by 2050.

“Making progress in the Green Deal negotiations” while “keeping other issues such as chemicals high on the political agenda” are France’s objectives during the French EU presidency, Pompili’s office added.

A working lunch of environment ministers is planned on the theme of “the implementation of the European strategy for sustainability in the field of chemical products”. This strategy, presented by the European Commission in October 2020, aims to ban dangerous substances until they have been proven safe. The European Commission is organising a workshop on 22 March to discuss the subject with stakeholders.

EU's new chemical strategy aims to prohibit hazardous substances until proven safe

The European Commission’s new chemicals strategy, published on Wednesday (14 October), proposes to ban the most toxic substances by default, authorising them only on a case-by-case basis when they are proven to be indispensable to society.

Preparing for COP27

During these first informal meetings of the EU’s environment and energy ministers, the battery regulation, the carbon border adjustment mechanism and the fight against imported deforestation will also be omnipresent subjects.

“Sovereignty also means imposing our standards beyond our borders” and using “European commercial power as a political lever”, according to Pompili’s office.

France is keen to defend the interests of the EU, while taking into account “the constraints of the member states” in the decisions. Pompili’s entourage cited the importance of coal in Poland as an example.

This is no coincidence, as Poland is one of France’s main allies in integrating nuclear power into the EU green taxonomy.

France’s ecological transition minister wants to organise other meetings in March to exchange views with representatives of the UN, the G20, Czechia and Sweden – the countries holding the next presidencies of the EU Council – the office announced. To discuss COP27, the UN climate conference that will place in Sharm el-Sheikh this year, Pompili also wants to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, her office added.

“In this multilateral framework, Europe has a leadership role to play,” the minister’s office emphasised. The EU’s role could be strengthened by the French presidency if the EU manages to agree on a common position by then.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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