Climate change, energy policy top French EU presidency’s list

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Government and civil society organisations have both identified energy policy and fighting climate change as priorities of the country’s upcoming EU presidency next year. But civil society groups fear that government officials may not share their growth and job creation goals, a conference hosted by EURACTIV France heard.

French Secretary of State for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet told his audience that the establishment of a European energy policy and the fight against climate change would be the main priorities of the French presidency. 

He said France “would go as far as possible” to reach agreement on a new EU energy package before the end of its Council tenure. This would allow the Czech presidency to present legislative proposals on the issue to the European Parliament before it breaks up on 9 February 2009, in preparation for the next elections. 

Jouyet declared that if France is able to go beyond the 20% target for C02 emission reductions then it would do so, suggesting that nuclear power gives the country an advantage in this regard. Nevertheless, he underlined that a more ambitious 30% goal would be “very difficult to achieve”. 

The secretary of state indicated that France would seek to rejuvenate the Lisbon Strategy by “re-opening the debate to determine exactly what we are talking about” in this regard, expressing his wish for France to be more involved in the Lisbon process. 

He also announced France’s intention to bolster the Erasmus student mobility scheme, saying: “Every young person, whatever their social origin, should be able to spend a term in another European country.” 

Jouyet said he hoped the ‘committee of wise men’ proposed by France to address the future of Europe would “reflect upon the EU’s evolution over the next twenty years”, and explained that attitudes towards the question of Turkish accession and future enlargement in general “should not be confused”. 

Highlighting the importance of involving civil society in the debate over the French EU presidency’s priorities, he said it would be a time for “reconciliation” between the French people and the Union. 

The government intends to launch a series of forums bringing together all stakeholders at the end of March 2008 to further discuss these goals, he announced. 

WWF France's director Serge Orru expressed concern that France would settle for the Commission's target of reducing C02 emissions by 20% by 2020, and urged the government to put pressure on its partners to achieve a 30% reduction instead. He added that he hoped the presidency would succeed in adopting a new European energy package. 

Jérôme Bédier, president of the European bureau at French employer's organisation MEDEF, asked the government to clarify how it intended to move the European energy debate beyond the issue of 'unbundling', considering that there is no common European energy policy at present. 

Philippe Herzog, president of Confrontations Europe, warned that maintaining energy price stability and security of supply would be very difficult and expressed concern that the French have not yet been adequately warned of the efforts involved. 

French Secretary of State for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet said that there was not yet a European energy policy because there was no legal basis for one, and indicated that the new treaty may be able to address this. A European energy policy should seek to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and increase investment in energy networks, he added. 

Jean-Christophe Le Duigou of the CGT union said that labour market reform and the 'flexicurity' debate should be included in the Lisbon Strategy to ensure its "coherence". 

Sylvie Goulard, president of the French European Movement, expressed concern that the French presidency was placing too much emphasis on protectionism, saying "we gain nothing from seeking to be protectionist". 

French Secretary of State for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet and other stakeholders outlined their priorities for the EU presidency at a conference organised by EURACTIV France on 4 December (EURACTIV France 05/12/07). 

The event brought together over 350 stakeholders, including representatives of business, non-governmental organisations, trade unions and think tanks. 

The conference followed the publication of the results of a survey carried out by EURACTIV France in which civil society representatives were asked to highlight the main priorities to be addressed during the country's period at the EU helm. 

France assumes the EU presidency in the second half of 2008. 

  • Jan.-June 2008: Slovenian presidency of the EU. 
  • July-Dec. 2008: French EU presidency. 

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