Europe, France and the sense of history
"One admires the world through what one loves" wrote Lamartine. I am inspired by the words of this former French Foreign Minister: "I admire Europe through France" and I add "and its capacity to lead.
During the past six months in which it has presided over the Council of the European Union, France has been a key player. It was able to bring together, build a powerful collective response to the war in Ukraine, get the 27 members to vote unanimously on six unprecedented rounds of sanctions against Moscow and release tens of millions of euros to support Ukraine, its army and its refugees.
At the same time, in the face of this major geopolitical crisis, France, far from easing up on the legislative work, has been keen to achieve the main objectives announced last December, with the full support of the European Democrats and the Renew group in the European Parliament. France can be proud of having succeeded, thanks to its capacity to lead, in getting more than 100 texts adopted, including fundamental markers for our societies. Markers that we European Democrats have been defending for a long time.
The directive on an "adequate minimum wage", after many years of debate, will be signed in September. This final agreement sends a strong signal in favour of a more "social" Europe and establishes rules for setting a minimum wage in each country while providing for its regular revision. Even if the wage cannot be the same throughout the Union, the mechanism set in motion will enable the countries of Eastern Europe to gradually catch up with the wage level practised in the West.
We want a more "social" Europe and also a more " gender balanced " Europe. The adoption of the directive on gender equality in the boards of directors of large companies, which has been under negotiation for ten years, goes exactly in this direction.
We are also convinced that it is only through Europe that we can regain control over major transnational issues. The adoption of new legislation on digital services (DSA) and digital markets (DMA) will bring equality, serenity and new opportunities back to "digital" Europe. These two founding texts aim to regulate the major platforms, particularly American ones, thus allowing more competition and making them more responsible for the content they distribute, in order to strengthen the protection of our citizens and fight against disinformation.
Furthermore, it will be remembered that it was under the French Presidency that negotiations made great progress between the Member States on what is known as the "climate package". The twenty-seven Member States agreed on the outlines of the future "border carbon adjustment mechanism", which we believe is a means of developing ecological justice and strengthening the competitiveness of our companies. This energy transition, which was at the heart of the French mandate, will thus come into being from 2023 and will cover energy-intensive production such as steel, aluminium, cement, electricity and fertilisers. The 27 Member States also agreed on a series of measures to move towards less CO2-emitting economies. The most emblematic measure is a ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars after 2035.
Of course, the success of this presidency cannot be mentioned without noting another key advance in the field of trade: in order to assert its interests against competitors such as China, the European Union has acquired a "reciprocity instrument on public procurement", which will enable it to close its public procurement markets to companies from third countries that are closed to European companies. This is the end of the naive Europe. This Europe of solutions and progress is the Europe that we support. A realistic Europe, aware of the challenges and global threats. A Europe determined to protect its citizens, including through a new defence strategy. A Europe ready to project itself and to play a major role on the international scene.
Let us return to the assessment. It is exceptional, that is a fact. But, as is often the case, the bitter critics and other Europhobes, with accusing fingers, will point out that the French Presidency did not succeed in bringing about the reform of the minimum tax for multinationals. This is absolutely true... But this is not the time for polemics. We must be up to the task and explain why we were unable to bring about this essential reform designed to combat tax evasion by multinationals. The answer lies in one name: Hungary. Indeed, this proposal, which had to be translated into European law, required unanimity... And Hungary blocked it. I would therefore like to take advantage of this position taken by Hungary to remind you that we, the European Democrats, are fighting to remove the possibility of veto available to each of the Member States so that Europe is no longer "held hostage" in its capacity to act. Our battle echoes a request made by the 800 citizens who took part in the Conference on the future of Europe, called for by Emmanuel Macron, who adopted these recommendations on 9 May.
Faced with this assessment and this ultimate example, I listen to the words of MC Solaar: "To move forward, you have to step back, because to step back is to gain momentum."
Indeed, this assessment, as exceptional as it is, must not be the Alpha and Omega of Europe. It must be our Kairos... which must enable us to move forward. The Kairos, this time for political action and creative imagination, can be summed up in one word: reinvent. This is our objective between now and the European elections of 2024: to create a Europe of concrete solutions built symmetrically on the achievements of recent months and on a project for society. The time is right to "reinvent Europe". I write "reinvent" on purpose and not refound because the foundations of our European civilisation are solid. We defend a humanist vision of Europe and we will place social, cultural and youth issues at the heart of our future project. We must show courage and a sense of history.
The new chapter being written on our doorstep is proof of this. By fighting Russia, Ukrainians are not only defending their independence but, at the risk of their lives, they are protecting our common values of democracy, freedom and equality. Reinventing Europe also means building new foundations for living and prospering together in our European continent: the proposal for a European Political Community opens up an inescapable debate to which we will contribute with our ideas and solutions. The time is right. It is the time for actors and actions.
We, European Democrats, must organise and prepare our defences, be they military, food, health or economic.
We, European Democrats, must rethink and revise the treaties to become more effective.
We, European Democrats, must listen to the European citizens who, after the Conference on the Future of Europe, want to move towards a true transnational democracy for a more human and democratic Europe.
We, European Democrats, must encourage our fellow Europeans to help us reinvent Europe with two principles in mind: first, to act and react as one in all circumstances. Two, to anticipate and learn to conjugate all together in all weathers our motto: "United in diversity".
Sandro Gozi, Secretary General of the European Democratic Party and MEP
Read the op-ed on the web version of the Opinion newspaper (in French)
🇪🇺 📝 « L’#Europe, la France et le sens de l’histoire ». La tribune de @sandrogozi et des Démocrates européens dans @lopinion_fr en conclusion de la présidence française du Conseil de l'Union européenne #PFUE2022 #EuropeanDemocratshttps://t.co/I2hOImoDEJ pic.twitter.com/fNYJTwRurR— European Democrats (@PDE_EDP) July 19, 2022