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French Council Presidency: L'Europe en marche! Advancing Free Trade Agreements with Australia and New Zealand

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Soazig de la Moissonnière

On 1 January, France took over the EU Council Presidency, coinciding with the German G7 Presidency. This temporal parallel makes it clear how important our cooperation will be in the coming months. If Germany and France work together successfully, they can lay an excellent foundation for reforms that other EU countries will support.

As one would expect, Emmanuel Macron has set ambitious goals for himself, for his country and for Europe. The situation in Europe is difficult and he will not have an easy time implementing his plans. We, the EDP in the European Parliament, will support France with all our might in order to successfully advance the French-European agenda.

Immigration and climate change are high on the agenda. However, I hope that conflicts between supporters and opponents of greater European integration will not get mixed up with President Macron's election campaign. I also miss details on the European Green Deal or the Fit for 55 package, more so as Macron pledged not to waste time. We need concrete proposals that member states can debate in the coming months.

As Chair of the Delegation to Australia and New Zealand (DANZ), EU partnership policy and multilateralism are other key areas for me. EU-NATO cooperation and the Union's relations with the United States are of utmost importance. Democracy, security, Africa policy, the promotion of Europe in the digital space - those are issues we have to work on.

I miss statements on the relations between Europe, Australia and New Zealand. We are currently negotiating a free trade agreement between these three partners. These relations are important, otherwise we would not have started negotiations in the first place! The trade agreement between the UK and Australia highlights what is possible when both parties are committed to constructive exchange. For Boris Johnson, it is one of the most important post-Brexit agreements, and it illustrates how relationships can be lifted to another level of intense cooperation and fruitful exchange. We must succeed in concluding a truly comprehensive and ambitious free trade agreement that could serve as a model for other future agreements.

Science and technology are among France's priorities. Scientific and technological cooperation between Europe and Australia/New Zealand has existed for considerable time, and science knows no borders. I was pleased to see that there is a lot of interest in the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme in New Zealand. Thus it is very important that we continue to work together in this area, be it sustainable agriculture, climate change, energy or security and connectivity. Research and innovation-related cooperation is important because it involves not only educational institutions and young people, but also small and medium-sized enterprises and industry in general. This opens up new opportunities in trade, which brings us back to my urgent concern: the free trade agreement!

So I hope we can continue to work together in the best interest of Europe. And, if I may add a personal note: Bonne chance, Monsieur le President! You can count on the EDP - for Europe, and also for the presidential elections in April. L'Europe en marche!

Ulrike Müller
EDP Executive Vice-President and MEP