At an informal meeting in Amiens, French officials highlighted the objective of achieving greater sovereignty for the EU on energy and the environment. France’s Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili called for establishing “a true ecological sovereignty for Europe,” which is in line with the concept of strategic autonomy desired by the French President. Paris is reportedly focussing on achieving strategic autonomy over key raw materials like rare minerals, which will be vital to its green transition.
Europe is currently heavily dependent on a handful of countries for some key imports of minerals.
China provides the EU with 98 percent of its supply of rare earth elements, while Turkey provides 98 percent of the EU’s supply of Borate, and South Africa supplies 71 percent of EU needs for platinum, according to Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner.
The talks, which are held 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, EURACTIV reports.
This comes at a time when the EU’s reliance on natural gas from Russia has led to a severe energy crisis as Vladimir Putin squeezes the supply of energy in order to hasten the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Moscow reportedly slashed volumes travelling through its vast network of pipelines and has been diverting gas to the East through the Yamal-Europe pipeline for 30 days in a row.
The result has seen European energy costs soar, with December prices even surpassing October records.
Mr Macron has previously expressed his disapproval of the EU’s reliance on Russian gas, and called for sovereignty, stating: “We have to build our capacity to be less dependent.
“I think everybody now can completely identify the fact that when we speak about sovereignty, it means that.
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The slogan of the French EU presidency, covering the first half of 2022, is relance, puissance, appartenance (revival, power, belonging).
All three terms are variations of the concept of “sovereignty,” which goes with the “strategic autonomy” the French government advocates with other players at the EU level.
It very much falls in line with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s calls in 2016 for the UK to restore sovereignty” and “take back control”.
No political party in France has currently called for Frexit in the run-up to the French Presidential elections in 2022.
However, all three challengers to Mr Macron have made their distaste for the EU abundantly clear across interviews and tweets.
French magazine Challenges stated yesterday that all three candidates have to pretend they will be able to impose their proposals on the country should they win, despite being incompatible with EU regulations.
Citing a Viavoic poll which suggested that 63 percent of the French want to stay in the EU, the publication states that the candidates are in a “balancing position,” having to appease a pro-EU public while making non-EU proposals”.