The French government will separate domestic politics from its work as a broker in negotiations at EU level when it takes the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU from January 1, the Secretary of State for Affairs said on Monday. European Clément Beaune during a POLITICO event.
“There is always a political context for any presidency,” Beaune said. “But don’t worry, we won’t mix things up.”
The French go to the polls for the April presidential election, halfway through the EU presidency, raising fears in Brussels that major political issues are being held hostage by national politics on issues such as commerce, or that the French government have limited bandwidth power to move large files through the height of the presidential campaign.
“I want to make it very clear that we are engaged in this presidency from day 1 to June 30. We have prepared for it.”
“To be frank, it doesn’t make it easy to organize,” admitted Beaune. “I will try to sleep less!” he joked.
The commercial impasse
Beaune said France’s reluctance to make new trade deals or ratify existing ones has nothing to do with the upcoming election and the trade skepticism of French voters.
“We are reluctant [on] some trade agreements … not because we have elections but because we have a substantive debate, “he said, stressing the need to increase environmental provisions in trade agreements.
“Take the Mercosur [the trade treaty between the EU and South American countries, which France has refused to ratify citing environmental concerns], these are not presidential elections in France … the Dutch parliament, the Austrian parliament, the Luxembourg parliament, the Irish government have said they have great concerns. ”
“They are not crazy French to have elections, it is wider than that”, he added. “We say no to this regardless of the election because we think we need to rethink our trade deals.”