France targets Big Tech as it kicks off EU presidency | Europe | News and events from across the continent | DW

The first weekly meeting of 2022 of the 27 European commissioners is being held in the French capital, Paris, despite a high number of COVID-19 cases in Europe and particularly in France.

French President Emmanuel Macron presented an ambitious plan for the presidency, hoping to push forward a number of key issues over the next six months.

In a statement marking its launch, Macron said that “the French presidency must be a moment of truth for the regulation and accountability of digital platforms, carbon pricing at European borders on imported products, minimum wages and our relationship with Africa ”.

Unusually for a European Council presidency, there will be a national election during those six months, with French voters going to the polls in April.

Franco-German axis

France succeeds Slovenia as Council Presidency, which took over from Germany in the first half of 2021.

With the succession of Chancellor Olaf Scholz after 16 years of Angela Merkel at the head of Germany, the political priorities of the French presidency will be a test of the new relationship between Paris and Berlin.

“How Macron is received in general in Berlin is still an open question,” Jon Worth, a prominent European blogger, told DW. “On energy policy – especially nuclear – there are obvious tensions, but Scholz will be less tax hawkish than the Merkel administration was. There is also always a stylistic conflict between the Macron plus brash and assertive and the very discreet Scholz. “

The new German government was keen to openly show its commitment to relations with a number of senior ministers and the Chancellor himself traveling directly to Paris in the days immediately following his swearing-in.

Digital agenda

During the French presidency of the Council of the EU, Macron wishes to advance two major pieces of EU legislation on digital protections.

The European Commission presented proposals for the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in December 2020 and Paris hopes that negotiations with the European Parliament and between EU governments can be concluded. carried out while France is in the Presidency.

The DSA would be radical law to fight disinformation, murky advertising practices and illegal content online.

The DMA’s proposal aims to reduce control of multinational technology companies online and prevent them from abusing their powerful positions.

“We can expect the French Presidency to focus on strengthening measures to combat illegal content online, safeguarding due diligence measures as well as promoting strong and centralized enforcement of the future DSA regulation. “, Eliska Pirkova, European policy analyst at the Access digital rights group. Now, says DW.

Climate action

One of the other major concerns of the French presidency is to try to get the EU to impose a carbon tax at the borders.

France has long been one of the most vocal countries to demand additional taxes on products and services emitting large amounts of CO2.

In its proposals to achieve a 55% reduction in emissions by 2030, the European Commission presented a plan known as the Carbon Frontier Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). A world first, it will affect high-emission industries such as steel, cement, aluminum, fertilizers and power generation.

EU observers like economist Andre Sapir, senior researcher at Bruegel, a think tank, told DW: “There are clear hesitations on the part of a number of EU member states. EU to move forward due to fear of retaliation from third countries that will be affected by the carbon tax, which in my opinion implies that the EU must negotiate with third countries before implementing its carbon tax at borders. “

Other issues that the French Presidency plans to address are an EU-wide minimum wage, how to tax global digital companies and, potentially, adapt EU rules on public funding of certain industries to be able to compete with global players like China and the United States.

Edited by: Nicole Goebel

Mary I. Bruner