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POLITICS

Macron to push for reform of Schengen area during EU during presidency

President Emmanuel Macron vowed Thursday France would work towards a strong and "sovereign" European Union and push for reform of the Schengen area when it takes over the bloc's rotating presidency in January.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a press conference on France assuming EU presidency,
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a press conference on France assuming EU presidency, in Paris, on December 9, 2021. Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP

The centrist Macron may aim to fill the leadership gap left at European level by the departure of German chancellor Angela Merkel, analysts say.

But Macron, who was elected in 2017 demanding reform in both France and Europe, will also face a battle to be re-elected in April.

France’s aim is “to move towards a Europe that is powerful in the world, fully sovereign, free in its choices and in charge of its own destiny”, Macron told a news conference.

He also called for new mechanisms to protect the EU’s borders, with thousands of migrants gathering on the border between Belarus and Poland in recent months.

Europe “needs to ensure the protection of its borders”, he told a news conference, adding that France would push for reform of the Schengen area of passport-free travel between 26 countries in Europe.

‘Rethink’

Macron also said the EU should reconsider its strict budget deficit rules as governments spend heavily to save their economies from the impact of Covid restrictions.

France will push for a “rethink” of rules that include a demand for deficits to remain below three percent of gross domestic product (GDP), he said.

Turning to environmental issues, he said that France would propose a new EU mechanism to prevent imports of agricultural products from deforested areas when Paris takes over the European Union’s rotating presidency next year.

“We will also advance negotiations on the creation of a European instrument to fight against imported deforestation which will aim to ban imports to the European Union of soya, beef, palm oil, cocoa and coffee when they have contributed to deforestation,” Macron said.

He said France would host an extraordinary EU summit on March 10 and March 11 in Paris, just a month before the presidential election.

The French presidency of the EU comes after Macron was left furious with the United States, Britain and Australia in September after they signed a new security deal called AUKUS that led Australia to abandon its purchase of French submarines.

Macron has yet to formally declare he will stand in the elections although he is widely expected to do so. Recent polls have seen a sudden surge for the challenger of the right-wing The Republicans Valerie Pecresse after she was formally named their candidate.

Member comments

  1. Presumably a ‘fully sovereign Europe’ means a less than sovereign France. Not sure how that will sell in April.

  2. He really has let the power go to his head. I voted for him because, like many, thought he would be a breath of fresh air, but unfortunately all he has been is a hurricane, filling the Government with young people that have no idea what they are doing.

    1. The problem with the Presidential system is always too much power vested in one person leads to bravado rather than diplomacy , wild reactive swings in policy and far too little engagement with folk at large.

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POLITICS

UK police arrest man over 2021 deaths of 27 people in Channel tragedy

UK police on Tuesday arrested a man suspected of playing a "key role" in the deaths of at least 27 people who drowned attempting to cross the Channel in a dinghy last November.

UK police arrest man over 2021 deaths of 27 people in Channel tragedy

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said 32-year-old Harem Ahmed Abwbaker was arrested at an address near Cheltenham, southwest England.

He is suspected of being “a member of the organised crime group who conspired to transport the migrants to the UK in a small boat”.

NCA investigators are working with the French authorities to track down those responsible for the tragedy.

French prosecutors have so far charged 10 people for their alleged role in the disaster on November 24 last year.

It was the worst accident in the Channel since the narrow strait became a key route for people from Africa, the Middle East and Asia attempting to reach England from France.

The vessel sank after leaving the French coast, leading to the death of all but two of those aboard. Four people remain missing.

The suspect will appear before London’s Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday, where extradition proceedings to France will commence.

READ ALSO What is France doing to prevent small-boat crossings of the Channel?

Charges faced there include the French equivalent of manslaughter and facilitating illegal immigration.

“This is a significant arrest and comes as part of extensive inquiries into the events leading to these tragic deaths in the Channel,” said NCA deputy director Craig Turner.

“The individual detained today is suspected of having played a key role in the manslaughter of those who died.

“Working closely with our French partners we are determined to do all we can to get justice for the families of those whose lives were lost,” he added.

Among the 27 – aged seven to 47 – were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese.

Tributes and demonstrations took place on Thursday for the 27 victims of the tragedy that France’s interior minister admitted should have been prevented.

Several boats packed with rescuers and local elected figures took to sea off the coast of Dunkirk to mark the anniversary.

“It’s a tragedy that we were expecting and there will probably be others,” said the head of the local branch of the SNSM lifeboat service, Alain Ledaguenel.

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