France takes reins of EU for greater sovereignty

French President Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to two prominent European figures as France formally takes over the reins of the 27-nation bloc for the next six months with bigger ambitions.

The head of the EU’s executive branch, accompanied by Macron, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, was at the famous Pantheon in France to honor the memories of Simone Weil and Jean Monet.

Ghunghat was a holocaust survivor who repeatedly broke barriers for women in politics.

She led the fight to legalize abortion in France and was the first female president of the European Parliament.

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Massive portraits of the late French politician Simone Veil, right, and diplomat Jean Monet, left, are displayed outside the Pantheon in Paris (Pool photo via Ludovic Marin, AP)

Monet was the founding father of the European Union.

Mr Macron and Ms von der Leyen both wore masks as they traveled inside the domed building, amid a wave of coronavirus cases that somewhat overshadowed the start of the French term and ahead of the arrival of EU officials in Paris Caused trouble for the French leader.

Mr Macron, who is expected to run for re-election later this year, made headlines earlier this week for using uncivilized language in reference to the country’s minority people.

In an interview with a newspaper, Mr Macron described his strategy for putting pressure on vaccine refusers by using the word “imurder” – rooted in the French word for “nonsense” and meaning riel.

His hate speech dominated news broadcasts and sparked angry backlash from his political rivals.

Mr Macron will need to adopt a more agreeable tone with his EU counterparts on the vast array of touching topics to move things forward on the continental stage.

The French presidency over the next six months would require more autonomy for the 27-nation bloc.

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French President Emmanuel Macron, third right, speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, third left, during a meeting at the Elysee Palace (Michel Euler, Poole/AP)

Mr Macron has been backing the idea since taking power five years ago and will use the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, which will try to put it into practice, to set the region’s political agenda.

The main themes France wants to promote include the EU minimum wage, a carbon tax on imported products and reform of EU financial regulations.

France also wants to accelerate discussions among member states to reach a consensus on the stalled overhaul of the bloc’s asylum system.

Detailing the goals of the French presidency, a senior French government official said the EU needed to be more sovereign to be in a position to make its own choices while protecting its ideals of democracy.

“For Europeans there is a risk of going out of history,” the official said.

“In the sense that we will no longer contribute to writing the history of the world, and others will come and write their own. There is an existential threat.”