Macron hails climate deal as triumph for France's EU presidency

Czech Republic to assume rotating presidency of 27-member bloc from Friday

French President Emmanuel Macron praised his country for its role as leader of the EU. Getty
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French President Emmanuel Macron has hailed a deal on climate action as a major achievement of his country's six-month presidency of the EU, before it hands over to the Czech Republic on Friday.

A late-night agreement announced on Wednesday by the 27 members of the bloc has paved the way for petrol and diesel-powered cars to be banned from the market by 2035, among a host of measures to chart Europe’s course to zero carbon emissions.

The deal marked a breakthrough in long-running talks on climate change, although critics said too many loopholes were introduced in the push for an agreement.

French officials led the negotiations in their six-month stint in charge of EU meetings, seized on by Mr Macron as a chance to show French leadership and pursue his reform ambitions in Europe.

Mr Macron celebrated what he said were “major decisions under the French presidency of the Council of the European Union “.

“We campaigned to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent and to reduce our emissions by 55 per cent by 2030. Today we have given ourselves the means to do it,” he said.

Anne-Claire Legendre, a spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, said the agreement was a “crucial step for reducing our emissions … taken under the French presidency”.

Diplomats praised France’s work behind the scenes, with Finland's EU envoy, Markku Keinanen, describing an “efficiently led, professional six months” under French leadership.

But Mr Macron’s agenda was overshadowed by the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February and left the EU facing a major problem to help tackle the food and energy crises it caused.

He hosted the 27 leaders at the Palace of Versailles in March at a summit where they agreed to phase out their dependency on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible.

Mr Macron hosted EU leaders at the Palace of Versailles in March to agree a joint response to the war in Ukraine. EPA

The French Europe Minister Clement Beaune said agreeing to impose sanctions on Russia was one of his country's main achievements during its six-month presidency, as well as the progress on climate change and a deal on minimum wages in the EU.

However, analysts said Mr Macron’s long-cherished ideal of European “strategic autonomy” – meaning less reliance on the US and other global powers – was still some way from reality.

The Eiffel Tower will be lit up in the colours of the EU flag on Thursday, before the Czech Republic takes over the presidency.

A similar decoration at the Arc de Triomphe in January angered right-wing figures, who accused Mr Macron of presiding over a national decline and a loss of French identity.

The Czech government has named the Ukrainian refugee crisis, its recovery from the war and Europe’s energy security among the main priorities for its leadership of the EU.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 11:26 AM