Macron names his priority if re-elected French President
Two days ahead of the presidential election, French President Emmanuel Macron has named achieving “energy sovereignty” as one of the priorities for his second term. The statement comes amid mounting tensions over Russia's military offensive in Ukraine.
On Friday, speaking on RTL radio ahead of the April 10 election, Macron said that France was currently “very dependent” on fossil-fuel based energy.
“I would say that the problem of the trade balance, energy sovereignty and purchasing power are the same problem – our dependency on fossil energy. That is why getting out of this dependency is one of the priorities of this five-year term which I want to pursue,” the president said.
He explained that his strategy involved the “decarbonization of industry,” as well as thermal renovation of the housing stock and ramping up the use of electric cars.
Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy has long been on the French government's to-do list. Nevertheless, France is the only country in the EU that did not manage to meet its legal obligation to achieve the targeted share of 23% of renewables in its total energy consumption by 2020. According to Eurostat figures, renewable sources represented only slightly over 19% of France's energy consumption that year.
In light of the Russian military assault on Ukraine, which was launched on February 24, Western countries have announced their intention to eliminate their dependency on Russian energy imports as soon as possible. Macron, who recent polls show is facing a tough battle with the far-right National Rally party's Marine Le Pen, has emphasized a 'dual-track approach' in relations with Moscow. He is one of the few European leaders who continues direct discussions with the Russian president Vladimir Putin, while also insisting on stepping up sanctions against the country. In particular, he has called for more sanctions targeting Russian energy.
Over the last few weeks, several new packages of sanctions, some of which target the energy sector, have been adopted by Western countries. On March 8, the US announced a ban on Russian energy supplies. On April 2, Lithuania became the first EU country to halt all purchases of Russian gas, while on April 7, the EU agreed to ban Russian coal. Also, on Thursday, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding “an immediate full embargo on Russian imports of oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas.” This resolution, however, is not legally binding and therefore could represent a much more radical stance than the EU's existing plan. The EU, which is currently much more dependent on Russian energy supplies than the US, intends to reduce its reliance on Russian gas by two thirds before the end of the year and to phase out Russian fossil fuels before 2030.
Putin, meanwhile, has criticized the behavior of some Western politicians, saying that they are prepared to sacrifice their citizens' interests in order to “enjoy the good graces” of the US.
“People are urged to eat less, put on more clothes, and use less heating, give up on travel – presumably for the benefit of the people who are demanding this kind of voluntary deprivation as a sign of some abstract North Atlantic solidarity,” Putin said, referring to the EU's intention to ban Russian energy imports.
According to Eurostat, Russia is currently the EU's biggest oil supplier, having provided 113 million tons in 2020, which is over a quarter of the bloc's crude oil imports for that year. Russia also covers roughly 40% of the EU's natural gas needs.