The EU summit, to which French President Emmanuel Macron is inviting this Thursday and Friday at a symbolic location - Versailles - was originally intended to be dedicated to the discussion of "strategic" economic policy issues.

Macron wanted to put a "new growth model" on the track.

This means much more than the green and digital transformation.

For Macron, whose government will hold the EU Council Presidency until the end of June, the issues at stake are the EU's economic "sovereignty", far-reaching independence for industry, in short, industrial policy.

Henrik Kafsack

Business correspondent in Brussels.

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Werner Mussler

Business correspondent in Brussels.

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The Russian attack on Ukraine pushed those plans into the background.

The heads of state and government will now focus on the situation in Ukraine and new sanctions.

However, Macron is not taking his plans off the agenda – on the contrary.

The war shows all the more urgently that the European economy must become "more sovereign" and "more resilient", said finance minister Bruno Le Maire recently.

"It may sound cynical, but France operates under the motto 'never waste a crisis' and tries to use the momentum for its own interests," says a diplomat from another EU country.

In fact, Macron now apparently wants to go even further than initially planned.

According to a report in the French newspaper "Le Monde", after the Corona recovery fund, he wants to set up a "resilience fund" that is also financed by common EU debt - if possible in Versailles.

One fund, many tasks

The plan still sounds speculative, after all, Macron is currently campaigning for a second term.

What the fund's money could be used for, however, is quickly defined.

For example, the EU could finance compensation payments for skyrocketing energy costs, it could absorb expenses incurred by EU states from taking in Ukrainian refugees - and, as with the Corona Fund, prevent or offset an economic downturn.

Paris could also imagine using the fund for the further financing of a European defense union, as a kind of European war chest.

That doesn't come as a surprise.

Diplomats point out that Macron would also like to make the reconstruction fund, which was only decided as a one-off instrument, a permanent institution.

Nobody in Brussels denies that he has already discussed the idea with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).

However, it is considered unlikely that the heads of state and government will be able to quickly agree on such an instrument.

"That's a bit steep," they say in Brussels.

Even the agreement on the Corona Fund, which was extremely quick by EU standards, had a lead time of several months in 2020.

On the other hand, old certainties no longer apply much since Russia invaded Ukraine, which is being referred to again and again in Brussels these days.

So far, however, enthusiasm for a new EU fund has been muted, save for the Greens in the European Parliament.

"And we're not talking about the self-declared frugal states," says an EU diplomat.

Most countries questioned what the point of such a debate was when so much money from the Corona Fund had not been spent.

It is recognized that the EU states that have suffered particularly from the sanctions must be compensated.

Italy in particular is pushing for this, although it is not one of the main sufferers, a diplomat grumbled.

But the existing development fund is already making an important contribution to this, says another.

In case of doubt, help can also be organized in other ways.

In this way, the EU can reallocate unused funds from the Corona Fund.