The Russian President has been pushing for the approval for a new gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, that will see gas sent to Germany, bypassing Poland and Ukraine. The Kremlin has been accused of deliberately withholding gas from the EU in order to speed up its certification. Nord Stream 2 could double gas volumes travelling to Europe, but some have accused Moscow of using the project as a geopolitical weapon.
While Mr Putin has demanded the new pipeline becomes operational, it was suspended by German regulators.
But this is not the only source of tension between Russia and the West.
It comes as Russia looks poised to invade Ukraine, with reports of over 100,000 troops piling up at the Russia-Ukraine border.
As the West scrambles to diffuse the tension and discourage an invasion, it has been argued that Nord Stream 2 should be a central point of negotiations.
Manfred Weber, chairman of the EPP Group in European Parliament, addressed Mr Macron during an EU debate, saying: “He [Mr Putin threatens us, he wants to go to war against Ukraine.
“He wants to build up an empire, an empire of oligarchs against our idea of freedom.
“The European Council, let us be frank, is not capable of putting a firm stand in today’s world on the table.
“Nord Stream 2, in my opinion, must be stopped if there is a military escalation in Ukraine.
“What is going on on the council’s side?.. It is obvious that we need someone in the Council who goes to the Council and tells them we have to stop the unanimous vote on foreign affairs issues.”
Claire Demesmay, an expert at the Marc-Bloch think-tank in Berlin, said: “The EU presidency gives him a welcome platform to put his European record to the forefront and differentiate himself from his rivals and bring new proposals, new ideas to the table.”
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It comes at a time when Mr Putin’s gas squeeze on Europe has seen EU prices skyrocket to record highs and prompt fears of a gas crisis.
While Mr Macron is yet to challenge Mr Putin under his new role in the EU, he has seemed cautious about Germany’s gas deal.
The French President warned Mrs Merkel in August 2020 that Nord Stream 2 must not increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
And Mr Macron’s minister for European Affairs, Clement Beaune, told reporters last year that France has always had “the greatest doubts” on the project.