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France's Emmanuel Macron calls for revival of EU democracy

In his first speech before the EU parliament, France's Emmanuel Macron called for energetic reforms and open debate with European citizens. Macron also decried the bickering between EU politicians as a "fool's game."

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Macron on the future of Europe

France's president Emmanuel Macron urged reforms to address concerns and fears of EU citizens in a speech aimed at boosting the EU unity amidst a string of crisis.

Speaking to EU lawmakers in Strasbourg on Tuesday, he urged the deputies to create a "proper debate on convictions and proposals" and make the "EU democracy come alive" as the bloc starts its preparations for the May 2019 vote. The upcoming parliamentary vote is the first EU-wide election since the UK voted to leave the union.

Read more: Is Emmanuel Macron 'en marche' to Brussels?

European people "have not given up on Europe," Macron said in an emotionally charged address on Tuesday.

The French leader called for a debate on migration, a roadmap to eurozone reform, reforming the banking system, and a EU-wide sovereignty which would compliment the sovereignty of individual member states.

"We need to build this EU-wide sovereignty to protect our citizens in terms of internal and external defense and security," he said.

'Wost possible mistake' to give up on democracy

Macron brings palms together ahead of his speech (Reuters/V. Kessler)

Macron's described the EU democracy and unity as a "treasure"

He also proposed creating a European program to "directly financially support local communities that welcome and integrate refugees."

The 40-year-old Macron also pointed at the rise of populism inside the EU, reflected in the outcome of recent elections in Italy and Hungary.

The rapid changes in the today's world require politicians to change their ways, but this must not mean a rejection of democracy, he added.

"Indeed, in these difficult times, the European democracy is our best chance," Macron said. "The worst possible mistake would be to give up on our model and our identity."

"We see authoritarians all around us, and the answer is not authoritarian democracy, but the authority of democracy," he said.

Read more: How France's Emmanuel Macron wants to reform the EU

US moving away from EU values

Macron also decried the tendency to blame national failings on Brussels and avoid discussion on EU future.

"To carry on in this manner is a fool's game, which may be more comfortable for us to engage in, but nothing will be resolved in this way," Macron said.

The French president also decried the growing gap between the EU and the values propagated by the current US administration.

"We share so much with this country, but this country is rejecting multilateralism, free trade, and climate change," he said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed Macron's speech, noting that his election victory last year gave "new hope" to the EU.

"The true France is back," Juncker said on Tuesday.

At the same time however, he warned that the EU was an "ensemble" and not just a club made up of Germany and France.

Waiting for Berlin

Macron previously spoke at length about his vision for a closer EU in Sorbonne some six months ago, where he urged a joint eurozone budget and an introduction of an EU finance minister. Among other steps, he also called for a joint asylum office, an aligning of national tax systems, and an EU-wide innovations office. France's leader also suggested creating an EU rapid response force.

Read more: Is Emmanuel Macron Europe's new Angela Merkel?

However, Macron was forced to delay its plans over the elections in France's most important EU ally, Germany, and the unusually long talks on forming the government in Berlin. Even after the new German government took office, Berlin officials seem cautious on reforms proposed by Macron.

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Berlin under pressure to get on the same page with Paris

Read more: Merkel's new cabinet shows youth trend

The French president is set to meet Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday in Berlin. Last month, the two leaders pledged to bridge their differences and come up with a joint roadmap for reforms by June.

Speaking at the European Parliament on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed establishing an EU fund to help those communities taking in refugees and called for "European sovereignty" in the face of rising authoritarianism.

In his first address to EU lawmakers, the europhile French leader said a robust democracy is the "best chance" for the European Union to fight against rising nationalism on the continent.

He called for a renewed sense of "European sovereignty" in the face of increasing authoritarianism in some EU countries, warning that there was a "sort of European civil war" brewing and "a fascination with the illiberal" that is "growing all the time".

"Faced with authoritarianism, the answer is not democratic authoritarianism but the authority of democracy," Macron said, urging EU countries to defend the values of liberty, equality and diversity that underpin the European model – one he described as "unique in the world".

"I don't want to belong to a generation of sleepwalkers, I don't want to belong to a generation that's forgotten its own past," the 40-year-old president added.


Macron's speech was part of a charm offensive ahead of European Parliament elections in May 2019, the first after Britain's exit from the 28-member bloc.

He told EU lawmakers it is important "to have a democratic, critical debate on what Europe is about" ahead of the European elections, adding that EU citizens "want a new project" for Europe that addresses their concerns and fears.

France's youthful president, who will travel to Berlin later in the week for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is pushing for sweeping reform in the face of growing scepticism about the European project.

His call to arms comes after eurosceptic and populist parties won elections in Hungary and Italy in recent weeks, and as Brussels confronts Poland's right-wing government over the rule of law.

In addition to divisions within its ranks, the EU is also grappling with the war in Syria, a hostile Russia and the unpredictable policies of Donald Trump in the United States.


On the sensitive subject of immigration, which has driven a wedge between Brussels and several member states, Macron proposed setting up an EU fund to help communities that agree to welcome refugees.

"I propose creating a European programme that gives direct financial support to local communities that welcome and integrate refugees," Macron said.

The French president called for an "urgent road map" for reforming the eurozone and said France was ready to increase its financial contributions as long as they are used more efficiently.

He also renewed his push for an EU carbon tax designed to fight climate change and proposed a new levy on the digital economy to help finance the EU budget once Britain has left the bloc.

His speech was welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who told parliament afterwards: "The true France is back."

FRANCE 24's Douglas Herbert discusses Macron's speech


"It’s not obvious right now – if you look at the populists, the resurgence of the far right, and the rampant euroscepticism – to make a speech like this,” said Douglas Herbert, FRANCE 24’s international affairs editor, describing the address as “signature Emmanuel Macron”.

Herbert added: “Macron, especially when it comes to Europe, has never been one to shy away from a challenge.”

The French president’s speech was welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who told European lawmakers afterwards: "The true France is back."

However, Macron now faces a tall order securing support for his ambitious reform agenda, including in the European legislature, where his fledgling La République en marche (Republic on the move) party still has no formal representation.

Analysts have warned that the French president may also struggle to sway conservative supporters of Germany’s Merkel, who are pushing back against attempts to give Brussels more power amid rising euroscepticism in the bloc’s economic powerhouse.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

Date created : 2018-04-17

Macron, in European Parliament, urges EU to seize chance to reform

In speech and debate, French president calls for monetary revamp and pushes for digital tax.

STRASBOURG — Imploring the European Parliament to act on his ambitious proposals for greater EU integration, French President Emmanuel Macron declared Tuesday: “I do not want to be part of a generation of sleepwalkers.”

In a speech to the Parliament’s plenary in Strasbourg, Macron repeated his major policy proposals, such as reforming the EU’s monetary union, some of which have run into resistance from Germany, among other countries.

Macron said France was willing to increase its contribution to the EU budget and also called for greater cooperation on security and defense, a new EU-wide initiative to integrate refugees and immigrants, and a new tax on giant technology companies that he said are not yet paying their fair share.

His speech was an impassioned defense of European democracy and a rejection of nationalism and populism.

“There is a fascination with the illiberal and that is growing all the time,” Macron said, warning against complacency. “In this world and in these difficult times,” he added, “European democracy is our best chance.”

Macron also had tough words for authoritarian regimes, and a simple message: European democracy is better.

“I will not give in to any fascination for authoritarian sovereignties,” he said. “In front of authoritarianism which surrounds us everywhere, the answer is not the authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was the first to take the floor to react to Macron’s speech, and he was full of praise. “Yes! Yes! We agree,” Juncker said. “I fully agree with what the president has just said.”

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