Macron’s French EU presidency speech analysed by expert
According to a draft declaration, the group of federalist MEPs will launch the proposal today arguing EU leaders should listen to the recommendations received at the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The draft, seen by Politico, reads: “We want a stronger Europe, more democratic, more reflective of daily needs of people, more ready to act and this requires changes to the current treaties.”
They will also argue that the French presidential election will be “a window of opportunity” for ambitious reforms of the EU.
An attempt to replace EU treaties with one document was already made in 2004 but French and Dutch voters in May and June 2005 rejected the idea in a referendum, slashing hopes for an EU Constitution to be finally drafted.
But as French President Emmanuel Macron has long campaigned for more integration in the EU and a federal approach to the bloc’s core principles, MEPs are now hopeful his potential re-election in April and his plan under France’s presidency of the EU will reignite the dream.
EU news: Emmanuel Macron has long campaigned for more integration in the EU
Appearing before the European Parliament on Wednesday, the French leader pitched his vision for the bloc as France begins its six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council.
But the French President’s vision of the EU was met by an attack by French MEPs three months before France’s presidential election.
In France, a president never takes part in debates in the National Assembly, and having to respond live to lawmakers’ questions is a highly unusual affair.
“For France, but also for Europe, it is essential that you have only one mandate,” MEP Jordan Bardella of France’s far-right National Rally told Macron, who came to power in 2017.
Manuel Bompard, of the hard-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), was one of several accusing Macron of lying, adding: “In three months, the French can ensure Europe gets rid of him.”
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Macron, who has already made clear he wants to run for a second mandate but has yet to offically confirm it, accused his opponents of misunderstanding the challenges facing Europe and France and misrepresenting his policies.
Opinion polls show Macron, 44, is the most likely winner of the April election but that it’s not a done deal.
A staunch pro-European, Macron is hoping his proposals for a more assertive Europe will help secure him a second five-year term as French president.
While Europe is not high on French voters’ minds, opinion polls show that questions of sovereignty, security and identity are, and his opponents like to depict Macron as too cerebral and aloof to understand ordinary people’s concerns.
“Emmanuel Macron’s Europe has no heart, no head, no soul,” far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmmour said in Calais on Wednesday.
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Macron’s wish for a more sovereign, strategically autonomous Europe is fantasy, says Zemmour
Mr Zemmour, the French far-right presidential challenger, on Wednesday said he would seize back control of France’s borders from Europe, block European Union free trade negotiations and prevent any further enlargement of the bloc to the east.
Pitching his vision for France’s relationship with the EU, Mr Zemmour rubbished President Macron’s quest for deeper European cooperation as a folly that put the needs of French citizens in the hands of an illegitimate Brussels elite.
“I want France to be in Europe, but I want France to come before Europe,” he said in a speech delivered on a wind-swept point near the northern port of Calais, from where thousands of illegal migrants try each year to reach Britain.
That meant winning back control of France’s frontiers, re-establishing the primacy of national law over European law and halting accession talks with states lying on the bloc’s eastern flank, Zemmour said.
“With me the European flag will never fly without the French Tricolor,” he said. Earlier this month, Macron’s opponents reacted furiously to his decision to fly the EU flag alone under the Arc de Triomphe to mark the beginning of France’s rotating presidency of the European Council.
He said France should remain in the EU, the world’s largest trade bloc. But echoing arguments used by the ‘Leave’ campaign in Britain’s 2016 Brexit campaign, he denounced the destructive interference of a disconnected Brussels elite in the daily lives of European citizens.
Macron’s wish for a more sovereign, strategically autonomous Europe was fantasy, Mr Zemmour said.
“Macron’s Europe is a fictitious Europe,” he continued.
“Contrary to what he thinks, Europe is not a nation.”