Thursday

22nd Aug 2019

Macron's EU liberal candidate insults allies, resigns

  • Emmanuel Macron says goodbye to his chances of placing a party member as head of Renew Europe (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

French president Emmanuel Macron's bid to place his top candidate as head of a new centrist alliance in the European Parliament has backfired.

His former EU affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, was aiming to lead Renew Europe, a new European Parliament political grouping composed of his own pro-European Republic on the March (La Republique En Marche) party and the liberal Alde group.

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But a flurry of "off the record" insults by Loiseau against senior Alde members like Belgium's ex-prime minister Guy Verhofstadt and Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld instead forced her premature resignation as lead candidate on Thursday (13 June).

The revelations were exposed by Belgian newspaper Le Soir following a briefing with a dozen French-speaking journalists last week, where she reportedly described Alde leader Verhofstadt as an "old man who has been frustrated for 15 years".

She is also reported to have said in 't Veld had "lost every battle she has fought" and that the centre-right EPP lead candidate for the European Commission presidency post, Manfred Weber, was an "ectoplasm" who had never really succeeded at anything.

Loiseau had apparently also turned her ire against German chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as MEP Jean Arthuis, who is from her own political party.

Loiseau had denied making the comments but then apologised for them anyway, posing broader questions on Macron's decision to send her to Brussels in the first place.

In a statement, also on Thursday, La Republique En Marche sought to soften the damage by saying Loiseau "preferred to preserve the unity of the group", noting other positions for the French delegation.

"It is for Nathalie Loiseau to make sure that the delegation and France are properly represented in the group," it said.

But the blowout comes at a sensitive time, when political groupings at the European Parliament and EU heads of state and government are all jockeying for top EU institutional posts.

A pre-summer summit next week in Brussels is set to hammer out the top jobs - namely, Commission president, Council president, president of the European Parliament and the head of the European Central Bank.

Loiseau's resignation also comes at a time when Renew Europe, composed of 108 MEPs, seeks to become the kingmakers in a European parliament where the socialists (S&D) and EPP have dominated for decades.

While both S&D and EPP remain the two largest groups, they no longer hold a majority.

The coalition building among the different groups has already kicked off among the pro-EU factions spanning the Greens, EPP, S&D and Renew Europe.

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