Tuesday

21st Sep 2021

Macron to lay out plan for EU 'pioneers'

  • Macron wants to "open a debate", with a discussion among EU leaders before the end of the year. (Photo: elysee.fr)

French president Emmanuel Macron will present his proposals to "rebuild Europe" and fight back against anti-EU forces on Tuesday afternoon (26 September), right after the German elections increased uncertainties on which direction to take.

With plans to deepen EU integration among core groups of member states, Macron wants to "open a debate" with a discussion on his ideas among EU leaders "before the end of the year", a French source said.

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The French leader wants the EU to set up a roadmap by next summer for reforms over the next 10 years.

He will speak to French and foreign students at the Sorbonne university in Paris, in a symbolic venue designed to point to the future of Europe.

His speech will address three issues, the source said: "a sovereign Europe, a united Europe, a democratic Europe".

Macron will detail his plans for a eurozone budget, parliament and finance minister, as well as to increase convergence between member states on tax and social issues.

He will propose to increase cooperation on defence, counter-terrorism, education, and culture.

He is also expected to propose the creation of an EU innovation agency and to expand the Erasmus student-exchange programme.

Macron, who said last month that "we have to think of a Europe with several formats," will insist that "pioneer" countries should be able to move forward "without being stopped by the countries that don't want [to go forward]," the French source said.

That means that the French leader would like to scrap the unanimity rule between EU leaders when important decisions have to be taken.

The idea is likely to be opposed by some member states, especially those who are not yet part of the eurozone or the Schengen travel area and who do not want to be left behind.

Macron will also detail his proposal for a series of "democratic conventions" that would be held across Europe in the first half of next year after EU leaders have discussed his ideas.

"Through these six months of democratic conventions, we should debate this roadmap, the principles for which the governments will have designed, and then we can meet again [and] build what will be the foundations for an overhaul of Europe," he said in a speech in Athens last month.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker gave his support to the conventions idea in his state of the union speech in early September.

Macron will deliver his speech two days after the German elections, where Angela Merkel won a fourth mandate as chancellor but will have to build a coalition with the liberals and Greens.

The timing was intended as a way to impose Macron's thinking on the German coalition programme, in order to facilitate a future Franco-German plan for the EU.

But the election results on Sunday have created uncertainties about the future polices of the German government, and coalition talks could drag out until the end of the year.

The defeat of the social-democrats, who were considered more sympathetic to Macron's ideas, and the presence of the liberal Free Democrats Party (FDP) in the future coalition could make things more difficult for the French leader.

'Inconceivable'

On Sunday, FDP leader Christian Lindner said that it was "inconceivable" for his party to imagine a eurozone budget that made Germany subsidise France or Italy.

Before the German elections, according to Le Monde, a French newspaper, Macron privately said that he would be "dead" if Merkel made an alliance with the FDP.

But his aides now say that the FDP and the Greens have always been pro-EU parties.

Macron and Merkel have said that they wanted to work together to increase EU integration.

But the constraints of the coalition talks and the new political climate in Germany, which saw the far-right AfD party enter parliament, could make an agreement between the two leaders more difficult.

"The moment has not come yet" to say what is good or not in Macron's ideas, Merkel said after Sunday's vote, adding that it was important to know what lies behind his words.

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