23rd Mar 2018

Macron to sell EU plan in Tallinn

  • Macron wants to create "in the coming weeks" a "group for the rebuilding of Europe" with representatives from voluntary member states and from EU institutions. (Photo: Consilium)

French president Emmanuel Macron will start his campaign to convince fellow EU leaders to support his EU reform propoosals on Thursday (28 September).

At an informal dinner in Tallinn, Estonia, Macron will explain to his colleagues how he wants his ideas, laid out in a speech on Tuesday, to become the basis for a roadmap that would be elaborated before next summer.

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On Tuesday, he said that he wanted to create "in the coming weeks" a so-called "group for the rebuilding of Europe", with representatives from all interested member states and from EU institutions.

Before the Tallinn dinner, which was organised ahead of an EU digital summit on Friday, Macron will meet German chancellor Angela Merkel, whose support will be necessary if his initiative is to take off.

On Wednesday, Merkel's spokesman said that she welcomed Macron's proposals "with an open mind", but that it was "too early for a detailed assessment".

"The chancellor welcomes the fact that the French president spoke with so much verve, with so much European passion, and that he presented a lot of substance for the upcoming and essential debate about the future of Europe," Steffen Seibert said.

Macron's ideas did not come as a surprise to the chancellor, who had spoken twice with the French leader ahead of his speech on Tuesday.

On Monday, she signalled that she would "not rule out anything or set red lines," and that her christian-democrat CDU/CSU party would "support what makes sense".

"It is not about the slogans, but what lies behind them," she said.

Merkel won a fourth term in German elections on Sunday, but she has to form a coalition with the liberal Free Democrats Party (FDP) and and the Greens in a situation that will limit her freedom of manoeuvre.

Coalition negotiations have not started yet and could last for weeks, preventing her from taking a clear position on Macron's speech.

Her support for the French ideas for the eurozone - a eurozone budget to support investment, managed by a finance minister who would be held responsible by a eurozone parliament - will depend on which coalition partner holds the finance ministry.

On Wednesday, the CDU/CSU announced that Wolfgang Schaeuble, the influential finance minister, would be the party's candidate for president of the Bundestag, the German lower house of Parliament.

Schaeuble was wary of Macron's eurozone ideas, but his successor could be equally critical.

'Pots of money'

"The eurozone should be gradually developed in cooperation with Paris," the CDU's Europe spokesman, Michael Stuebgen, said after Macron's speech.

His colleague on the budget portfolio, Eckhardt Rehberg, warned that "new pots of money alone will not make Europe more capable and stronger."

The expression "pots of money" was also used by Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, an FDP vice-president of the European Parliament

Lambsdorff, who was elected to the Bundestag on Sunday, and who is seen as a potential FDP finance minister, said that "Europe's problem is not a lack of public money, but a lack of reforms."

Going squarely against Macron, his party said in a statement on Wednesday that "there will be no eurozone budget with the Free Democrats".

Macron seeks far-reaching EU overhaul

From the eurozone to defence and education, the French president presented plans to reform the EU which he said other leaders have "no choice" but to follow.


Merkel's win heralds uncertain time

On Sunday, Germans elected Angela Merkel for her fourth term in office. However, she may be facing her most difficult period yet as chancellor.


Merkel-Macron: An EU motor in the making

Merkel's re-election is expected to revive the Franco-German EU motor, but the German leader and France's new ruler are still searching for a common vision.


Macron's EU vision doesn't fit Europe

Emmanuel Macron's speech was delivered with an eloquence only French politicians can muster. Its content, however, was also very 'French' - and that's the crux of the matter.

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