Monday

25th Sep 2017

Opinion

Macron goes east to test appetite for EU integration

  • The French president will have three goals during his trip to the East of the EU this week. (Photo: Reuters)

Emmanuel Macron starts his tour of "new Europe" on Wednesday (23 August). And, at least for some of these countries, it may redefine the role they play in the EU.

The French president will have three goals during his trip to the East of the EU: deepen cooperation with those member states the West still wants to talk to, push harder to protect the French labour market and see who will support him in the upcoming restart of the French-German motor of European integration.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Slovakia's Fico declared his support for deeper EU integration last week, but Macron will want to know if Prague is also willing to support it. (Photo: EUobserver)

Going to Romania makes perfect sense - both countries are historically close, Romania is a large non-member of the eurozone and could one day become a counterbalance to Poland among the "new" member states.

Going to Bulgaria also makes perfect sense. Bulgaria holds the next six-month EU presidency and will thus manage the first discussions about the upcoming French-German proposals to deepen European integration.

The third country in Macron's itinerary is Austria. It will take over the EU presidency from Bulgaria in the second half of 2018 and, as a eurozone member, will finalise the discussions about the single currency's reform - just in time before the European elections in early 2019.

The 'Austerlitz triangle'

Going to Austria will also allow Macron to meet the Czech and Slovak prime ministers outside the ever more problematic Visegrad group (V4), which also includes Poland and Hungary.

The "Austerlitz triangle" - originally created by the Czechs to draw Austria more actively into Central Europe - may, in the end, help the Czechs to decide where they want to belong.

After the clear and forceful statement of Slovak prime minister Robert Fico last week that the EU is more important for Slovakia than the V4, the Czechs remain the odd man out - not in love with illiberal democracy (at least not yet until the October election), but also not willing to move decisively forward with deeper European integration.

Wednesday's meeting in Salzburg will therefore be a major Czech test.

Macron will seek answers to three key questions, which will determine whether he will consider Czechs friends or foes.

Firstly, he will want to know if Prague is willing to support deeper European integration and invest not only words but also political capital - or whether the Czechs will stand aside, no matter the damage it would cause to a country in the centre of Europe.

Secondly, he will want to know whether the Czech Republic can accept a compromise for the revision of the EU's posted workers directive - and start behaving as a country that wants to compete through quality, not the cheapness of its labour force.

Thirdly, Macron will want to know whether the Czechs really want to participate in big new projects such as common European defence.

The Czech Republic was among the first to push this topic last summer and has enjoyed close cooperation in this area with the European Commission - but others are taking over this topic and are much more effective in realising the benefits available.

Slovakia came first

The next few months will be decisive in selecting who stays in the core of the European Union and who stays behind.

Slovakia took the lead and Prague will have to decide quickly whether it wants to remain a reasonable partner in the centre of Europe, or whether it wants to return to the years of former president Vaclav Klaus and behave like a stubborn child.

However, the times have changed: there are many others who want to cooperate and develop the European Union.

The decision is ours, but nobody will beg us twice. The first test comes this Wednesday at the meeting with Emmanuel Macron.

Tomas Prouza is a former State Secretary for European Affairs of the Czech Republic

Analysis

Macron, nouveau monarque franco-européen

Le nouveau président français a célébré sa victoire en mêlant la pompe républicaine et la foi européenne. Mais pour réussir, il devra aussi faire la révolution.

Macron revives multi-speed Europe idea

"We have to think up a Europe with several formats," said the French president, who will make "concrete" proposals after the German elections.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel wins fourth term, exit polls say
  2. EU to hail 'aspirations' of former Soviet states
  3. UK says credit downgrade was wrong
  4. Dutch state appeals ban on taking air-polluting measures
  5. May proposes 2-year transition period after Brexit
  6. May to call on EU's 'sense of responsibility'
  7. Catalonia has 'contingency plans' for independence vote
  8. Last German polls confirm Merkel's lead

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEU Finance Ministers Agreed to Develop New Digital Taxation Rules
  2. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  3. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  4. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  6. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  7. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  10. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  11. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  12. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel