Tuesday

13th Nov 2018

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 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

Trump and Macron turn on the charm

Trump softened rhetoric on climate and trade in Paris charm show, spoke of potential "deal" with Russia on Ukraine.

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. UK seeks swift use of new EU chemical weapons blacklist
  2. Barnier briefs EU ministers: intense negotiations continue
  3. Romanian minister preparing EU presidency steps down
  4. Finland says Russia possibly behind GPS jamming
  5. German AfD leader under fire for Swiss campaign funding
  6. Seehofer announces he will step down as CSU party leader
  7. EU condemns elections in Russia-occupied eastern Ukraine
  8. German Greens pick two top candidates for EU election

Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Romanian leaders trade jibes over upcoming EU presidency
  2. EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press
  3. EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name
  4. Fear of nationalist surge marks European memorials
  5. Liberals ally with Macron for election, but no candidate yet
  6. Revealed: Link between MEPs CO2 votes and domestic car jobs
  7. All Quiet on the Eastern Front?
  8. Merkel and Brexit in spotlight This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us