Friday

24th Mar 2023

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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.

How much can we trust Russian opinion polls on the war?

The lack of Russian opposition to the Russo-Ukrainian War is puzzling. The war is going nowhere, Russian casualties are staggering, the economy is in trouble, and living standards are declining, and yet polls indicate that most Russians support the war.

Turkey's election — the Erdoğan vs Kılıçdaroğlu showdown

Turkey goes to the polls in May for both a new parliament and new president, after incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided against a post-earthquake postponement. The parliamentary outcome is easy to predict — the presidential one less so.

Latest News

  1. EU leaders agree 1m artillery shells for Ukraine
  2. Polish abortion rights activist vows to appeal case
  3. How German business interests have shaped EU climate agenda
  4. The EU-Turkey migration deal is dead on arrival at this summit
  5. Sweden worried by EU visa-free deal with Venezuela
  6. Spain denies any responsibility in Melilla migrant deaths
  7. How much can we trust Russian opinion polls on the war?
  8. Banning PFAS 'forever chemicals' may take forever in Brussels

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality
  5. Promote UkraineInvitation to the National Demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on 25.02.2023
  6. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us