Saturday

13th Apr 2024

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

Get the EU news that really matters

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.

The problem of corruption in Ukraine — and a solution

Sunlight is the best disinfectant— so in a way, it is encouraging to see corruption scandals coming to the fore, as this may deter potential future graft, a key prerequisite for Kyiv's eventual EU accession.

This 'deregulation' lobbying now threatens EU economy

Next week's EU summit (17-18 April) will discuss the strategic agenda for the next five years. The current "competitiveness agenda" is to a large extent driven by a big lobbying campaign — so far, not well covered by the media.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us