Friday

19th Jul 2019

MEPs set limits to Macron's ambitions

  • "We cannot do as if our discussions were ordinary," Macron told MEPs (Photo: European Parliament)

French president Emmanuel Macron tried on Tuesday (17 April) to woo MEPs by presenting himself as a herald of European liberal democracy and inspirer of the EU's "renaissance". But he found that his quest for leadership will have to put up with the rules set by the European political groups.

"Macron arrived in European reality," noted Manfred Weber, the leader the centre-right EPP group, the largest in the parliament.

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

In a three-hour debate, which was at times tough and passionate, in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Macron called for action to stop anti-EU forces ahead of next year's European elections.

His Republic on the Move party, which was created only last year, has no MEP, and Macron aims at strengthening his political influence by forming a group in the next parliament.

Macron, who came to power by defeating the far-left and anti-EU Marine Le Pen, insisted on the threat posed to Europe by the rise of illiberal democracy.

"We cannot do as if our discussions were ordinary," he told MEPs, warning against "a from of European civil war" where "differences and national egoisms seem to be more important that what unites us."

He insisted that the political model proposed by politicians like Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban was a "deadly illusion".

Audacity

"The worst mistake would be to abandon our model, I dare to say our identity," he said.

 "In the face of authoritarianism that is everywhere around us, the answer is not the authoritarian democracy, but the authority of democracy," he argued, getting a loud round of applause.

But while he insisted on the need to solve the migration crisis, to establish a European sovereignty and to ensure "stability and convergence in the eurozone," Macron got lukewarm comments from some top MEPs.

"It is not enough to walk red carpets and sing the [European] anthem. We have to let our dream become reality," the head of the centre left S&D group Udo Bullmann told Macron.

Weber warned him that "true democracy is not only listening to people, democracy is letting people decide."

Only the liberal Guy Verhofstadt gave his full backing, calling on him to show more "audacity".


"Don't hesitate; don't abdicate. In the new European Parliament, many more people will support you," he said.

The French president however got a standing ovation, and many MEPs lined up to shake his hands at the end of the debate.

"MEPs discovered a guy who is young, strong and is able to help Europe make the qualitative leap it needs," French centre-right MEP Alain Lamassoure told EUobserver.

"It's good that he took three hours to discuss with them. He needs time to let his ideas mature in the parliament," noted a top politician who attended the debate.

Adapting the agenda

But while Macron would like to disrupt EU politics as he did in France and reshuffle the groups in the parliament, he can only expect to try to form a group that would be big enough to be influential, and find alliances with other, bigger groups, parliament insiders say.

Sources in different groups told this website that a possible scenario would be that Macron's LRM teams up with Spain's Ciudadanos party and tries to integrate MEPs from other countries, including some from the S&D, and especially from Italy..

But the French leader would likely have to adapt his plans to the main groups' agendas.


"If you want to join us, you'll find friends in our groups," S&D's Bullmann told him. "But that will have to be within our common, concrete policies."

And while Macron said that the reform of the eurozone was "necessary" before the elections, the EPP's Weber insisted that "euro reform is not the priority".

"It's obvious that migration is the top issue," he said. "It's a waste of energy if we speak too much about economy."

Analysis

Macron relaunches his bid for EU leadership

In a speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday and then at a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, the French president will try to get support for his EU reform proposals.

Opinion

Is this the future of Europe?

European Parliament debates with EU leaders have become a repetitive series of monologues that forget to ask what citizens want from the EU.

Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform

France and Germany have pledged to forge a joint position on euro reform by June, despite German reluctance on deeper monetary union.

PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory

Warsaw and Budapest are boasting about their support for von der Leyen after the german is confirmed only by a small margin of MEPs, but the illiberals should not expect the softening of rule of law scrutiny.

Analysis

Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts

The first-ever female president of the European Commission wants half of her team of commissioners to consist of women. But most of the commissioners put forward by EU member states so far have been male.

Merkel and Macron split over Weber presidency

EU heads of government have their first face-to-faces discussions after the European elections on who should lead the EU commission. They are unlikely to decide quickly - with the parliament also divided over the candidates.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Survey: 50% of EU staff 'don't know' internal ethics rules
  2. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  3. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  4. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  5. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  6. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  7. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  8. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us