Tuesday

20th Nov 2018

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.

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure

EU ministers' discussion on how to address rule of law issues in Poland and Hungary gets stuck on procedural issues, while Viktor Orban's government claims it is a target of the Brussels elite because of its anti-migration stance.

News in Brief

  1. UK court rules against government in Article 50 case
  2. May to meet Juncker on Wednesday to finalise Brexit deal
  3. Future of EU's Mediterranean naval mission in doubt
  4. EU budget talks for 2019 collapse
  5. EU mulls new Russia sanctions over Ukraine 'elections'
  6. EU farm chief 'confident' sugar prices will recover
  7. Researcher: EU expert groups still imbalanced and opaque
  8. Nature groups disappointed by EU fishing deal

Opinion

On Armistice Day, EU is still best gift we can give our children

While young people fought each other in 1918, young people in 2018 travel to study together under the Erasmus programme. But there is a risk of limiting our commemoration to representing the past through just speeches, museum exhibits and visits.

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. Cyprus and Greece to create EU spy academy
  2. MEPs likely to delay vote on greater transparency
  3. Cold shoulder for Franco-German euro budget plan
  4. Whistleblower: Danske Bank gag stops me telling more
  5. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  6. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges
  7. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  8. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine

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