Monday

21st May 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

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.

Macron and Orban defend opposing EU visions

Two models - of deeper integration and liberal values, versus a Europe of strong and illiberal nations - will define voters' choices in the EU elections in 2019.

Analysis

Commission wants bigger post-Brexit budget

The Commission wants the next EU budget to prove the bloc has survived Brexit unscathed. However, some net payers disagree. The EU executive plans to put out an overall budget figure of 1.13 to 1.18 percent of EU GNI.

Opinion

Linking EU funds to 'rule of law' is innovative - but vague

Defining what constitutes 'rule of law' violations may be more difficult than the EU Commission proposes, as it tries to link cohesion funds in east Europe to judicial independence. A key question will be who is to 'judge' those judges?

Opinion

Europe's budget stasis

The EU's budgetary muddling through might not be enough when the next crisis hits.

News in Brief

  1. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  2. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  3. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  4. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row
  5. EU takes six countries to court over air pollution
  6. New Catalan leader sworn in without reference to Spain
  7. Merkel and Putin revive dialogue in troubled times
  8. European companies putting Iran business on hold

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  2. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  3. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  4. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  5. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  6. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline
  7. Italian populists to defy EU debt rules
  8. Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight