While calling the US decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal a "mistake," French President Macron told DW he is for an expanded deal with Tehran. He also said Europe is in charge of saving multilateralism.
"The Europeans' decision allows us to prevent Iran from immediately restarting its [nuclear] activities and to avoid escalating tensions," he told Deutsche Welle and German public broadcaster ARD. "What's most important is to maintain stability and peace in the Middle East."
Up to Europe to save multilateralism
Europe is now the guarantor of the multilateral order, Macron added, a day after US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the historic Iran nuclear deal.
"We stand today at a historic moment for Europe — Europe is in charge of guaranteeing the multilateral order that we created at the end of World War II and which today is sometimes being shaken," Macron said.
Read the entire interview below — or watch by clicking on the photo above.
French President Emmanuel Macron: I think the most important thing is to maintain stability and peace in the Middle East. In Washington, and I have said this, I had understood that President Trump wanted to leave the 2015 agreement and during our joint press conference I had suggested that we work on a broader framework. I am very sorry about his decision. I think it is a mistake. This is why we Europeans reiterated [that we] remain in the 2015 agreement, as I reminded President Rouhani. We negotiated and signed this agreement and it allows us to control the nuclear defense activity in Iran until 2025. But this agreement needs to be completed on nuclear activities until 2025, ballistic activities in the region and regional activities in Iraq, Yemen and Syria and Lebanon. When I was in Washington, I said to President Trump, "Don't tear everything up. But if these things worry you, let's strengthen this framework." And he decided to create tension. I think this was meant to go beyond to something broader — this is what we have to do among European countries, with the EU, with the UK, Germany and France. We have to reaffirm that we are attached to the 2015 agreement because the Iranian regime must not restart its activities.
You have heard that they are stalling, that is what [the Iranians] said in their declaration, that there is no escalation. The European decision allows us, for now, to stop activities and to limit escalation. This is why we have to work together with our partners in order to limit an escalation of tension in the region. This is what we have been trying for months now, and this is also why we have to broaden the topics in order bring all the parties back to a larger security and stability framework for the region.
You are saying the Europeans are going to try to remain in the agreement. But what is it worth without the United States?
This is going to be our focus in the coming weeks and months and it's the mandate we gave our foreign minsters in the EU and in Iran.
What will you propose?
It's the agreement that we signed. Is everything over now because one of the signatories withdraws, but the others are reaffirming that they are committed? I think in any event it is a pity because we anticipated, and we can now regret, his decision, but it is important that we all remain absolutely focused on stability and peace in the region.
There are some elements of tension, but there are also elements of very strong anchoring between us. I think we can go beyond this through a larger negotiation that I proposed last September during the UN General Assembly with [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel and [British Prime Minister] Theresa May, we want to work in this direction. We also have plans on the commercial level, and I think this has to be respected. We are a very strong trade power, the United States is an ally, but we have rules to abide by, the WTO rules, and we have to respect them and have others respect them as well.
It is very important that we Europeans maintain a multilateral framework. We have a true convergence of views, and we work together and fight against terrorism together with the United States. In Syria, we are working together in the international coalition. In Africa, we work together in the Sahel and Sahara zone against Islamist terrorism. We have some disagreements but nevertheless, and most importantly, we have a common interest — the will to work for our common security. We are now at a historical point, and we have to maintain this multilateral order which we created at the end of the Second World War. It is sometimes in jeopardy. We have to create a strong moderate liberalism. As I said in Washington. France, Germany and Great Britain negotiated together with Iran.
Now in Europe, you have reform ideas which Germany doesn't endorse. Are you disappointed with Angela Merkel?
Not at all. I'm waiting for her reply [on the proposed EU reforms]. Germany waited for a long time for France to complete its reforms, and I am not here to give good grades, bad grades or to say I'm disappointed. We work together, we are partners. France had a lot of work to accomplish, and I think today about our German friends. I think the German citizens are aware that France has been transforming in the last year. Many of you had been waiting for that. We have reformed our labor laws. We had a lot to catch up on, and we have created a strong wage agreement in a system that is closer to the German system. We reformed our tax law, then taxes for companies in order to be more competitive, to have better results. We are deeply reforming activity in sectors that were deemed unreformable.
I want everybody to be totally aware that the France of today is not the same as a year ago, and I am following Germany very attentively, and I think you are not entirely aware of how much we have changed. We are now able to make proposals, and I made proposals for Europe last September. We have also had some negotiations following the elections. Now by June, Germany will have to come up with a reply and I'm waiting for that and I have a lot of hope. I think that the chancellor and her government are going to join us in this historic moment and work together for a stronger Europe and a more united and more sovereign and more democratic Europe. That's our challenge.
For those who follow the events, I think you'll see that the German government is not working as quickly as you had expected because we have a different method and we also have different views. Few are talking about an EU finance minister, an idea that Germany does not endorse. Everything that you envision is not going to be possible. Are you aware of that?
I never said that everything that I propose is take it or leave it. I have an ambition. I make proposals, but I am convinced that it was my duty to do so. The current status quo in Europe is bad for everybody. Our sovereignty is being tested by everything that's happening. The Iranian crisis, trade crises, the challenges of the digital world, energy transition migration and our capacity to protect ourselves. We have to make progress, and we have to be a more integrated European avant-garde. I would like an economic, a government minister, but call it whatever you want. The end is what counts more than the names. I just want a Europe that is more democratic and less bureaucratic.
I want this Europe to be more united concerning the essential points, better able to protect itself against the big risks. That's why I want political integration in the eurozone and a policy of solidarity and responsibility. In the last few years, Europe has been divided several times. A division between the north and the south because of the financial crisis and economic crisis. And then a division between the east and the west because of the migration crisis. Do you think we can go on like that forever? No. We have to create more solidarity to face all of those dangers. That is the reform that I propose.
I am waiting now for the German reply and together with the chancellor, we have the target of replying and getting a reply in June. I am following German politics. You had elections. I think it would be a mistake to formulate a reply that lacks in ambition.
Germans always have the impression that they pay the bill for Europe...
But that is just wrong. That's not true. France pays just as much.
But you are speaking to German citizens, not French citizens. What are you telling them? You have the opportunity to talk to them directly today.
I am saying this is completely wrong. Since the financial crisis it has been wrong. Everybody has contributed according to its quota: Germany, and France as much as Germany. We have not helped our bank system, our financial system more than other countries, we have also helped other countries. That's why I say we have to go further to create an EU budget that allows a real convergence of economic policy and inside the eurozone we need a more integrated economic policy to have a budget that allows us to invest. We are net contributors just like Germany.
But I don't want this policy in order for France to benefit from it. No, I also want to help the other countries that want to follow us and go in the same direction. France has been carrying out reforms over the last year. I want more Europe, but not for the benefit of France: I want more Europe for the benefit of everybody.
The situation we have been in the last 10 years has been beneficial for Germany. Germany was smart enough to carry out the reforms before the crisis. They also benefit because there are some imbalances outside of the eurozone. Germany has a trade balance surplus with most countries. This cannot last. If we don't go beyond our present and look at our future, then the eurozone is going to be dismantled and Europe also. The situation where we are now as a whole cannot last. So the French proposal is not a proposal for France. It's a proposal for Europe. I am going to continue carrying out reforms in my country and I can tell you that France is a net contributor just as a Germany and if we don't reform Europe, now we are not going to be able to maintain the eurozone and the euro.
We have to go beyond our selfishness and our taboos and our fears. We have some taboos, and I am telling this frankly to your viewers what I want it's not for me, it's not for France. It's for the whole of Europe. We have to go beyond our taboos. Financial transfers are taboo for Germany, but a eurozone without financial transfers cannot last. Changing the treaty is a taboo for France, but we will have to deal with it otherwise we can't go on.
Mr. President, I have a "delicious" question for you. One year into the presidency, are you still a superhero?
Well, I have never presented myself as such. So I leave the responsibility for this comparison to you. They are not always true. I think from the first day I have been working hard.
I was elected president of the French Republic by the French people who made a choice between an extreme right-wing candidate and what I had to propose. Many thought that it would be impossible to be elected on the strength of a European program. I know that my project is very hard to carry out, and I have been working without respite from day one. We have made a lot of progress, but we still have a lot to do. I am working just as hard now as I was at the start, but I know I have to push France towards more transformation, but I also have to work on the European project because France has not transformed fast enough in the last years and the last decades. Not with enough vision and ambition. We have managed to master crises sometimes by applying a Band-Aid. But we have not been as bold as our founding fathers.
If you cannot manage to amend the treaty, if Germany does not have a solution and if we don't find a solution does the EU still have a future?
I'm a fighter and I never dwell on bad things. I'm going to put all my energy into convincing and convincing some more. I think the best way to convince is to do the job at home.
That's what I said from the beginning and this is why I waited until September to give my proposals for reforms. Then you have to explain, to be humble, to be constant. I have no lessons to give. I just say what I am suggesting, and then I have to go on working and work some more. Until things are a reality I'm not going to choose that option, that scenario, because I think that would be dramatic for all of us and bad for Germany as well. Germany had the courage and the strength of character to carry out very deep economic reform 10 years ago and benefited a lot from the eurozone. But the situation we are in now is not going to be able to continue like that. Not even Germany should remain in this situation.
During the migration crisis, Germany was confronted with selfishness from all of the other countries and had this experience. Now we need more transparency more responsibility from the states, but we need more solidarity in Europe on financial migration topics. We need a more sovereign Europe that is able to protect itself against risks and that is more united. And we need to take that step. I want your viewers to understand that it's good for them.