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Macron plans for a 'European Renaissance'

March 4, 2019

In a Europe-wide column, French President Emmanuel Macron has laid out a plan to protect democracy in Europe. It includes new border controls and higher penalties for firms that flout climate, tax or data rules.

Emmanuel Macron
Image: Reuters/L. Marin

French President Emmanuel Macron has outlined his vision for fundamental reform of the European Union in an editorial to be published on Tuesday in leading newspapers in each EU country.

His impassioned call for a "European Renaissance" comes amid unease about a continued upswing in support for far-right, nationalist parties in the EU elections in May.

Macron's main recommendations:

  • The creation of a new agency to protect European democracies and their electoral processes against cyberattacks and fake news. It would enforce bans on foreign financing of political parties and draw up rules that ban "hateful and violent speeches from the internet."
  • Sweeping reforms to the passport-free Schengen area, including the creation of a joint border police force and European asylum office.
  • Stricter controls on the EU's outer borders and a common asylum policy for migrants.
  • A similar approach to US President Donald Trump's "America First" policies and a ban on companies that threaten European strategic interests.
  • Penalties or bans for companies that flout European rules — on environmental conservation, tax avoidance and data protection.
  • The creation of a European climate bank to finance the transition to a more sustainable way of life.
  • A "social shield" for all European workers with a European minimum wage adapted to each country.
  • All states should take part in a "Conference for Europe" by the end of the year, to propose far-reaching changes to the bloc's political system and to urge European citizens not to back far-right nationalist parties
  • Britain would once again find its place in Europe after Brexit.
  • A new European defense and security treaty to define the obligations of EU member states in coordination with NATO.

Read more: Merkel and Macron sign Treaty of Aachen to revive EU

Populist parties denounced

Macron, who has been under pressure for months from the Yellow Vest movement, warned that the May elections would be "decisive for the future of our continent."

"Never since the Second World War has Europe been so necessary," Macron said. "And yet never has Europe been in such a danger." 

In an apparent wake-up call to supporters of far-right parties, he added: "Nationalism offers nothing. It is a project of rejection ... We can't let nationalists with no solutions exploit people's anger. We can't sleepwalk to a diminished Europe."

Read more: EU finance reforms dampen Macron's ardor

Election campaign launched?

The editorial was widely seen as the start of Macron's own campaign for the May elections. He has made no secret of his plans to form a centrist, pro-Europe alliance to stave off populist and nationalist movements that have been gaining ground across the continent.

The European Parliament elections are set for May 23-26.

mm/aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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