Author: Christoph Zeiher
During a flying visit to Berlin to promote his vision of a new Europe, Macron shyly took the stage in front of a large audience that had turned up to hear him speak at the Humboldt University.
Macron’s ‘En marche!’ movement has stirred up the French campaign since he first entered the fray in November. The former economy minister is not averse to criticising the European institutions.
In this regard, at least, he is not dissimilar to his presidential opponents, Republican candidate François Fillon and the extreme-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen.
But Macron is no Eurosceptic, quite the contrary in fact, as Europe is a positive beacon for the Frenchman. But he has not shied away from calling for a sobering inventory of the bloc.
Macron has identified four crises that characterise the political landscape today: security, caused by, among other things, the rise of Islamist terrorism; migration; the economic crisis; and the crisis of the European Union itself.
The 39-year-old said that the EU has degenerated into a theatre with predictable choreography and he called for “a revolution of the system”. But for him, this means more, not less EU: “We need more European sovereignty.”
The presidential wannabe also insists that Europe needs more self-confidence and to provide its institutions with more capacity to get work done. His strategy is based around five different points:
- A common European security policy: the EU member states have to speak with one voice. This is imperative in both foreign and asylum policy: “Our real borders are the EU’s external ones, not the national ones.”
- The euro: while the common currency needs fundamental reform, the euro remains a prerequisite for a economically successful Europe.
- An aggressive and coordinated trade policy: only by acting together on trade can the EU compete with global players like China or the US.
- A common sustainability strategy: although Macron does not support a hard phase-out of nuclear energy in the same vein as Germany, their approaches are otherwise aligned.
- A digital single market: only through common rules and digital infrastructure can Europe hold onto its digital developments. “There’ll never be a French Google but maybe there’ll be a European one,” he added.
Even before his Berlin visit, Macron had made his position clear on refugee policy, coming down firmly on the side of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He insisted that Merkel and the German people’s response to the crisis had “saved Europe’s dignity”.
During his visit, the Frenchman also reiterated the importance of Franco-German relations. He called for a “new deal” of more government spending and greater investment from Germany. France must also reform its education system and restructure its labour market, in the candidate’s view.
If necessary, said Macron, it would be up to the two countries to preserve the vision of Europe single-handedly. “Every state should have the chance to participate in this but not be able to block the whole thing,” he added.
He is supported in his quest by two prominent German politicians: Joschka Fischer and Daniel Cohn were among his Berlin audience.
“If he were elected to France’s highest office, then he could get a lot done,” Fischer, a former vice-chancellor and foreign minister, told EurActiv.de. “Without France and Germany it doesn’t work. Anyone who wants to be part of it should be able to, but we have to move forward,” he added.
Whether Macron’s pro-Europe tack will be as warmly received by the French electorate as it was in Berlin is highly questionable. According to recent polls, he has closed the gap on his rivals and the first round of the election is scheduled for 23 April. Macron, at least, has his gloves on and is ready to step into the ring.