Macron outlines plans for multi-speed Europe

Emmanuel Macron has taken the lead in some polls. [Frederic Legrand - COMEO/Shutterstock]

In his programme unveiled yesterday (2 March), Emmanuel Macron focussed on Europe. The eurozone is held back by “shame” and we must “dare to go for a multi-speed Europe”, he said.

The En Marche presidential candidate, currently riding high in the polls, unveiled his plans at length on Thursday. In a highly-centrist, pro-European programme, François Hollande’s former advisor did something rare in French politics: expressed his faith in the European Union.

Macron’s programme is right in line with the European Commission’s White Paper. Hardly surprising, given his contacts and high popularity in the EU executive.

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Holding forth to an impressive crowd of some 400 journalists, including Chinese television and almost all of the foreign correspondents in Paris, Macron began by stressing the need to boost France’s credibility by restoring its public finances. This he hopes to achieve in the first six months of his mandate, before initiating a real investment plan and greater solidarity in the eurozone.

“The French-German axis is the core of the reactor, both in the eurozone and the EU. It is a pre-requisite for any progress,” he said. “I propose to restore the credibility of France in the eyes of Germany, to convince Berlin in the next six months to adopt an active investment policy and move towards greater solidarity in Europe. We need it because the future of Europe is at stake.”

“Since 2008 we have failed to build Europe. Since 2008 we have had a lost generation that has seen only a vacuum of plans. Our duty is to rebuild the European dream,” Macron added, stressing the need for a mulita-speed Europe.

Different speeds that already exist

According to the former economy minister, a multi-speed Europe already exists: take the various strengthened cooperation deals, opt-in policies and the eurozone itself.

“If the eurozone has not made progress in recent years it is because it is ashamed of itself and because it is afraid to face up to those that preferred to stay on the balcony or in the entrance hall. Let’s dare to go for a multi-speed Europe,” Macron said. “Europe has always been built on conviction. But for the last ten years there has been no European conviction, so nobody has dared to make any real proposals,” he added.

“Waiting is the worst thing we can do; not daring to move forward because we want to stay together.”

On austerity, Macron called himself a “progressive” and condemned the mistakes of the austerity policies enforced in Southern Europe. For him, their problems were caused by the 2008 crisis but made much worse by the structural reforms demanded by the EU’s prophets of austerity. This cocktail, he said, is responsible for the current lack of demand in the EU economy.

“Our Europe needs a policy of solidarity and relaunch. I am not suggesting we throw out all the rules, but that we make an EU budget with the ability to raise its own funds. We need to change the stability mechanism and then invest in education, transport etc.”

Buy European Act

Macron’s priorities for Europe, he said, are the Digital Single Market and the energy market. “We need a CO2 floor price, otherwise there will be no real European carbon market and no real national policies behind it,” he said.

And on trade, he outlined plans for a Buy European Act, which would prioritise companies that locate at least half of their production in Europe.

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Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche movement is gaining momentum, but he has yet to officially launch his 2017 presidential campaign. The minister is the only potential presidential candidate to put Europe at the heart of his message. EURACTIV France reports.