The French minister for economy has said Europe needs to find long-term perspective, define its values and lay out a plan for the next 15 years, to be validated by an EU-wide referendum. EurActiv’s partner La Tribune reports.
Emmanuel Macron, whose new political party En marche! will meet for the first time on 12 July, two days before France’s annual presidential address, shares the widely-held view that the European project needs a significant overhaul.
But how should this be done? Macron has presented a strategy prescribing both a long and short term solutions. With democratic regeneration at the core of the project, the future of the EU would have to be put to a referendum. This would not take place at the member state level, but simultaneously right across the bloc.
Taking the initiative
For the economy minister, the shape of the bloc that would be left after the referendum – be it a 27-country EU or just the hard core of the eurozone – is of little importance.
“We have got stuck in thinking that certain geographical arrangements would be unacceptable,” he said at the Aix Economic Forum on Sunday (3 July). “We stalled on integrating the eurozone to avoid upsetting the Brits and the Poles, but look how they thanked us.”
The French minister of the economy met MEPs in Strasbourg this week to defend his economic reform bill. He used the opportunity to call on the European Commission to maximise the Juncker Plan’s support for digital projects. EurActiv France reports.
Those countries that want to take the initiative “should not hesitate”, the minister stressed.
“We cannot wait for the Commission’s proposals. On the subjects of taxation, social policy, defence and common investment policy, certain member states must take the initiative and try to converge.”
A separate eurozone budget
He added that the eurozone needed “more solidarity and a greater boost”.
“This is our Achilles heel,” he said. “We will not make this happen through mere coordination. We need more integration concerning fiscal and social policy and an investment policy run from a common eurozone budget”.
In the long term, Macron believes the EU must go further still, “to the very heart of what the single market means”. But his interpretation is different to that of the United Kingdom, which saw the single market as a series of barriers to be broken down, “making the single market an ultra-liberal exercise”.
“The single market’s DNA is freedom, cooperation and solidarity. Since the beginning of the 90s we have lost sight of this three-sided approach. We have forgotten about regulation.”
Emmanuel Macron’s economic bill, designed to show the European Commission that France is serious about reform, will also submit parts of the economy to a glut of new regulations. EurActiv France reports.
And the major challenge in the long term is to “redefine our common interest,” Macron said.
“Everyone talks about Europe with one eye on their own interests. This has to end. This is a fatal paradox: we manage the short term, we do not look at the future, we have to find a long-term perspective. In any event, we cannot continue to push Europe forward without the suppot of the people”.
The Macron solution
To achieve this, Macron plans to hold “democratic conventions in the 27 member states to define our shared values, for a 15-year project”.
These discussions would then be followed by “a referendum, not at national, but European level,” held simultaneously in all the member countries.