This article is part of our special report French presidential election: Where does Europe fit into all this?.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, presidential candidate of radical left party La France Insoumise, hopes to push member countries to break away from EU treaties “that block us” if he wins the election in April. EURACTIV France reports.
If he fails to find support among the EU27, Mélenchon, known for his no-holds-barred discourse, said he will just disregard EU rules that go against his programme.
“We are attacking the treaties on the points that block us,” Mélenchon told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where he unveiled his party’s “whatever it takes” strategy on the eve of President Emmanuel Macron’s speech to MEPs.
Mélenchon’s “plan A” foresees a “concerted break” with current EU treaties – which he considers obstacles to implementing measures necessary for France. Instead, he wants new EU texts to be “compatible with the climate and social emergencies”.
If his call for reform fails to convince other members, Mélenchon’s “plan B” will ignore the EU rules he considers incompatible with his national programme.
“You do what you want, but so do we,” the former MEP summarised.
He explained that, compared to his run in the 2017 presidential election, this is a new, “less aggressive” approach. In 2017, he defended a pure and hard exit from the European treaties if the negotiations for reform failed.
“We must finally make Eastern and Northern Europe aware that a certain contempt for Southern Europe is untenable,” Mélenchon said when asked by EURACTIV France about the countries of the bloc that could follow him in this rebellion. And according to him, it will be possible to find common ground with the countries of Southern Europe.
“We will oppose any new accession as long as the criteria for social harmonisation have not been decided,” even if they are “good friends” such as Serbia, Mélenchon also stressed, referring to the Western Balkan EU candidate country with which Paris has traditionally good relations.
EU ambitions and rules are incompatible
Mélenchon also denounces what he calls the certain hypocrisy of decision-makers in Paris and Brussels. According to him, they put forward great proposals knowing full well that they are not compatible with EU rules.
He listed the free trade agreements that fail to protect the environment, the European Central Bank (ECB) statute that would subject states to today’s big financial players, and budgetary rules that would lock them into austerity.
He also noted the principle of free and undistorted competition that would prevent, for example, local and organic products from being given priority in calls for tender.
“Either you agree with me and my method or you assume your status as liars,” he stressed.
Regarding the sanctions France could face if it violates EU rules, Mélenchon referred to the “2,903 cases in other countries where there are infringements” where “nobody has said anything”.
In his programme, the candidate cited the example of the “golden rule” of the 3% public deficit, which has been violated 171 times, including seven times by Germany.
Disobedience, he explained, can even create “precedents”, forcing Brussels to authorise derogations or special statutes.
Criticising the French EU presidency
The presidential candidate also took advantage of his visit to Strasbourg to tackle the government a day before Macron’s speech to MEPs, presenting broad outlines of the French EU Council presidency that runs until the end of June.
“The French presidency is starting with a question mark,” said Mélenchon, who regretted that the French presidency was being interrupted by the election in April.
Mélenchon pointed to some of France’s EU presidency priorities, including the EU minimum wage directive, which he called “a decoy for 90% of the content”.
He also slammed the EU’s carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM), saying it would create a “right to pollute”.
If elected, Mélenchon said he would devote the remaining months of the French presidency to lifting patents on vaccines, speeding up the negotiations on the regulation of platform workers, and preventing the reinstatement of the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact in 2023.
He also called for “a serious discussion on the debt”, regretting that “even before [this debate] starts, Germany has said ‘no'”.
Asked whether, like his predecessors, he would reserve his first foreign visit for the German chancellery, Mélenchon said he did not know, but that it would not be the case “if it is just to show that we are keeping a fiction alive”.
[Edited by Alice Taylor/Zoran Radosavljevic]