President Emmanuel Macron’s party launched its campaign for the European elections, reflecting on a consultation about Europe involving 71,000 French people held in the spring. LREM wants to present itself as the only truly pro-European party. EURACTIV France reports.
La République En Marche (LREM) is putting across the same campaign points again. Two years after the presidential election, Christophe Castaner, the delegate general of the movement founded by Emmanuel Macron, launched its campaign for the European elections in Paris on Wednesday evening (26 September).
The recipe is almost the same as it was for the presidential election: first, holding a consultation with the French people on Europe, which was carried out in the spring, followed by making proposals in the coming weeks.
However, a significant mystery remains – who will head the LREM list for the European elections, scheduled for 26 May 2019? The name should be known at some point between the end of 2018 and early 2019. A call for nominations has been launched, while the names of Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Sylvie Goulard are already circulating.
The consultation allowed LREM to gather 71,000 questionnaires. Of this total, 20,000 were completed by LREM supporters online, whose commitment to Europe is stronger than that of the average French person. This bias provided responses which were, as a whole, more pro-European.
A commitment that is critical of Europe
The responses do highlight a strong commitment to Europe – 82% of the people surveyed believe “it is worth fighting to improve the European Union”. However, they also highlight strong criticism of how the European institutions work and of social and fiscal dumping between member states.
Three topics are repeated as “European priorities”: ecology, economy and security.
These are responses which are consistent with the policies desired by Macron. Being deeply committed to the European project, the French president also wants to bring about major reforms to combat French, and also European, disenchantment with Europe.
Attending the first LREM meeting on Wednesday evening, Nathalie Loiseau, the minister for European affairs, gave an update on the proposals put forward by the French head of state in his speech at La Sorbonne exactly a year ago.
“In one year, we have made greater progress than over the past six decades,” Loiseau said in front of the 500 LREM activists gathered in a hall in the Place d’Italie in Paris.
Loiseau noted that half of these proposals were being fully or partially implemented. Being a realist, she also agreed that all was not well. The former head of l’ENA (an elite university which prepares students for careers in the higher civil service) also denounced the two threats hanging over Europe.
The first is an external one, coming from countries such as Donald Trump’s United States, Russia and China. The second is internal and comes from populists, starting with the Rassemblement national (the former FN). Finally, Loiseau called the 2019 election “historic”.
Castaner denounces “the enemies of Europe”
It was up to Christophe Castaner, who has been LREM delegate general for a year, to relaunch Macron’s election campaign machine and to rally the troops. Justifying the decision to start the campaign before the other parties, he considered that it was “essential to talk about Europe outside of election periods”.
He also reiterated Macron’s record on Europe over the past 16 months and was strongly critical of nationalist leaders, whether they be in France or other countries. Accusing them of “lies and petty politics”, he sees them as “the enemies of Europe, the enemies of the people of Europe”.
Not only Viktor Orban and Marine Le Pen are targeted by Castaner, but also Laurent Wauquiez, the leader of Les Républicains (LR), the main French right-wing party.
“What are we talking about when we talk about populists and nationalists? We are talking about people whose only political agenda is saying ‘no’ to Europe because they thrive on the fantasy of making a retrograde step. Unlike them, I’m not ashamed of Europe,” Castaner added.
LREM is looking for allies to build a group in the European Parliament and become key to electing the European Commission’s future president. However, in the meantime, the campaign in France has to be successful. The French president’s party wants both to extend beyond the borders, by finding allies – such as the centrist MoDem party, the radicals and the moderate right – and to engage civil society.