Emmanuel Macron, the “non-candidate” for the French presidential election, presented his vision for the European Union at the Brussels Days event in the EU capital on Wednesday (19 October). EurActiv France reports.
While the former economy minister has not officially announced his candidacy for the 2017 elections, his European policy seems all but finalised.
Invited to Brussels for a debate with Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Innovation Commissioner Carlos Moedas, Macron lamented the fact that “the European idea is too absent from our presidential debates”.
Eluding the question of his participation in France’s 2017 presidential elections, the former minister instead insisted he wants to lead the campaign for Europe. “There are are fights I really want to lead, including the one on Europe, which will need several battles,” he said at the end of the debate.
After two years as minister for the economy under President François Hollande, the former banker, who had never been a member of the Socialist Party, quit the government in August after repeated political disagreements with the head of state.
He then launched his own political movement, En Marche, and while he is not yet an official presidential candidate, it seems likely he will stand. A poll published by BFM TV on Wednesday suggested that Macron had convinced 27% of voters, placing him 9 points ahead of the current Prime Minister Manuel Valls and 15 points clear of President Hollande.
Changing the discourse on Europe
At the debate called How can we give Europe a future? organised by L’Obs in partnership with Le Soir and De Standaard, Macron called on European politicians to change the way they talk about the EU. “The first thing we have to change is the discourse of politicians who always shift the blame onto Europe. Because Europe is what we make it,” he said.
“Europe is in trouble because we are trying to fool ourselves,” he added. The former minister had two suggestions for restoring the EU’s democratic legitimacy: first, to create pan-European electoral lists for the next elections in 2019 and second, to draw up a new roadmap forEurope, using contributions from the bloc’s citizens.
“We have to put together a roadmap with the people of the 27 member states,” he said. “This text could be used to guide the institutions. In the member states it should be approved by referendum.”
But Macron acknowledged the limits of the process, warning against allowing a small minority of citizens or member states to obstruct progress. “Dissenting votes cannot be allowed to block progress, otherwise we give excessive power to those that say no,” he said.
“France was guilty of this in 2005 with the rejection of the European constitution,” he added.
Power to the sceptics
The former minister said he wants to see measures taken to curb the excessive power of small minorities to block legislation, using the example of the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA), which has been stalled by a vote in the parliament of Wallonia, Belgium’s francophone region.
“I think it is a good thing to ask people what they want, but what is happening with the Canada treaty is very different,” he said. “The Walloons have relevant arguments, but this is not how it works. Everyone has to play their part during the negotiations.
“At the ratification stage, it simply will not work. This kind of debate has to take place at the beginning, not the end,” he added.
“Europe is stronger on trade and competition policy than its member states. Mrs. Vestager’s actions against Apple are something France would not have been able to do. The deal the Commission has struck with Canada could not have been done by Wallonia alone,” Macron said.