Macron plays appeasement card after Goulard’s rejection

"The EU could not afford division, blindness or weakness. I would like you to know that we can work towards the establishment of a strong Commission, based on a solid majority, which we have the responsibility to build and strengthen," the French president assured, citing economic challenges, international political instabilities and even Brexit. EPA-EFE/Julien de Rosa

After an initial outburst, French President Emmanuel Macron sought to ease tensions on Sunday (13 October) following the rejection last week of his protégée Sylvie Goulard as France’s candidate for the European Commission. EURACTIV France reports.

A visibly irritated Macron first pointed the finger at President-elect Ursula von der Leyen and the European Parliament’s erratic behaviour after MEPs rejected Goulard’s candidacy last week.

But since then, the French president appears to be playing the appeasement card.

On Sunday (13 October), at a working dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Macron said “the EU cannot allow itself the luxury of vengeance, of small disputes, or to add internal crises to the tensions of the world already affecting us”.

Now, the French president is due to meet the Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen today (14 October) at 11 am.

Why the European Parliament rejected Sylvie Goulard

The parliamentary committees rejected the candidacy of France’s Sylvie Goulard for the Commissioner’s post, officially on ethical grounds. However, her refusal is also a sign that German conservatives are finding it difficult to trust French President Emmanuel Macron. EURACTIV France reports.

And both the French president and the German chancellor appeared keen to send a message of appeasement.

“The EU could not afford division, blindness or weakness,” the French president assured, citing economic challenges, international political instabilities and even Brexit.

“I would like you to know that we can work towards the establishment of a strong Commission, based on a solid majority, which we have the responsibility to build and strengthen,” he added.

A busy European week

The European week promises to be a particularly busy one, with French-German ministers meeting on Wednesday (16 October) with Merkel. The meeting will take place in Toulouse to demonstrate Franco-German industrial cooperation as the city harbours the headquarters of aircraft maker Airbus.

Following that, an EU’s leaders summit in Brussels will take place on Thursday and Friday.

For both meetings, the French head of state has already set out his priorities. Macron intends to discuss climate protection, particularly as three EU member states have still not endorsed a proposed carbon neutrality target for 2050. Incoming Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, also envisages reducing CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030, as he announced during his Parliamentary hearing last week.

With the US close to raising its tariffs on European products, the issue of trade will also be  high on the agenda, along with questions related to coordination on industrial policy and defence.

The issue of Brexit should also take a prominent place, with the 31 October deadline approaching fast.

EU heads of state will also discuss the situation in Turkey. The French president and the German chancellor both condemned Turkey’s military operation into north-eastern Syria against the Kurds as this could destabilise the region further.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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