French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday (26 October) warned eastern EU members not to fall out of step with the bloc’s principles, singling out Hungary and Poland whose nationalist governments have clashed with Brussels.
In an interview published in media of the four Visegrad countries (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia), the French leader insisted that “Europe is not a supermarket”, driving home a point he made previously that eastern states could not pick and choose among the bloc’s fundamental values.
Seven months ahead of elections to the European Parliament, Macron said he expected the campaign ahead of the vote to be a duel between “progressives” and nationalists.
As he kicks off a two-day visit to Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Macron also expressed concern about the refusal of some eastern EU members to accept migrants from the Middle East and North Africa under an EU quota programme drafted in the wake of the 2015 migrant crisis.
“We have a collective need for coherence and solidarity: we cannot benefit from the European budget without demonstrating solidarity on migration,” Macron said.
He also warned that any moves by member states to reduce their payments into the common budget could serve to undermine EU unity, including its single market.
“We cannot try to reduce our contribution to the European budget without understanding what the single market brings. If we want to kill Europe, we should continue like this,” Macron said.
“Europe isn’t a one-way street: it is a reciprocal commitment,” he added.
Turning to Poland’s controversial judicial reforms, Macron said he hoped that “the Polish government will take the necessary steps to address the concerns of the (European) Commission and its partners.”
Its nationalist government has put Poland on a collision course with the European Union by introducing a string of controversial judicial reforms that the bloc has warned pose a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and ultimately to democracy.
The French leader also noted that “the situation of the rule of law in Hungary is undergoing worrying developments”, and pointed to threats to the division of powers and the independence of non-governmental organisations.
“I have a good relationship with Viktor Orbán, whom I respect personally and as a prime minister chosen by the Hungarian people… But a Europe that ignores the diversity of ideas and beliefs, the independence of the judiciary or the press, the reception of refugees who have fled political persecution, is a betrayal of who we are,” Macron added.
He also condemned the February murder of a journalist in Slovakia, insisting that “threatening, attacking or killing journalists undermines the foundations of our democracies”.