French President Emmanuel Macron called for a multi-speed Europe on Tuesday (29 August), arguing that a core of “avant-garde” countries should lead the way in deepening EU integration.
Macron, 39, put the crisis-hit European Union at the heart of his centrist election campaign, promising to go further in building the bloc.
“We should imagine a Europe of several formats: going further with those who want to advance, while not being held back by states which want… to progress slower or not as far,” he said in his first major foreign policy speech on Tuesday.
Speaking in front of 200 ambassadors in Paris, he reiterated comments made on the campaign trail by arguing that Europe “needed to leave behind the logic” that it advanced all together or not at all.
“We have always progressed with an avant-garde group of the willing that was followed by the others,” he said.
Merkel backing for EU finance minister
Part of his plans include creating a budget for the 19-member eurozone which will be overseen by a finance minister and new parliament – a major institutional change.
Macron won tentative backing from German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, who is running for re-election in parliamentary elections due on 24 September.
“I have made clear that I have nothing against the idea of a European finance minister per se. We just need to determine what this finance minister could do,” Merkel told reporters, adding that this could allow for better coordination on budget and economic policies.
Merkel, who met Macron on Monday (28 August), endorsed the idea of a European Monetary Fund, an idea spearheaded by her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. “It could make us even more stable and allow us to show the world that we have all the mechanisms in our own portfolio of the euro zone to be able to react well to unexpected situations.”
Such a Fund would evolve out of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) – a rescue facility set up in 2012 to help defuse the euro zone crisis that threatened to tear apart the common-currency bloc at the heart of the EU.
The German chancellor also said she supported the idea of a budget for the eurozone to transfer money to weaker members of the zone who might need support while carrying out difficult economic reforms.
“Not hundreds of billions of euros, but just small amounts at first with which we could support countries that introduce reforms,” Merkel added.
“Brexit must not consume all of our energy”
In his speech to the ambassadors, Macron also stressed that Britain’s decision to leave the EU should not impede the bloc’s plans to advance.
“Brexit must not consume all of our energy,” he said, adding that the Brexit referendum in June 2016 had shown that “when Europe is only a market, it is rejected.”
Macron said there would be more initiatives on the future of the bloc after the German elections in September.