Presidential Contest Overshadows Macron’s EU Ambitions Speech
(Bloomberg) -- Emmanuel Macron marked the start of his turn at the helm of the European Union with a speech in Strasbourg outlining his goals for the bloc, but the Q&A was overshadowed by France’s upcoming presidential elections.
“Fight to defend our democracies. Fight to keep the sovereignty of people progressing. Fight for the rule of law. That is liberal democracy,” Macron told members of the European Parliament on Wednesday as he kicked off his address.
After focusing mostly on the rule of law, while also addressing the environment and Brexit, the French leader faced questions. That’s when things got a bit feisty.
Nicolas Bay, a member of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party in France, referred to Macron’s speech on Europe’s future at the Sorbonne in 2017, saying that already then he had presented an “arrogant” and “empty” vision and suggesting that nothing had changed since. Yannick Jadot, a Green party member and French presidential hopeful himself, attacked Macron’s environmental credentials saying he was guilty of “climate inaction.”
Macron had the opportunity to postpone France’s turn to hold the six-month rotating EU presidency to avoid mixing domestic politics with the EU’s broader agenda, but instead chose to have the two events coincide. He has repeatedly dismissed the idea his country’s presidency of the bloc would be eclipsed by April’s election.
But if Wednesday’s session is anything to go by that’s not going to be easy.
“You criticized some for using this debate for electoral ends, what bad faith,” said Manuel Bompard of the far-left France Unbowed group. “It’s you, who by keeping the calendar as it is for the French presidency, sacrificed it at the altar of your electoral ambitions.”
Macron didn’t miss opportunities to score points, either. He spoke of his love for Europe, in a clear attempt to distinguish himself from other presidential hopefuls who’ve adopted a tougher line on the bloc and positioned himself as the defender of liberal values.
He called on EU countries to start new security negotiations with Russia to defuse tensions over Ukraine, and, in a challenge to countries such as Poland, he said he would push to have the right to abortion added to the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
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