Emmanuel Macron outlines vision of Europe and world

French president wants to ‘find the thread’ of European history to stop the rise of extremes

French president Emmanuel Macron (centre) at a cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace: “The US loves freedom as much as we do. But they don’t share our taste for justice.” Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/Reuters

French president Emmanuel Macron (centre) at a cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace: “The US loves freedom as much as we do. But they don’t share our taste for justice.” Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/Reuters

 

On the eve of his first EU summit as France’s president, Emmanuel Macron laid out his vision of Europe and the world in an interview with European newspapers.

Germany, like France, “knows that our fate has again become tragic”, Macron said. “The rise of illiberal democracies and extremes in Europe, the re-emergence of authoritarian regimes that undermine the vitality of democracy, and the US’s partial withdrawal from the world” signified a crisis in the West.

As the cradle of the Enlightenment, Europe “carries the responsibility” to defend a shared heritage of freedom and democracy, ensure social justice and fight climate change, he said.

The French leader drew a distinction between the US and Europe. “The US loves freedom as much as we do,” he said. “But they don’t share our taste for justice. Europe is the only place in the world where individual freedoms, the spirit of democracy and social justice converge to such a point.”

Europe must now decide whether it wants to defend the “profound values” that for decades inspired the world, or “back down before the rise of bigoted democracies and authoritarian regimes”.

Though he did not name the governments of Hungary and Poland, Macron condemned “the cynical approach towards the EU which consists of spending its money without respecting its values. Europe is not a supermarket.”

Shared destiny

He said, “Europe is a shared destiny that is weakened when it accepts that its principles be rejected.”

If Europe accepted the violation of democratic principles, it was “out of weakness, and means Europe has already disappeared”.

He spoke of Europeans as a single people. “I don’t have the arrogance to believe my election stopped [the rise of populism in Europe]. But I have the will to find again the thread of history and the energy of the European people, to stop the rise of extremes and demagogy.”

The key to relaunching Europe was to create “a Europe that protects”, Macron said. That meant shared policies on defence, security, immigration and asylum. “The present immigration policy puts the burden on a few, and cannot stand up to the next waves of migration,” he predicted.

Yet at the same time, he said further institutional integration was impossible “until we have restored the coherence of Europe”.

Leadership must come from “an alliance of confidence” between France and Germany, he said. “I want us to return to the spirit of co-operation that existed between François Mitterrand and Helmet Kohl. One doesn’t go to the European Council without having a shared position . . . We cannot waste others’ time, asking them to arbitrate our disagreements.”

Without further integration, the euro zone would be weakened, Macron said, repeating his advocacy for a budget and democratic government for countries sharing the single currency. He wants “the pillars of responsibility and solidarity” to be better defined, and said he had the impression that “Germany is not blocked on that”.

Franco-British relations

Macron wants future Franco-British relations to be ruled by “pragmatism”. Defence co-operation, based on the 2010 Lancaster House Treaties, would continue, he said. He promised to prevent camps of migrants seeking to reach the UK from forming again on the channel coast.

Commenting on US president Donald Trump’s diplomacy by tweet, Macron said “the difficulty today is that he has not yet elaborated a conceptual framework for his foreign policy. So his policy can be unpredictable, and that is a source of discomfort for the world.”

The French president said he had not given up hope of persuading Trump to return to the Paris agreement on climate change.

Macron implicitly blamed mistakes by earlier French, US and British leaders for the intractable nature of conflicts in Syria, Libya and Ukraine.

‘Red lines’

“When you set ‘red lines’, if you can’t make them respected, you decide to be weak,” he said, referring to August 2013, when Barack Obama and Francois Hollande backed down on their threats of reprisals over Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

“Facing people who had ‘red lines’ that they didn’t make respected, liberated Vladimir Putin in other theatres of operation,” Macron said. In other words, US and French weakness in Syria emboldened Putin in Ukraine.

The French leader said Assad’s departure was not a pre-condition, that France could work with Russia in Syria, but that he would not tolerate the use of chemical weapons or blocking access to humanitarian aid.

Referring to the George W Bush ideology of “nation-building”, Macron said, “With me, the form of neo-conservatism that was imported to France a decade ago is over. Democracy cannot be constructed from the outside, unbeknown to peoples.” France was wrong to participate in the Libyan war, he said. Western intervention in Iraq and Libya resulted in “failed states where terrorist groups prosper”.

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