Emmanuel Macron says Europe is in a 'civil war' and is 'fascinated with the illiberal' in landmark EU speech

French president urges member states to preserve 'unique' EU model

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Tuesday 17 April 2018 11:15 BST
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Emmanuel Macron says Europe is in a 'civil war' and is 'fascinated with the illiberal' in landmark EU speech

Europe is in a state of “civil war” and is afflicted with a “fascination with the illiberal”, the president of France has said – as he urged member states to pull together and preserve the European Union’s “unique model”.

Laying out his vision for the future of the EU at the European parliament’s seat in Strasbourg, Emmanuel Macron said there was a “context of division and indeed doubt within Europe”.

Mr Macron told MEPs that France would be happy to increase its contribution to the EU’s budget in order to strengthen Europe-wide sovereignty, but that rebates for member states would have to be scrapped and new funding streams found for the EU institutions.

“Brexit continues. It is still being discussed and worked on, here I would pay tribute to the work being performed by Michel Barnier,” he told MEPs.

“But there is doubt in a number of European countries. Month after month we’re seeing views and sensibilities emerge which call into certain fundamental… There seems to be a sort of European civil war. National selfishness and egotism seems to take precedence over what brings us together.

“There is a fascination with the illiberal, and that’s growing all the time. So Europe has an ever greater responsibility.”

The French president said it would be “the worst possible mistake” to give up on the European social model and integration of the continent, describing nationalism as a “deadly tendency which might lead our continent into the abyss”.

There seems to be a sort of European civil war. National selfishness and egotism seems to take precedence over what brings us together.

Emmanuel Macron

He argued that the EU was a “unique model in the world” and “a treasure which we have made come alive and kept alive for 70 years”.

“Let’s compare Europe with some of the other powers, which some are fascinated by because they are allegedly efficient,” he said. “Where else in the world are there these same requirements: financial, diplomatic, geopolitical, economic; this obligation to respect minorities, equality of women, respect for private life?

“Where else is this so developed in the world with this level of vitality and strength? Yes, there are divisions between countries and within this hemicycle [where MEPs sit], but over and above these divisions this democratic model brings us together. It is unique in the world.”

The French president called for an extension of democratic debate about Europe’s future and said events should be held with European citizens about the future of the continent. He also called for urgent reform of the eurozone and economic union.

Mr Macron is the fourth EU national leader to address the European Parliament in a series of addresses on the future of the bloc; previous leaders include Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister. Mr Macron received a standing ovation for his address.

Responding to the speech, Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, told MEPs: “We agree. I fully agree with what the president has just said.”

“I want to begin by expressing my emotion and friendship when it comes to seeing the French president expressing himself in the way that he has. The true France is back.”

He continued: “Together we need to ensure that the gaps that divide Europe, between east and west, for example, are closed. We need to rediscover a joint ambition. Europe can’t simply be used to divide people and set people against each other. Europe is one whole.”

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