Emmanuel Macron has laid out his vision for the future of the EU at Strasbourg in characteristically contradictory fashion. While praising the EU’s “unique model” for pan-European unity he also described Europe as being in a state of “civil war” due “a context of division and indeed doubt within Europe.”
Unable to make up his mind whether the EU is a force for unity or division, Macron went on to say that, “Brexit continues. It is still being discussed and worked on, here I would pay tribute to the work being performed by Michel Barnier.” He continued, telling over 700 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.”
The farce of the European Parliament being a proper democratic parliamentary body is further exposed today. In reply to an address by President Macron back bench MEPs are restricted to speak for only one minute each. That is a shameful limit on free speech!— Lord John Kilclooney (@KilclooneyJohn) 17 April 2018
Describing the emerging nationalism as a “deadly tendency which might lead our continent into the abyss,” he elaborated, “There is a fascination with the illiberal and that’s growing all the time. So Europe has an ever greater responsibility.” The French President praised the increasingly fractured EU as, “a treasure which we have made come alive and kept alive for 70 years”.
So basically you were elected as president of France, but now you want to get shot of France and brown nose to Brussels https://t.co/w1xFXHBGyv— slysocks (@slysocks1) 17 April 2018
Simultaneously recognising and ignoring the growing anti-EU movements across the continent, Macron went on, “Yes, there are divisions between countries and within this hemicycle, but over and above these divisions this democratic model brings us together. It is unique in the world.” He concluded, still unable to make up his mind, “The response should not be authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy.”
‘When You’re in a Centrist Hole, Stop Digging’
Macron’s speech, which marks a year since he swept to power in the French polls, was given a standing ovation and Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, praised him saying, “We agree. I full agree with what the President has just said.”
#macronspeech I’m back in the main chamber after attending another meeting to find @EmmanuelMacron is still on his feet answering questions. #impressed (though disagree with much he says) pic.twitter.com/voDD9qhMRo— Rupert Matthews MEP (@RMatthewsMEP) 17 April 2018
However, others have criticised Macron for his unrealistic vision, with UKIP’s Nigel Farage saying, “When you’re in an EU centrist hole, stop digging… Macron obviously doesn’t yet understand that the future of Europe will be eurosceptic.”
The pro-federalist liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt also took issue with Macron’s speech, saying, “Eurosceptics are not always wrong. No, it’s true. Let us acknowledge that a large number, a large majority of our citizens feel exasperated at our inability to act, its inertia.” While Manfred Weber praised Macron, he highlighted how, “The reality is, they see Europe as an external power and not of their own project. Who has the power? The people in Europe or some elite groups.” He later jokingly apologized on twitter for his comments, saying he had been "hacked by Russians".
Conservative MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel MEP took issue with Macron’s call for a “European identity,” tweeting, “Macron wants a ‘European identity’! What's that? Is there an Asian, South American or African identity? Did he ever listen to a European opera, read a European book, or eat at a European restaurant?”
#Macron’s speech confirms all my previous suspicions on the French agenda: more integration where it means more French influence, more access to “European funds” and getting rid of those who oppose it: United Kingdom! #Brexit #FutureofEurope pic.twitter.com/JZkmeM16JG— Hans-Olaf Henkel MEP (@HansOlafHenkel) 17 April 2018