Thursday 26 April 2018

Macron sets out his plan to reshape 'weak, slow and ineffective Europe'

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech at the Sorbonne in Paris. Photo: REUTERS
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech at the Sorbonne in Paris. Photo: REUTERS

Sylvie Corbet

Calling Europe slow, weak and ineffective, French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday said the EU should embrace a joint budget, shared military force and harmonised taxes to stay globally relevant.

With Brexit looming, Mr Macron warned the rest of Europe against the dangers of anti-immigrant nationalism and fragmentation, saying it goes against the principles of a shared Europe born from the tragedy of world wars.

"We thought the past would not come back... we thought we had learned the lessons," Mr Macron told a crowd of European students at the Sorbonne university.

After a far-right party entered the German parliament for the first time in 60 years, Mr Macron said this isolationist attitude has resurfaced "because of blindness... because we forgot to defend Europe".

"The Europe that we know is too slow, too weak, too ineffective," he said.

To change that, he proposed a joint budget for European countries sharing the euro currency that would allow investment in European projects and help stabilise the eurozone in case of economic crisis. This budget would at some point need to come from national budgets of countries sharing the euro currency, for instance using domestic taxes on businesses.

Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Mr Macron said the only way to make Europe strong in a globalised world is to reshape "a sovereign, united and democratic Europe".

And in a move that raises the prospect of Britain returning to the EU at a later date, Mr Macron said he saw a place for the the UK in a "reformed, simplified" union. He said: "In this union rebuilt on intransigent values and an efficient market, in a few years, if it so wishes, Britain could regain its place, which is why you haven't heard me talk about Brexit this afternoon."

While re-elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel has signalled openness to some of Mr Macron's ideas, one potential ally in her new government is deeply sceptical about a eurozone budget. Mr Macron's office says he wants his Europe strategy to play a role in Germany's coalition-building talks.

To reduce inequalities across the EU, Mr Macron also suggested greater harmonisation of EU tax policies - notably on corporate taxes, and taxing internet giants where they make money and not where they are registered. Mr Macron is also proposing every EU country guarantee a minimum wage and payroll charges.

He also proposed a shared European military intervention force and defence budget. He suggested the creation of a European intelligence academy to better fight terrorism, and a joint civil protection force.

Mr Macron wants to open the French military to European soldiers and proposed other EU member states do the same on a voluntary basis.

To deal with Europe's migration flux, he wants a European asylum agency and standard EU identity documents.

Mr Macron doesn't want to wait for Britain to leave the EU in 2019 to tie European economies closer together.

But his biggest challenge may be the German political calendar. The outgoing government there goes into caretaker status in a few weeks and is not going to be taking any major decisions on the future of Europe, and it may take months for Ms Merkel to form a viable coalition.

Ms Merkel herself said on Monday she wouldn't rule anything out and that she is in touch with Mr Macron about his plans.

Irish Independent

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