Can Macron get Europe to reform?

In an address to the EU Parliament French President Macron has warned against a further rise of authoritarianism and called for speedy reforms to the EU. Paris is taking over the role as Europe's leader from Berlin, commentators observe. But not all are convinced that the other EU states will play along.

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Le Monde (FR) / 17 April 2018

A pro-European dynamic

Members of the European Parliament from various parties and countries who back Macron's initiative write in a guest commentary for Le Monde:

“The pro-European parties have not managed to come up with answers to questions posed by our fellow citizens regarding the purpose of the European institutions. Since they are unable to give Europe a vision or a human face, they have left it in the hands of those who seek its destruction. France is lucky to have a president who has placed Europe at the centre of his political activity. ... There can be no doubt that this has boosted pro-European sentiment. ... This dynamic must now continue to spread across Europe and put an end to the inexorable advance of the anti-Europeans.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) / 18 April 2018

Paris and Berlin have swapped roles

The EU reforms are no longer a priority for Berlin, El Periódico de Catalunya laments:

“You could say that the reformist impetus has changed sides and if until recently it was Germany that faced resistance from Paris, especially regarding the ceding of sovereignty to a federal Europe, now it is France that is willing to advance towards greater European sovereignty as a way to combat selfish nationalism and populism. Macron and Merkel will meet in Berlin tomorrow to agree on a joint stance, but there is little hope of that. After several months without a government the European project no longer seems to be a priority for Germany.”

Delo (SI) / 18 April 2018

Shaky alliance partners

Delo doubts the French president will be able to push through his plans:

“In the European Parliament Macron has received plenty of praise but to realize his plans he'll need strong allies in Berlin and elsewhere. So far he has no one following his lead. On the contrary, doubts about his plans are growing in the northern camp. It's as if Macron's main front line - despite all his grand words about the EU - were in France. If he succeeds with his reforms at home he will be able to form more credible and effective alliances for a reform on the European stage. Waiting too long for more good will on the part of his European partners could prove frustrating for Macron.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) / 18 April 2018

Europhoric but alone

As long as Macron continues to ignore a number of member states he will have difficulty making progress with the reform of the EU, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung explains:

“If Macron wants to fight for European sovereignty, many people in Poland, Hungary, Italy and other countries won't see this as a fight for their interests, but against them. However, the French president doesn't seem to realise this. ... Many countries do not share Macron's EU integration euphoria. Concerns about national sovereignty and identity have gained ground in many places. Democracy is not just defined in Paris, Berlin and Brussels, but also in Warsaw, Budapest and Rome. If the EU wants to develop further, it must respect this diversity.”

Financial Times (GB) / 16 April 2018

The end of the Paris-Berlin reform axis

France's president can hardly hope for support for thoroughgoing reforms from Berlin, the Financial Times comments:

“Mr Macron's enthusiastic support for European integration contrasts with the unchanged political reality that France and Germany are no longer natural allies. Unlike in France, the pro-European parties in Germany are in retreat. Ms Merkel's party lost 1m votes to the Free Democrats and the Alternative for Germany, both of which advocate policies that would lead to the destruction of the eurozone. Sixty CDU/CSU MPs voted against the Greek support programme in 2015. If faced with a similar rebellion today, the grand coalition would no longer have a majority.”

Blog euinside (BG) / 10 April 2018

Bad for the Eurozone but good for the EU

It is good for the cohesion of the EU that Macron's push for reforms is being slowed down, Adelina Marini writes in the blog euinside:

“When Donald Tusk says that the strengthening (not the completion) of the banking union and the further development of the European Stability Mechanism have priority, it is clear that one should not expect too much hope of the reform package due to be presented in June. The window of opportunity for a reform of the Eurozone has closed. ... Thanks to the smaller EU members, who campaigned to ensure that the non-euro countries also play a role in shaping the future of the Eurozone, a high-speed Eurozone will not be able to split off from the rest of the Union. That is bad for the Eurozone - but good for the EU.”

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