Can the EU start afresh with Macron?

France's new president Emmanuel Macron is pushing for EU reform aimed at bringing Europe closer to its citizens and bolstering the Eurozone through euro bonds and the appointment of a European economy minister. Many commentators express their confidence in Macron's chances of succeeding but others are more sceptical and are already picking up on resistance from Berlin.

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Svenska Dagbladet (SE) /

Election win as an incentive for clever policies

With Macron as French president a more united EU is on the cards, Svenska Dagbladet contends:

“A Europe of nations with greater powers of self-determination, without this countering globalisation, is entirely conceivable. Nationalism does not run counter to freedom and openness; on the contrary, the nation state is a historical prerequisite for European democracy. … We should not underestimate the significance of the election in France in providing new incentives for all those who have resisted protectionist forces for a long time now, both in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe. … We can only hope that Macron's presidency will be a success that paves the way for many positive developments. Europe stands a better chance now of being able to overcome problems with clever policies that emphasise the value of sovereignty as well as cooperation.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Berlin is resisting already

People in Europe are still celebrating Macron's victory but Germany is already putting up the first barriers against the new president's reform plans, Lidové noviny observes:

“Lifting regulations on the labour market? This Macron plan is going down a treat. But a Eurozone Finance Ministry, a shared budget and shared liability for the debts of other states? This is where the Germans slam on the brakes. CDU finance expert Jens Spahn says: 'It's hardly as if the Eurozone or France is suffering from too few debts.' He doesn't mention Germany. Germany has no debts. It has a surplus, it is profiting from the euro, unlike France which is losing out. Macron wants to balance this out with solidarity. Berlin, however, only wants solidarity on the refugee issue but refuses to consider debt solidarity. It's not hard to guess which direction the German-French EU locomotive is going to take.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Now we have to catch up

In a commentary piece entitled "The Eurozone or Death", Bogusław Chrabota, editor-in-chief of Rzeczpospolita, writes that Macron is likely to push through stronger integration of the Eurozone and warns that Poland could be side-lined:

“Taking the bull by the horns is the only option for the defenders of the European project. A strong France will force Germany to introduce mechanisms for stronger integration [of the Eurozone] and the division of the EU into a core and a periphery will become reality. A Poland without the euro, unlike its neighbours to the west, north and east, would be left on the fringes and gradually degenerate into a workforce reservoir. … By converting to the euro we would eliminate the exchange rate fluctuations and foreign exchange fees which are so suicidal for the economy. And we would become part of the hard core of the EU. We would have our say in the future of the Continent instead of having to wait for others to make the decisions. Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn and Bratislava have already made their choice. Now the time has come for Warsaw to do the same.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Europe must be democratised now

The EU needs more democratic legitimation, taz explains, and praises Macron's approach for heading in the right direction:

“Macron has made proposals. He wants the Eurozone to have its own budget, a joint economic government and a stronger European Parliament. … That means in this context the desire for the parliamentary level to be bolstered within the EU. For instance that the European Parliament should be able to initiate laws on its own in future. … The balancing act the EU has to pull off: ensuring that the national and regional levels retain enough competences not to come across as Brussels' marionettes while at the same time democratising the European institutions. If we take this seriously it will mean a loss of power for the governments of the nation states. If we don't take it seriously it will mean - sooner or later - the end of the EU.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Without Berlin nothing can be done

To push through his EU reforms France's new president will be heavily dependent on help from the government in Berlin, Der Standard explains:

“Whether Macron will be able to end the EU's paralysis will depend entirely on how the political environment in the EU evolves, in particular with the German elections in the autumn. The situation in Berlin will remain stable but whether the government that forms after the election will be led by a reformist chancellor remains to be seen. What we do know is that three French presidents have already failed with their ideas of a reformed EU because of Berlin. Moreover Macron is entering the fray under more difficult circumstances: until March 2019 Brexit will be the big topic.”

Lost in EUrope (DE) /

Not a victory for the EU

Macron may have won the vote with his pro-European discourse but that doesn't make the EU any more popular, Eric Bonse writes in his blog Lost in EUrope:

“Never have there been such virulent attacks against EU policy and globalisation as in this campaign. Never were opponents of the EU on the left and on the right stronger. The dissatisfaction is not only aimed at Brussels, but also at Chancellor Merkel in Berlin. A majority of the French people have reservations about Germany and 'German Europe', political scientist H. Stark warns. Nevertheless Macron wants to make overtures to Merkel, instead of challenging her as outgoing President Hollande tried to do (in vain). That's a smart but risky tactic. ... The EU has not won - it has got off with no more than a black eye. Only if Brussels and Berlin now change their policies and meet Macron half-way can Europe truly breathe a sigh of relief.”

El País (ES) /

EU must not rest on its laurels

If the EU simply heaves a sigh of relief and then remains static the joy over Macron's victory will be short-lived, Spanish diplomat Carles Casajuana predicts in El País:

“From a European point of view the results of the French presidential election are unequivocal. Emmanuel Macron's victory is the victory of internationalism against populism, of the cosmopolitans against the xenophobes, of the defenders of an open France against the proponents of closing the doors to immigration and free trade. It is a victory for the European project. ... However, populism has not been defeated by a long shot. The number of votes the Front National secured yesterday would not have been possible without the insidious sense of malaise that is enshrouding Europe. Macron himself warned a few days ago: the EU must reform itself. Otherwise yesterday's victory may be nothing more than a temporary reprieve.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Poland needs to avoid being sidelined

Macron's victory will lead to a two-speed Europe and Poland should get ready for the changes, writes Rzeczpospolita:

“It's time to prepare for a new Europe strategy. First the disputes with France must be ended and diplomatic contacts intensified. … One thing is clear: the consolidation of a two-speed Europe with France on the sidelines would be a fundamental mistake. Our responsibility demands that we remain in the hard core of the EU, even if we convert to the euro or deepen our economic integration in the EU to do so. We cannot allow Warsaw to end up on Europe's periphery. Our children would never forgive us.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Ultra-nationalists stopped

Macron embodies fresh hope for the future of the EU no matter what people say about him as a person, Hürriyet Daily News believes:

“A Macron victory ... will be a significant development in both France and Europe. It will have prevented the ultra-nationalist right from coming to power under Le Pen, whose 'France for the French' and 'the EU is dead' rhetoric echoed the ruthless Brexit campaign in the U.K., which has now put Britain on a long and nasty collision course with Brussels. ... As soon as he entered the presidential race, Macron was seen by advocates of the EU as somebody who will save European values, democracy and unity. But not all agree. Some find him too apolitical, a neoliberal who may destroy the traditional principles of French society. Others find him pale and fragile, ambitious but inadequate.”

Iltalehti (FI) /

EU needs a strong France

France can now become stronger once more, Iltalehti hopes:

“The voter turnout was historically low, yet Le Pen of the Front National still garnered more than eleven million votes. Such a high figure can't just be shrugged off. Many French people are frustrated over the current policies, and not just the immigration policy. Macron's election also shows that the French wanted change. For Europe's sake we must hope that the tottering giant France will get back on its feet. Otherwise Germany's importance for the future of the EU, in particular after the Brexit, will grow to an unhealthy level.”