Can Macron reinvent the EU?

No European head of state has called for a reform of the European Union as radical as the one French President Emmanuel Macron proposes. He envisions a common budget for the 19 Eurozone countries, increased harmonisation of fiscal policy and a joint EU asylum authority. What some commentators see as courageous and even risky doesn't go far enough for others.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Less France, more Europe

The French president is demanding much of his countrymen, the Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“The former world power France is very attached to its sovereignty. Traditionally it is more in favour of a Europe of nations than a United States of Europe. Macron, however, is offering to relinquish sovereignty where it hurts. He's calling for the creation of a European army and is even willing to dispense with a French commissioner in the EU Commission. That indicates that he's serious about his plans. Despite legitimate differences of opinion regarding the reform of the Eurozone, the upcoming coalition negotiations and the CSU and FDP, he deserves a better answer from Germany than a pained 'Yes, but...'.”

Aamulehti (FI) /

Untypically European

Aamulehti describes just how different Macron is from his predecessors:

“Amidst all the criticism it's often forgotten how un-French Macron's ideas are, although he presented them in a very French way. ... Naturally key architects of a federal Europe have been among the stars of French diplomacy since Jean Monnet. But the French leaders have all been covert nationalists to a greater or lesser degree. Macron's speech reveals a new concept: 'We are Europe', and not 'I am the state', as so many sun kings before him were prone to believe. And when he talks of Europe the president doesn't mean only his own people but all Europeans. ... The main theme of his speech was joint responsibility.”

Kapital (BG) /

Not courageous enough

For Europe to be truly sovereign reforms beyond those proposed by Macron are needed, the weekly Kapital argues:

“Two decisive steps are missing for the federalisation of the EU: a common European fiscal policy and a common social insurance. Clearly Macron doesn't dare cross the red line that [Dutch Prime Minister] Rutte and the German liberals, whose position is similar to Rutte's, have drawn. Nor is a pan-European social insurance system in the interests of France. Because rather than losing workers it attracts them, translating into higher revenues for its social security fund. From this point of view Macron is not as courageous as leading commentators claim.”

The Malta Independent (MT) /

Smaller states need advantageous tax systems

The harmonisation of corporation taxes is on Macron's list of proposed reforms. The Malta Independent columnist Alfred Sant believes this would be a mistake:

“Pressures are still building up in Europe for corporation taxes (eventually also income tax on citizens) to be brought closer to the same structure across countries. Up to now, the setting of such taxes remains the prerogative of EU member states. ... Very rarely is the point made or allowed that for small or peripheral countries, as well as for islands, there is a need to design advantageous tax systems if they are to attract private investment in their direction.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Founding the United States of Europe

El Mundo finds the French president's plans inspiring:

“What Macron has cleverly and opportunely proposed is the move towards a United States of Europe, which implies integration in key areas such as the economy, immigration and education. ... The EU, which emerged from the totalitarian dictatorships that left the 20th century bloodied, is the symbol of freedom and prosperity on the Old Continent. But indulging in the rhetoric of the past won't achieve anything. The necessary reforms must be implemented especially in the areas of innovation and economic union to continue expanding Europe's influence as a global power.”

L'Obs (FR) /

Togetherness as a last chance

Macron is the EU's last hope, L'Obs stresses:

“Under a heavy grey sky the demonstrative pro-European Macron looks more than ever like an exception. It seems all the hopes of unionists and federalists rest on his shoulders. This is both an enormous risk and a unique opportunity. If the 28 can no longer talk to each other the voice of the last pro-European will be able to shake up at least some of them. The countdown has begun. The Europeans - starting with those who fear the loss of their identity and independence in these times of globalisation - have no choice but to join forces. Alone they are nothing. Only together do they have any clout.”

The Times (GB) /

Can EU 2.0 tempt the Brits to come back?

A completely reformed EU would perhaps be attractive for the British once more, columnist David Aaronovitch writes in The Times:

“This week Sadiq Khan became the first major Labour politician to call for a second EU referendum once the terms of our separation are known. … It's hard to do but perfectly democratic. Macron, however, held out another vision. That in the near future a time may come when new arrangements in Europe prompt a rethink on Britain's part. A new unBorissed-Corbynless, Farage-frei British generation can then step up to the plate.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

A visionary president

Macron is turning Europe's political landscape on its head, the Wiener Zeitung comments gleefully:

“The doubters will shake their heads and explain why this or that won't work. But Macron brushed them aside with this speech. He filled the concept of Europe with future instead of with crisis. Certain points may be debatable but the ideas Macron presented on Tuesday were the best a head of state has come up with ever since Helmut Kohl. Now it's up to Europe's civil society to fill those ideas with life. For the established party structure this represents a new danger. Transnational, i.e. European movements will suck up more of their intelligentsia. And the right-wing populists will be left looking like fools.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

Upending everything to get things moving

Macron's ideas pursue an important goal, L'Opinion is convinced:

“Of course part of the president's speech seems more like a dream - or at least situates us in the distant future: standardised taxation, social convergence, Europe's borders extended to include the Balkans, a joint defence strategy. Of course the reform plans mean that we must address our typical French failings: taxes galore, authorities here, public servants there, an academy for this, an office for that. And no doubt not all this won't become reality. Nevertheless, in applying to Europe the recipe that served him so well in the presidential campaign - upending everything to get things moving - Emmanuel Macron really can give Europe the chance to put itself on a new footing.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

A sovereign Europe needs its own budget

Germany's future government should back Macron's proposals, Zeit Online urges:

“Of course the questions of what a common Eurozone budget should look like, what competences a euro finance minister should have and how a Eurozone parliament should be put together will all have to be hashed out. And it remains true that the problems of the euro must first and foremost be resolved in the nation states. ... There is also the danger that any European governments unwilling to implement reforms would feel very much at home in the expanded Eurozone envisioned by Macron. Basically, however, the goal now is to approve reform. The Europeans want a Europe that protects them, and Europe can only protect the Europeans if it is sovereign in its own right. And to be sovereign you need your own budget. That's the basic idea behind Macron's proposals.”

La Tribune de Genève (CH) /

France's fatal fixation with Germany

Macron has missed the chance to find new partners for his project, La Tribune de Genève comments:

“Like his predecessors, Macron reserves the most important place for the 'Franco-German couple'. So France still hasn't managed to rid itself of its German obsession. In Berlin, meanwhile, hardly anyone refers to the two countries as a couple. What's more, to implement all of the initiatives he has outlined President Macron will need other countries, and they won't be happy to just trot along at the heels of the happy couple. Especially seeing as the new coalition that is taking shape in Germany will no doubt not look kindly on France's plans. By keeping Germany on its pedestal, Paris risks alienating potential allies.”

Večernji list (HR) /

German liberals would block reform

If the conservative CDU/CSU, the liberal FDP and the Green Party form a coalition government in Germany this will prevent a comprehensive reform of the EU à la Macron, Večernji list believes:

“The Jamaica coalition in Germany would lessen the chances of a major EU reform with an extra budget for the Eurozone, a common finance minister and new mechanisms for transferring money to ailing members. The liberals from the FDP are expressly against Germany picking up the tab for other Eurozone members. And as Merkel herself never really backed such a reform, the resistance of the FDP would be the excuse she needs not to fulfil Macron's every wish.”