Will Macron's ideas help save Europe?

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a fresh start for Europe, with member states working together more closely on matters of security, trade and social policy. His guest commentary appeared in leading newspapers across all 28 EU member states. The opinion pages are reverberating - with both positive and negative responses.

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The Irish Times (IE) /

In the populists' footsteps

Much of what Emmanuel Macron has proposed is similar to what right-wing populists have been calling for for years, The Irish Times comments:

“Macron's ambition is a welcome tonic at a time when many leaders, spooked by the populist threat, are inclined towards defensive retreat. But he is also acting out of political necessity. … Contained within the proposals, moreover, are a number of ideas aimed squarely at voters tempted by the populists, including a 'rethink of the Schengen area', stronger border controls and a plan to renew European industry in the face of Chinese and US competition. Macron may be taking the fight to the populists, but his plea also reflects how those same populists have shifted the terms of European debate.”

Contrepoints (FR) /

Empty words only cause chaos

By once again casting himself as the good guy in the fight against evil Macron is only worsening Europe's crisis, Contrepoints warns:

“This sort of political potpourri has far more to do with damage control than with creating a credible bulwark against dark forces. The main danger is that in trying to conceal the disturbing lack of thoroughgoing reform and the absence of any improvement in France's ailing public finances, and in misleading the public with words (which cost little but have no impact on reality), not only is the poor soul not combatting a thing, in fact he's fanning the flames of the very populism he was trying to fight. We will have neither freedom nor protection, and as far as Europe is concerned it looks like we're facing chaos.”

Sega (BG) /

Threat to Europe's democracies not just external

Macron's proposal to create a European agency for the protection of democracy is good but doesn't go far enough, Sega finds:

“The agency should deploy experts in the member states to support them in the fight against cyber attacks and election manipulation. ... But what should be done with democracies like the Hungarian, Polish, Bulgarian or Croatian ones? These young and weak democracies are under threat from the inside and the outside. And not just that. The European political parties are ensuring that the cancers in these countries spread. Macron doesn't have a solution to this problem. ... The man who fiercely campaigns for transnational candidate lists and against the European parties' monopoly says nothing about the wedge being driven by the national parties between the citizens of the EU.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Steer clear of this crazy plan

The Guardian is alarmed at Macron's ideas:

“But Macron's Charlemagne-ish idea of an ever more united, integrated, regulated and collectivised Europe, standing its ground against rival US, Chinese and Russian geopolitical blocs, is strangely outdated - and, given the EU's many enduring divisions, internal contradictions and structural weaknesses, fated to founder. … Nor is his the kind of EU, if it ever came into being, of which most Britons would want to be a part. Which is why, even at this late hour, it is imperative that Britain abandon Brexit and, once again, help to lead and win the battle for Europe.”

Denník N (SK) /

Visionary reaching for the wrong medicine

Dennik is not as shocked but just as unenthusiastic about the idea of a more integrated Europe:

“Above all what's missing in his proposals is any hint of critical self-reflection. Brexit is also a logical consequence of the failure of pro-European political elites. Macron doesn't address the issue at all and instead pushes ahead with the traditional line, which sees the panacea for each and every problem in greater cooperation. But this medicine is more like a placebo. ... Macron calls for a standard social model and economic regulation for the entire continent. At the same time his homeland is in a shambles because he can't even convince his own countrymen of his social model. So what we have here is a very powerful speech by a very weak politician. That's the worst shortcoming of his vision.”

Radio Europa Liberă (RO) /

Unattractive for Eastern Europeans

Radio Europa Liberă looks at why Macron's ideas largely meet with scepticism in Eastern Europe:

“Western European states have always been interested in a federal project. But for the Scandinavians and Eastern Europeans that was of secondary importance when they joined. They increasingly saw Europe as nothing more than a 'common market'. What's more, the Eastern Europeans saw the EU as a sort of cash point. The refugee crisis showed just how serious the lack of understanding is, and rapidly turned into a solidarity crisis. The Western Europeans expect solidarity in the context of European integration. But as is becoming increasingly clear, the Eastern Europeans never understood that at all.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Historic times need ambitious ideas

Jutarnji list takes issue with Macron's critics:

“Lots of people seem to be annoyed that he can't stop making speeches fit for the history books. But they are forgetting that Europe finds itself in historic times, when we need such speeches more than ever. Perhaps it's going too far, but this speech, like the one he delivered at the Sorbonne in the autumn of 2017, have a force similar to Churchill's speeches at the beginning of World War II. The only difference being that people heeded Churchill's words. ... Macron's proposals are viable: the reform of the Schengen Agreement is necessary, otherwise Schengen would simply disappear. 'Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité' has become 'Freedom, Protection, and Progress.'”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Opposing Europe's foes

Dagens Nyheter is also thrilled by Macron's commitment:

“Clearly Macron has the ambition to close loopholes that Angela Merkel left open, and wants to take over from her as unofficial leader of the EU. While Merkel acted as Europe's auditor, Emmanuel Macron - like all French presidents - demonstrates French originality. In his case that means as a European commander. His enemies: authoritarian and rich superpowers, unscrupulous Internet giants and divisive, reactionary nationalism. ... But he's right: Europe really is in danger. And he deserves praise not only for speaking clear words but also for showing a bold - and better - way to the future.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

President points finger at Europe's foes

In his letter to the Europeans Macron has sketched a portrait of Europe's enemies, La Repubblica's France correspondent Anais Ginori comments:

“Macron proposes a 'European renaissance' based on three pillars: freedom, protection, and progress. It's in his description of the freedoms on which the EU is based that the French leader puts forward some of his most innovative ideas: the creation of an agency for the protection of democracy, banning foreign funding for political parties and new regulations on the prohibition of hate speech and violence on the web. It's clear that Macron is attacking the galaxy of nationalist groups: Marine Le Pen has been accused of receiving funding from Russia, while the most recent scandal has to do with Matteo Salvini and his trip to Moscow.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Nothing new from Paris

Macron's letter is hardly introducing a breath of fresh air when it comes to European cooperation, Le Figaro points out:

“Some of his proposals have already failed repeatedly (the reorganisation of the Schengen Area), while others seem utopian in view of the immense divergences between governments (defence pact and the defence of social rights). Still others (creation of an office for the protection of democracy) seem far removed from people's daily lives. By contrast, his desire to give preference to European companies in view of competition from China and the US is of capital importance. In his letter Macron rejects incantations. But will he really be able to avoid them? For lack of concrete and feasible ideas, his letter is bringing vitality to the election campaign rather than to Europe.”