Elections and EU Council presidency: a bad combination?
In France, the president is not obliged to justify his actions before the National Assembly. So for Emmanuel Macron, his speech to the EU Parliament on Wednesday outlining the goals of his country's EU Council presidency was also a welcome occasion to open the French presidential campaign on European terrain. Not all commentators are happy about this conflation.
A potpourri devoid of principles
For Le Figaro, the speech was focused too little on the matter at hand, namely Europe:
“Certainly, the president multiplied the announcements aimed at refounding Europe. But less than three months before the presidential elections he mainly emphasised those issues that have much appeal in France: the right to abortion, the climate and the environment, reform of the Schengen Agreement, redefining the right to asylum, aid for Africa. ... There was something for voters of each - or almost each - of his future rivals in April. Macron's commitment to Europe is based on his oft-used and highly opportunistic principle of wanting to do many things 'at the same time'.”
Dragged into the arena by his opponents
France's president has taken the campaign to the EU Parliament under pressure from his rivals, La Stampa puts in:
“Macron's speech began pompously. ... He announced innovations, such as the idea of rewriting the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to include the right to abortion. ... Or the proposal to negotiate directly with Russia on a 'new order of security and stability', thus distancing himself from the US. But his political opponents dragged him into an all-French electoral arena. And Emanuel Macron did not hesitate for long. He struck back, made fun of them. So the plenary chamber of the EU Parliament turned into a kind of TV studio from which the first confrontation between two candidates for the Elysée was broadcast.”
A blessing for the EU
Der Tagesspiegel sees the combination of the French EU presidency and the French election campaign as a good thing:
“We can expect Macron to make his mark as a pro-European in the election campaign over the next few months. ... In the end the EU may even benefit from this. Let's not forget that it played practically no role in the German Bundestag elections. However Europe deserves to have crucial issues for the future taken seriously on the domestic political front.”