Future of the EU: has Macron got it right?

Seven years after his Sorbonne speech of 2017 and five years after publishing his ideas for a European renaissance ahead of the 2019 EU elections, Emmanuel Macron delivered another impassioned speech at the Parisian university on Thursday. "Europe could die" if it fails to implement key security and economic policy decisions, he warned. Commentators take stock.

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Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Melodramatic, but spot-on

Hospodářské noviny comments:

“'Europe is mortal', Macron warned. The EU's economy is growing at a much slower pace than that of the US or China and it cannot defend itself without American help, but it can no longer rely on this help. Europe is under pressure from within because populists are challenging the model of liberal democracy. Some of this sounds too melodramatic to Czech ears. Moreover, some of the solutions proposed by Macron are either unfeasible or primarily benefit the French military industry - such as prioritising the purchase of military equipment from European companies. But for the most part Macron is spot-on: we need to do more together within the EU than we have done so far. At least if we want to live safer and more prosperous lives.”

Le Monde (FR) /

More than just campaign bluster

Macron is looking far beyond the EU elections in June, Le Monde observes:

“Even if the president's intention to bring his influence to bear in the current election debates is clear - the presidential camp is lagging far behind the Rassemblement National in the polls - the head of state has his sights set on a time beyond this immediate concern. For him, it is a question of exerting as much influence as possible on what the leaders of the EU-27 call their 'strategic agenda' for the coming legislative period, or, to put it more prosaically, the work programme of the next Brussels Commission. And all this regardless of whether Commission President Ursula von der Leyen remains in office after the June elections.”

La Stampa (IT) /

France's president in the starring role

Macron sees himself in the leading role, La Stampa believes:

“Unlike the president's previous speech at the Sorbonne in 2017, this address seemed to be aimed more at Europe's leaders than at its citizens. To warn them that the status quo is not an option: either you change or you die. And it is clear from his speech how much he aspires to play the leading role in bringing this change about: the leader who shows the way to a different trade policy, an economy endowed with a doubled budget and a Europe with a stronger defence (with French nuclear arms).”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

If only Berlin were this ambitious

At least when it comes to analysing the situation, Macron is closer to reality than the German government, writes Gregor Waschinski, France correspondent for Handelsblatt:

“They still don't really want to admit how much the future of Europe, and therefore also their own country, is at stake right now. ... Not all of Macron's plans for a 'Europe of strength' are well thought out. A European monetary policy reform that expands the ECB's mandate to include growth and climate targets would create more problems than solutions. However, the president has clearly recognised the challenges of the 21st century - and is also willing to draw the consequences and act. Such levels of ambition are lacking in Berlin.”

Die Presse (AT) /

His own worst enemy

Macron's call for more European cooperation is based on his own budgetary problems, writes Die Presse:

“Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire needs to make cutbacks of more than 20 billion euros within two years, otherwise the Maastricht criteria will not be met. We must see Macron's demand that the European Central Bank not only fight inflation, but also be given 'a growth target, or even a decarbonisation target' against the backdrop of the French budget crisis. The central bank financing budgets? This should set alarm bells ringing, and not just at the Bundesbank. So once again we see: Macron is the biggest enemy of his own good ideas.”

Libération (FR) /

No effective policies without effective institutions

Macron's speech failed to address certain key aspects, Libération's Europe correspondent Jean Quatremer puts in:

“It is also striking that he left out two essential dimensions in his comments on EU policy: the upcoming enlargement, which will profoundly change the EU, and institutional reform. Without effective institutions to implement the policies he is proposing, nothing will happen... This shows the limits of Emmanuel Macron's European commitment: he wants a Gaullist Europe, i.e. one that is intergovernmental and, above all, not federal.”