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|Macron’s big bet on Europe |
By Anelise Borges, Euronews’ Paris correspondent
This weekend marks four years since Emmanuel Macron strode across the Louvre Museum esplanade to the sound of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy to deliver his election victory speech. It was no coincidence the then 39-year-old leader chose the EU’s official anthem to accompany him that night.
Elected on a promise to reform France, Macron also vowed to renew the European project itself. In May 2017, he called Europe's revival both “a challenge and an opportunity”.
Over the next few years, President Macron would become the face of the EU around the world, championing an ambitious vision of a more sovereign and fiscally integrated Europe. He even created a political movement in the European Parliament to challenge the status quo from within. Plans for a EU-wide minimum wage, an investment strategy on Artificial Intelligence, regulation of online commerce and content… Much seemed to be going his way – until crisis struck.
The coronavirus pandemic offered Europe, and Emmanuel Macron, one of their biggest tests yet. It challenged European solidarity and cohesion and the bloc’s ability to make decisions fast. The health crisis put France’s president on the spot, forcing him to explain choices and justify decisions before his fellow citizens. But never to apologise.
Macron’s Secretary of State for European affairs came the closest to admitting error when he acknowledged Europe didn’t invest enough in the development of COVID-19 vaccines or in expanding production capacities, and that the EU “must learn from its mistakes”.
But as Macron stated in his victory speech, the coronavirus challenge also offered an opportunity for him to push forward a long-held French ambition to create common European debt through the EU’s landmark €750 billion recovery fund. Today, the Elysee Palace has a web page featuring the work done by Macron’s administration on European initiatives to renew the bloc’s ambition and influence in the world stage.
This Sunday, EU leaders will officially launch the Conference on the Future of Europe where citizens will be invited to rethink the functioning of the EU and review its major political axes. The Conference was originally pitched by Macron himself as a cross-border consultation on how the bloc should deal with the challenges of tomorrow. However, the original ambition has been mostly eclipsed by the ongoing squabbles between the EU institutions.
France doesn’t run the European show and Emmanuel Macron knows it. Germany remains the Union’s most powerful member, generally getting what it wants. But the French president has also learned how to prod Berlin and other European partners into action and alliances. His influence is set to increase further when German Chancellor Angela Merkel steps down in September.
What is clear is that “reinventing Europe” has become one of the pillars of Macron’s political career. And the future of the two – Macron’s and Europe’s – have become intrinsically linked.
Both fates will be shaped by whether the “peoples of Europe” actually take part in this public conference and by whether their opinions match what Macron has in mind. The future will also depend on the President convincing his fellow French citizens that his European focus has actually benefited them, a question that could prove vital to his survival in next year’s presidential vote. Polls already suggest it will be a tight race.
“Never since the Second World War has Europe been so necessary. And yet never has Europe been in such a danger,” Macron wrote in a 2019 appeal to all Europeans to re-launch the EU project.
Two years on, that statement sounds as accurate as ever. The stakes have never been higher for Europe. And for Emmanuel Macron.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?
PATENT WAIVER The United States has taken a major step in the fight against the pandemic by throwing its support behind patent waivers of COVID-19 vaccines. Reacting to the news, Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU’s trade chief, said that the bloc was ready to discuss the US proposal. “[We] need to see how it helps to address the underlying problems which is to ramp up global vaccine production,” the Vice-President told our reporter Jack Parrock. But he also cautioned that intellectual property is “just one part of the story”. Read the full interview.
NEXT GENERATION Member states are gradually submitting their recovery and resilience national plans to tap into the €750-billion EU recovery fund. As of today, the Commission has received reform packages from 14 countries, with 13 still pending. Our Brussels bureau explains how Greece will use its €30.5 billion allocation of EU funds to support the green and digital transitions and how France will spend €100 billion to rethink production models and transform the country’s infrastructure.
REAL ECONOMY As Europe emerges from the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, governments will begin to gradually phase out the job retention schemes they put in place last year to keep unemployment in check. What happens when these measures disappear? Naomi Lloyd talks to Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, to find out what’s next.
MIGRANT LIMBO The port of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, is a major hub for tourism. It’s also host to a different kind of traveller. Every night, police are on the lookout for migrants trying to hide in trucks that are ready to board cargo ships headed for the continent. The archipelago saw last year the arrival of more than 20,000 people from Africa’s northern western coast. In the latest episode of Unreported Europe, Valérie Gauriat travels to the Canary Islands to see how the situation is evolving.
IMPERIAL LEGACY For some, he was a military genius who embraced the Enlightenment and modernised the state. For others, a rutheless despot who restablished slavery and caused thousands of unncesary deaths. 200 years after his mysterious passing on the British island of Saint Helena, Napoléon Bonaparte is still a subject of fascination and controversy. Lauren Chadwick examines the emperor's divisive legacy and his lasting impact on French society.
CHANGING WORLD Euronews is the TV media partner of the State of the Union 2021, a two-day summit that gathers more than 150 speakers to discuss Europe’s place in a changing world. Our business editor Sasha Vakulina is serving as masters of ceremonies. Watch the event’s live stream.
URBAN EYESORES Euronews Travel is not pulling any punches this week with this list of monuments and buildings that Europeans love to hate. Pictured below, the brutalist “Pirámide” of Alicante, Spain. A sight to behold.
|IT'S IN THE NUMBERS|
Around 3% of EU companies are owned or controlled by non-EU investors. However, this small percentage represents entities controlling more than 35% of total assets and responsible for 16 million jobs. The numbers came under the spotlight while Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, unveiled a new draft law to monitor – and, if necessary, block – takeovers and subsidies made by foreign governments inside the EU's single market.
"Europe is a trade and investment superpower. In 2019, more than €7 trillion of foreign direct investments flowed into the EU. Openness of the single market is our biggest asset. But openness requires fairness," Vestager said.
Northern Ireland at 100: Is now the time for a united Ireland?
|The first 100 years of Northern Ireland's existence are ending as they began: with violence on the streets of Belfast and unionism in crisis. Just weeks after some of the worst rioting in the capital for years, first minister Arlene Foster announced her resignation after a revolt against her leadership. Despite her conciliatory tone, unionism continues to tear itself asunder as it grapples with the direct challenges to its core principles wrought by Brexit and an infamous clause in the UK-EU trade deal at the heart of the current polemic: the Northern Ireland Protocol. But while the UK's departure from the European Union has been widely cited as the root cause of the latest upheaval in Northern Ireland, it's just another convulsion brought on by a deep-seated social malaise. In the country's centenary year, is it time for the reunification of Ireland? David Walsh has the story.|
“Luke, I am your vaccine”. An actor dressed as Darth Vader, the iconic villain from the Star Wars films, encouraged bystanders to get COVID-19 vaccines at the Planetarium vaccination centre in Rio de Janeiro. The health campaign was part of Star Wars Day, which fans around the world celebrate on May 4 in reference to the franchise’s catchphrase “May the Force be with you”.
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