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“Long live Europe, the Republic and France”: Emmanuel Macron Pushes for Stronger Europe

06 May 2024
By Colin Chapman FAIIA
Paris, France. The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the President of France Emmanuel Macron are joined by UK ministers and French ministers for a group photo in the Elysee Palace. Source: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street /

The remarkable speech by Emmanuel Macron called for the creation of a more independent and stronger Europe – one which would be a moral leader in thought and deed in today’s challenging and dangerous world. It is seven years since Macron laid out his vision for an enhanced Europe at La Sorbonne University. 

He reported some progress since 2017, though not as much as he would like given serious and unanticipated obstacles along the way: notably, Brexit and its impact, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent war. “The battle is not yet won,” the president declared. He warned of enormous risk as transformation accelerates over the next decade. “Europe is mortal; it can die,” he stated,  adding that it’s future depends on our choices, choices which have to be made now.

What are they? Macron pointed to the choice between peace or war; choosing to make Europe an innovative, research-led continent; and for protection of its liberal democracies. Back at the Sorbonne on 25 April, he gave a 90-minute peroration that set out a vision for a new strategically-aligned Europe based on power, prosperity, and humanism.

At the heart of Macron’s proposal was that Europe needed to reconsider the concept of sovereignty and take some massive strategic decisions, accepting that there has been a change in paradigm and the old policies are no longer applicable or relevant. Far from dismantling the European Union or its institutions, he argued for a Europe which can write history rather than following history being made elsewhere, as in America or Asia.  Macron’s vision is of a European humanism, a unique relationship based on freedom and justice.  “We are not like the others,” he said. “It [the European Union] is an adventure we are carrying out.”  In an echo of the Renaissance man, he talked of the European concept being a “vision of enlightenment” in which we do not delegate our lives to state control and loss of freedom.

The core of Macron’s speech centred on power and prosperity. His vision of Europe is one that is respected and guarantees its own security, with strong borders to offset risk; a Europe where we no longer delegate energy supply to Russia or trade to China. The basic condition for security is for Russia not to win the war in Ukraine, he said, calling for an increase in help to Ukraine, not just to protect that country’s territory, but for the security of Europe. Central to having a credible defence strategy for the European continent is NATO, Macron believes, along with a common security and defence framework and strong ties with countries neighbouring Russia, such as the Balkan states and Moldovia. He called for a European military academy for training and a rapid response force able to mobilise up to 5,000 soldiers; in short, a paradigm shift in policy with concrete joint initiatives.

A fundamental requirement of a more powerful Europe is to produce more within Europe, both materials and weapons for defence. To achieve more European production, and do it quickly, more financing and innovative ideas are needed. There must be common standards in defence across Europe, and a Europe-wide policy, Macron said, adding that “fragmentation is a weakness.”  Diplomacy also has a central role to play in complementing defence ambitions. Europe must “never be the lapdog of the United States,” he said. Real reciprocal partnerships with countries in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America would enable the EU to speak with one voice on issues such as poverty, health, and climate change.

Accordingly, a powerful Europe is one that can look after its own borders and establish clear common policies. With strong cooperation and a European approach, the EU can more effectively fight against people traffickers, monitor and regulate immigration, and counter international networks dealing in terrorism, drugs, and cyber criminality.

Macron envisages a new European economic model for growth and production to respond to a world where energy and raw materials are scarce. More wealth will help us improve peoples’ quality of life, protect biodiversity, decarbonise, and protect the open economy, he said. Current policies “won’t cut it,” he declared, predicting that with too much regulation and insufficient investment Europe will “lose the race” for prosperity. Macron told his audience of “movers and shakers” that France was at a turning point and called for Europe not only to produce more but to deregulate and simplify transactions based on “more trust, less text.” President Macron pointed out that the US and China are no longer following the rules of international trade, and the European model is no longer fit for purpose. Without change, the risk is that we get poorer, he said.

Europe must strive for leadership in key sectors of the future, such as artificial intelligence processing, new energy sources like fusion, and quantum data processing, by investing together and providing tax breaks to encourage enterprise. But the most far-reaching changes are needed in decarbonised energy and agriculture.  More nuclear and green energy, free to move within the EU, will help guarantee lower costs for European industry, and is key to employment and competitiveness, Macron told his audience.

“We absolutely need our own food sovereignty, not depending on other countries […] common agricultural policy that’s strong but not as complex,” along with sustainable fishing policies and modernised technologies in agriculture. Europe must protect the health, social, and environmental standards of its 450 million people or it will become a continent where everything will come from outside, but free trade agreements which are modern and fair must be a part of this. “We cannot reject all free trade as we benefit from it,” he warned the farming lobby, in a nod to recent unrest and protest.

The president went on to iterate a long list of necessary reforms and new initiatives, emphasising the need for innovation and research to increase productivity. He spoke of the need to train and retain talent so that Europe has the best scientific teams to achieve in areas such as quantum computers, electronic chips, and fighting cancer, Alzheimers, and degenerative diseases.  He called for new common financial and budgetary policies to raise the extra money needed for capital investment, research, and innovation, entrepreneurial risk-taking, and training.

We welcome comments from our readers on president Macron’s vision for Europe. He speech is likely to trigger debate, which Outlook will report.

Colin Chapman FAIIA is a writer, broadcaster, public speaker, who specialises in geopolitics, international economics, and global media issues. He is a former president of AIIA NSW and was appointed a fellow of the AIIA in 2017. Colin is editor at large with Australian Outlook.

This article is published under a Creative Commons License and may be republished with attribution.