Sunday, 29 May 2022

‘Cynical’ Macron accused of using EU role to boost hopes of winning second term

Macron’s French EU presidency speech analysed by expert

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Nicolas Bay also claimed Mr Macron’s speech to MEPs in Strasbourg last week had hinted at an ambition to become President of the European Commission – although he said the former banker had ended up sounding “like a Commission spokesman”. The general secretary of the right-wing National Rally party was commenting at the end of a month in which France took on the rotating Presidency, with Mr Macron controversially permitting the EU flag to be draped from the Arc De Triomphe to mark the occasion.

Mr Bay told “Angela Merkel’s long-awaited departure has in a way left Emmanuel Macron as the sole heavyweight of a European Union that is out of breath.

“He quite blatantly dreams of a European destiny for himself. Perhaps he sees himself as the future president of a European Commission with enhanced powers? God forbid.

“In any case, his speech was overall very conventional. Apart from a few details, he sounded more like a Commission spokesman.

He stressed: “The speech went largely unnoticed despite being broadcasted live on several news channels.

“But Macron does not wish that the French are actually interested in the EU anyway: what he wants is that through the EU, through this French presidency of the EU (FPEU), the French are interested in him. The goal is only to put on a show.”

Moreover, the speech had been “quite hollow”, claimed Mr Bay.

He added: “Macron only reiterated promises already made and not kept – such as the ones on borders – or unfolded a programme that is not so much his than that of the Commission.

“He remained on the beaten track of Brussels bureaucracy.

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“Even in the hemicycle of the European Parliament, where he came as in a conquered territory, he was only very softly applauded.”

Mr Bay was quick to highlight what he saw as Mr Macron’s short-term motives, suggesting it was “scandalous that the FPEU coincides with the French presidential election”.

He said: “Emmanuel Macron is of course not responsible for the planned timing of the EU presidencies, but it was well within his power to shift the FPEU with the next presidency (Czech Republic) to avoid such a mix.

“He benefits from communication resources that are out of all proportion to his competitors, which is of course in addition to his means of action as French president (instrumentalisation of the health crisis, tax gifts, etc.)

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Mr Bay claimed: “In this case, he is cynically and shamelessly using the FPEU to serve his campaign and his personal image.

“This speech in Strasbourg was indeed dedicated to European issues, but Macron has never made a secret of his federalism: the European Union is absolutely central to his national political platform.

“Thus, the line between a FPEU speech and an election campaign speech is extremely thin.”

Mr Bay added: “Whatever Macron may think, the issues at stake in this election will be economy, security and identity-related.

“These are all issues on which the president has a record: his failure is obvious.

“He tries to hide them by imposing a health or European debate, but it does not work. The French are no longer fooled.”

During his speech on January 19, Mr Macron said: Our generations today need to recast our Europe so that it meets its promise of being a democracy, providing progress and providing peace.

“We need to give ourselves the means to make Europe a cultural, democratic and educational power for the future, a power for balance.”

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