PARIS — In a direct appeal to European citizens, French President Emmanuel Macron called on Monday for a "European Renaissance," proposing multiple new institutions and a major conference to overhaul the Continent's political structures.
In an op-ed published in multiple newspapers, Macron sketched out a vision for Europe that also serves as a manifesto for his party's European Parliament election campaign.
Less than three months before the election, which he called "decisive for the future of our continent," Macron's op-ed took the form of a letter addressed to "citizens of Europe." In it, he made an impassioned case for Europe as the only solution to protect against foreign threats and economic crises.
He also embraced themes often used by nationalists to attack the EU, such as security and identity, turning them into pillars of his vision for a reinvigorated and stronger Europe.
Here are some of the key proposals in Macron's letter, which was broken down into three main sections:
'Defending our liberty'
Macron proposed a "European agency for the protection of democracies" to safeguard each country's electoral process against cyberattacks and manipulation; outlawing the foreign financing of European parties; and banishing online hate speech and violence.
'Protecting our continent'
He also called for revamping the EU's passport-free Schengen zone; a common border police and a European asylum office; and a European "council of internal security."
Macron proposed a defense and security treaty to "increase defense spending, [and put in place] an operational mutual defense clause," and a European Security Council, with which the U.K. would be associated.
He backed reforming European competition policy and trade policy by sanctioning or banning companies in Europe that "harm our strategic interests and essential values like environmental standards, data protection" and that evade taxes.
He also advocated giving preference to European companies in strategic industries and public sector markets.
'Rediscovering the spirit of progress'
Macron called for a European minimum wage that is adapted to each country and collectively discussed yearly.
He also advocated zero carbon emissions by 2050 and cutting pesticide use in half by 2025. He called for a European environmental bank to finance environmental transition and a European sanitary force to reinforce food safety.
Macron called for European oversight of big digital platforms and giving "the European council of innovation a budget comparable to the American one to break ground in fields like artificial intelligence."
He also urged the establishment of a "Conference for Europe" by the end of the year to suggest a roadmap for change built on input from citizen panels, academics, civil society and religious representatives. He said the conference should propose "all necessary changes for our political project, without taboos — not even the revision of treaties."
At the end of the letter, Macron declared that "in this new Europe, the people really will have taken back control of their destiny; in this Europe, the U.K., I am sure, will find its place."
03 Mar. 2019 - | COMMENTARY Published by Linda Britz