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article imageMacron's Europe speech gets mixed reaction

By AFP     Sep 27, 2017 in Politics

Politicians and the press across Europe broadly welcomed Emmanuel Macron's calls for a revival of the European project, although EU powerhouse Germany gave a cautious reception.

Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the "European passion" shown by the French president during his 90-minute speech on Tuesday, but the government thought it premature to comment on the details and took a measured tone.

After a difficult victory in the legislative elections on Sunday, Merkel is seeking an agreement to govern with the FDP, a pro-business party opposed to the ideas of Macron on the eurozone.

On the sensitive subject of the reforming the eurozone, Berlin expects a "lively" and "intense" discussion, said Chancellery spokesman Steffen Seibert, adding it was "too early for a detailed assessment".

EU leaders will meet in Tallinn, Estonia for a "frank" debate on the future of Europe over dinner on Thursday, with Macron taking to the floor first to spark the discussion.

- 'Little pieces glued together' -

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said of his speech: "Just as the French president set out in his speech, I am convinced that we need a turning point in the areas of economic policy, trade policy and social policy.

"The concept described by Macron of a Europe that protects is exactly what people want to see."

In Italy, european affairs minister Sandro Gozi welcomed Macron's proposals, saying: "There are no local solutions to multi-national problems."

Elsewhere there was scepticism over the French leader's chances of generating support with the strongest negative reactions coming mainly from the right.

Macron's proposals "push towards more centralisation", said Harald Vlimsky from the Austrian far right party FPOe.

According to him, "it is a completely erroneous answer after the shock of Brexit".

In France, the vice-president of the right-wing Republicans party Laurent Wauquiez, criticised a "catalogue of intentions" of a "federal" Europe.

For the radical left, the leader of the France Unbowed movement Jean-Luc Melenchon lambasted a project which according to him aims "to defeat France to make a Europe of little pieces glued together in all directions".

In Prague, the billionaire set to become the next Czech prime minister was dismissive of Macron's European drive.

"He should really concentrate on France," ANO party leader Andrej Babis said.

"All these proposals that we'll have a minister of the eurozone and all of this further integration -- (European Commission chief Jean-Claude) Juncker and Macron should think of why Brexit happened."

- 'Clear-sighted and unsentimental' -

In the European press, editorials mostly hailed Macron's speech, but were more sceptical about his chances of being heard.

He "understood that European sovereignty can only be defended against extremist enemies if Europe is changed with its citizens and rendered more effective for them", said Germany's Die Welt daily.

"He wants everything at once, but at least wants something."

Austrian liberal daily Die Presse wrote: "There are 1001 reasons to severely criticise Macron's speech about Europe", citing proposals that it believes are unrealistic, too risky politically or too complex.

The centre-right Times newspaper in London said Macron offered Britain "the prospect of an eventual return to a restructured union", which the UK is to leave in 2019.

It said Macron's view was "clear-sighted and unsentimental... grandiose but not devoid of common sense.

"Whether he can persuade others to get behind it given a fast-changing political landscape is another matter," it added.

The Financial Times said Macron's initiative is "commendable", but warned there was "little in the speech that is likely to appeal to central and eastern European capitals".

The Westmonster blog, funded by major Brexit campaign donor Arron Banks, said: "EU poodle Emmanuel Macron has today openly called for EU defence capability... Giving unelected EU figures access to military might is a massively dangerous prospect."


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