Germany hits brakes on Macron's European dreams

Macron backs off claim that he convinced Trump to keep troops in Syria

Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has welcomed the speech by French President Emmanuel Macron to the European Parliament, saying it was "good to hear" him "calling for consulting citizens on EU's future".

Macron said citizens "want a new project" for the European Union which addresses their concerns and fears in a world where allies such as the US are turning their back on multilateral trade and climate change pacts. Dozens of nationalist MEPs sat in silence, however.

Analysts warn the public consultations risk backfiring by giving nationalist groups a platform to lambaste Brussels and Mr. Macron. Europe's ally the United States was, he lamented, also being "tempted by unilateralism".

The British Euroskeptic MEP had lunch with Macron in Strasbourg, where the French president was visiting to hold a debate in the European Parliament about the future of Europe.

The pro-EU rhetoric of his first year in office has stirred enthusiasm from some. But the French leader faces a struggle to persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and especially her more conservative supporters, to throw their weight behind grand European designs from Paris.

Echoing Tony Blair's 2005 appearance at the European parliament, during which he tackled Nigel Farage head-on to rapturous applause, Macron picked out the Front National for comment. He went on to describe nationalism as a dead end.


"People say people don't want Europe. They don't need lessons; they need a new project and effectiveness in everyday life", Mr. Macron said. "Those who trade on that anger are risking nationalisms tearing Europe apart".

However, he warned Macron that "Europe can not be just France and Germany", in reference to the prominence self-awarded by these two nations in the drive to reform the European Union, mainly in the context of the crisis caused by the exit from United Kingdom.

He volunteered that France was ready to pay more into the EU budget now being negotiated as Britain leaves - on condition that the Union reforms in ways that France wants. But he recalled that "Europe is an ensemble", even with Britain set to leave the European Union next year. This included new taxation of digital businesses, more support for refugees, closer cooperation in defence and a stronger common approach to running the EU's single currency.

Macron's speech was part of a charm offensive ahead of European Parliament elections in May 2019, the first after Britain's exit from the 28-member bloc.

He said Tuesday France is ready to increase its own contribution to the EU budget and insisted European countries should work on more closely harmonizing fiscal systems and tax levels.

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