Macron lays out vision for deeper EU integration

French President Emmanuel Macron delivering a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, yesterday to set out plans for reforming the European Union.
French President Emmanuel Macron delivering a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, yesterday to set out plans for reforming the European Union.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • French President Emmanuel Macron laid out his vision for reform of the European Union yesterday, detailing a desire for a major overhaul of the single-currency bloc and ideas on deeper defence and immigration cooperation.

Mr Macron was setting out his ideas before German Chancellor Angela Merkel begins the task of building a coalition government after she suffered a sharp fall in support in Sunday's election, which may hamper her ability to help him deliver reform.

While he isn't seeking to interfere in German domestic politics, it makes sense to air the ideas before a coalition is formed rather than after, an official in his office told reporters.

Yet with Dr Merkel weakened in Germany's vote and her potential Free Democratic coalition partner even more hostile to aspects of euro-area integration than her own party, the prospect of radical change in Europe looks to have diminished.

Among the highlights of Mr Macron's speech were:

FUTURE OF EUROPE

"A more fragile Europe is today exposed to waves of globalisation," said Mr Macron. "The only path that assures our future is the rebuilding of a Europe that is sovereign, united and democratic," he said.

"The Europe we know is too weak, too slow, too inefficient, but only Europe gives us the capacity to act on the world stage in the face of the big, contemporary challenges."

DEFENCE

"At the beginning of the next decade, Europe must have a joint intervention force, a common defence budget and a joint doctrine for action," he said. "We must provide Europe with a joint civil protection force."

IMMIGRATION

"We must create a European asylum office which accelerates and harmonises our procedures," he said. Mr Macron also said he wants "the gradual creation of a European border police" to assure the better protection of Europe's borders.

DEVELOPMENT

"We can no longer see Africa as a threat but as a partner," he said, adding, "Development aid must be increased."

EU-WIDE TAX

Mr Macron proposed an EU-wide tax on financial transactions - reigniting a long-running debate on expanding a levy already in place in France and Britain.

"Let's take this tax and extend it to the rest of Europe," Mr Macron said, adding that the proceeds of the tax would go towards development aid.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'Macron lays out vision for deeper EU integration'. Print Edition | Subscribe