Emmanuel Macron’s latest vision for the future of the European Project arrives as European Parliament elections loom ever closer and uncertainty as to the outcome of Brexit has never been higher.
In a manifesto addressed simply to the “citizens of Europe,” Macron waxes poetic on the “historic success” of the EU. He cites resistance to the crises of capitalism; “thousands of local projects” which have transformed local areas; improvement in Europe’s defense capabilities. But for Macron, these achievements are not enough. In the face of Brexit, he urges Europe to “do more and faster.” To do so, he proposes a “renaissance,” built around the ambitions of “freedom, protection, and progress.”
What this, in effect, entails is greater and deeper integration, more EU institutions, and, following the example of the US and China, increased European protectionism. Macron’s calls for a new European renaissance are nothing short of another expression of his ultimate desire for European unification. What he fails to understand or accept, however, is that this dream is not shared by many of his constituents or by the rest of Europe.
His proposals often conflict and threaten the individuality of member states. He calls for members of the Schengen area to equally share asylees and a common border force – yet in doing so he denies member-states their sovereignty and the freedom to enact their own immigration policies, and he will draw the ire of leaders such as Viktor Orban. Macron also discusses mutual defense, echoing Angela Merkel’s suggestion of the creation of a European Security Council “with the UK on board.” Though he may be flawed in other areas, Macron’s efforts to wean Europe away from American military protection are to be applauded. The European Union has long relied on overt US military spending, often following short of their NATO requirements. Yet the proposal is excessively vague, and requires deliberation and thought.
Vagueness is clear in numerous other aims developed by Macron throughout his manifesto. For instance, his suggestion of a European minimum wage. Perhaps this has been introduced as a response to the demands of the gilets jaunes, one of the major threats to Macron’s popularity at home - the idea could be extremely threatening to EU member states. As with the issue of immigration, one policy does not necessarily fit all in Europe, and a higher minimum wage could be disastrous for less economically strong members.
Macron’s other economic aims are perhaps even more alarming. He adjures the EU to adopt European preference policies, fearing strategic disadvantage in the face of similar strategies in the US and China in important industries. This, coupled with his call to ban companies which “compromise our strategic interests and fundamental values”, stink of protectionism and overregulation, as well as deepened economic integration. Bowing to populist, anti-free trade ideas will not help Macron’s case, and he should not be surprised if they lead to an exodus of businesses from Europe.
He is not done regulating, however. Macron also hopes to create new guidelines for tech giants. While this is a lofty goal, he should be careful not to overreach and find that these giants withdraw entirely and choose to stop offering their services to Europeans. Regulating the internet always comes with the issue of freedom of speech, which Macron appears to abandon entirely: “We should have European rules banishing incitement to hatred and violence from the internet.” The EU is already laden with regulations regulating the vague concept of ‘hate speech’ – it does not need any more.
Macron’s manifesto indicates that he refuses to accept any dissidence against the grand European project. His ideas are vague, and he shies away from proposing methods with which to pay for the myriad new institutions he suggests. If Macron hopes to prevent a tide of far-right movements entering the European Parliament in May, he must ensure that his vision for a future EU allows its member-states to keep their sovereignty and remain loyal to the liberal values of free trade and free markets.