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Macron’s appeal to the 'citizens of Europe' comes under fire from right and left

AFP archives | L to R: Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the far-left France Insoumise party, President Emmanuel Macron and Laurent Wauquiez of the right-wing Les Républicains.

The leaders of France’s left- and right-wing parties reacted with scathing editorials of their own over the weekend to a public appeal for a European “renaissance” from French President Emmanuel Macron.

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Sensing a threat to the ideal of a united Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the “citizens of Europe” directly in an open letter published last week in 28 languages, saying the EU faces an “urgent” threat ahead of upcoming European parliamentary elections.

"In a few weeks’ time, the European elections will be decisive for the future of our continent,” Macron wrote. Resisting the temptation to “withdraw”, he proposed that Europe seek a “renaissance” organised around the three main principles of freedom (ensured through better cyber security and banning EU parties from accepting foreign money), protection (including a Schengen-wide asylum policy) and progress (better protections for workers and taking the lead on climate change).

Brexit underscores 'urgent' threat

Brexit is one example of the "urgent" threats the European Union is facing today, Macron wrote.

"It symbolises the crisis of Europe, which has failed to respond to its peoples’ needs for protection from the major shocks of the modern world."

The response to Macron's appeals was lukewarm and particularly so in France, where both left- and right-wing leaders took him to task for merely offering more of the same platitudes of the past.

Laurent Wauquiez, leader of the right-wing Les Républicains party, said Macron was offering a false binary choice. In an opinion piece entitled, "There is another way for Europe," Wauquiez wrote that Macron’s proposals discuss “pro-Europeans and anti-Europeans, progressives and nationalists, saviours and destroyers, with nothing in-between”.

Macron's proposals “show the same blindness in the face of Europe's impasse”, he wrote.“Rather than questioning, [he proposes] a leap forward towards more of a Europe that does not work.

France must 'clean it's own house'

“What is striking is that these incantatory slogans are repeated continuously over the years: rebuilding the Schengen area, creating a social Europe ... Words that end up saying nothing in this era of scepticism,” said Wauquiez.

“If France truly wants to rebuild Europe, it must first renew itself. Our calamitous economic management, our inability to reform and reduce the excesses of public expenditure, make France the sick man of Europe,” Wauquiez wrote. “And it is unthinkable that our partners would accept lessons from a president who is, this year, the leader of the country with the highest public deficit in the entire euro area.”

“If France wants to rebuild Europe, it must start by cleaning its own house.”

Wauquiez went on to say that the European project needs to be reconsidered. Critics of Brussels are not anti-EU, he said – they merely seek a better way forward.

“The French are not against Europe; they are against what she has become. They do not want to leave Europe; they want to change Europe. They have been saying this, louder and louder, for years. And the only answer they get is either more of the Europe that you do not want or no Europe at all. It's time to break out of this sterile, binary viewpoint.”

'A new era of civilisation'

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who heads the France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, also accused Macron of repeating the same tired tropes, saying the French president addressed Europeans using a torrent of “clichés” peppered with “Russophobic paranoia”.

The common interest of those living on the Old Continent deserves better than this “chatter” from Macron, he said.

In an op-ed calling for France to withdraw from EU treaties – bluntly titled, “Get out of the treaties, Stupid!” – Mélenchon wrote: “All our ecological and social miseries have their origin in the content of these treaties.”

Such Europe-wide agreements have locked member nations into a system that institutionalises the free market and Transatlanticism, two ideologies that Mélenchon says are “cherished” by both right-wing governments and Europe's centrist Socialists, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“They codify an inability to invest in ecological transition, the dismantling of the welfare state and financial influence in democracies.Designed to offer a permanent celebration of finance, they make the mutual aid and solidarity between peoples impossible,” Mélenchon wrote of the treaties.

In Europe, it is time to speak the “only truly international language that can motivate common cause among peoples who are diverse in their history, languages ​​and cultures.That is the language of defending and expanding the common good,” including social rights and public services, which must now be rebuilt “after 30 years of ransacking” by "unfettered competition".

'Sovereignty of the people'

“We are all threatened by a system of production and exchange that destroys the Earth and human beings,” said Mélenchon.

“If there is a need for a renaissance in Europe, it is that of sovereignty of the people, that of luminaries against the obfuscations of money and rival religious beliefs.”

If France wants to be useful, it can do so by proposing that Europe undertake the “Herculean tasks” that lie ahead, Mélenchon said.

Within 20 years it is possible for all European peoples to respect the "green rule": not to take more from nature than it can replenish.Moreover, he said, “They can decide to eradicate poverty on the Continent, guarantee a decent wage for everyone [and] limit income gaps to end the endless epidemic of inequality.”

“In short, it is possible to begin a new era of human civilisation”in Europe, which can then lead the way in making “such humanistic norms a new horizon for billions of human beings”.

Old 'stupid, moribund' Europe

“At a time of mass social suffering and ecological disaster, people can no longer have leaders that say one thing and do the opposite. Emmanuel Macron's letter offers one such example.”

Mélenchon went on to say that the fear and mistrust some Europeans feel towards Russia is “absurd”.

The threat to democracy “does not come from Moscow, but from Paris, from a president who has led a fierce crackdown on Yellow Vest protests for the past 17 weeks”.

“For the peoples of Europe, a change of direction is urgent,” Mélenchon wrote, adding that politicians like Macron and Merkel embody the old “stupid, moribund” recipes for Europe.

“The renaissance that Europe needs is that of political freedom for its peoples,” he said.

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