The Debate

On the Eastern Front: Macron's push to raise EU's clout

THE DEBATE
THE DEBATE © FRANCE 24

"We will do our best as Europeans to help mediate." Those were French President Emmanuel Macron's words after becoming the first Western leader to meet face-to-face with exiled Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Macron was taking time out of a long-planned visit to Lithuania to answer her call to broker dialogue with Alexander Lukashenko, who last week staged a secret inauguration to a sixth term.

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How does Macron deal with Lukashenko? How does he deal with his neighbour to the east, Vladimir Putin? Unfolding events have triggered strong statements from France and the European Union on Belarus and the poisoning of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny. Does it end there? Do calls for rule of law carry when EU members Poland and Hungary shrug off warnings from Brussels on the matter?

Macron, the first French president to visit Lithuania in 19 years, is also visiting neighbouring Latvia. Together they are launching an EU-wide initiative to counter disinformation. What role for the French president? What role for the former Soviet Baltic states today turned staunch EU and NATO members?

Produced by Charles Wente, Juliette Laurain and Ariana Mozafari.

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