Macron outlines vision of 'new Europe'

Close-up of French centrist politician Emmanuel Macron

President proposes an even more unified and institutionally modernised bloc in wide-ranging speech to students at the Sorbonne

President Emmanuel Macron has outlined his vision for a new European Union in the years ahead, proposing an even more unified and institutionally modernised Europe, a joint budget for eurozone countries, and closer co-operation on defence, immigration and taxation.

In a wide-ranging speech at the Sorbonne on Tuesday, Mr Macron warned: "Here we are with a Europe that is more fragile than ever … and falling victim to ideas like nationalism and identitarianism. The dangers, the ideas, of the past are growing once more.

“The only path that assures our future is the rebuilding of a Europe that is sovereign, united and democratic.”

Launching a 'European refoundation group' of nations, he unveiled plans for a six-month, EU-wide, debate on Europe's future starting next year, and said he was prepared to work towards major changes to the European Treaty, if necessary.

In a move that may be seen as a step in the direction of federalism, he also outlined plans for an even closer partnership with Germany, leading to the integration of German and French regulatory regimes by 2024. He said: "France and Germany can give [Europe] a joint and concrete push. Why not start together an innovation agency? Why not fully integrate our markets by 2024, and apply the same rules to our companies, business law and bankruptcy law?"

Mr Macron has long been an advocate of the 19-member eurozone having its own budget and finance minister. He used Tuesday's speech to push that agenda, saying it would allow for greater investment in European projects and stabilise the Eurozone during periods of economic crisis. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reported to cautiously welcome parts of the plan, there are areas of conflict over how powerful the minister would be. And the European Commission's Jean-Claude Juncker is against the idea.

The eurozone budget plan would be initially paid for by tougher EU-wide regulation of the digital economy, Mr Macron said. He also proposed a single European digital market, similar to other single EU markets, a European "Disruption Innovation Agency" to encourage internet startups, and said that internet giants should not be able to benefit from tax laws in the nations in which they are registered

He called for a common tax on carbon emissions, as well as increasing investments in "development" regions such as Africa.

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Mr Macron argued that a European defence strategy must be defined by the early 2020s, and proposed a European military intervention force, a shared defence budget, and a pan-European intelligence 'academy' to centralise efforts to prevent terrorism.

In a nod to gains made by the far-right in Germany's parliamentary elections at the weekend, Mr Macron warned against the dangers of anti-immigrant nationalism.

"We thought the past would not come back," he said, adding that isolationist politics that "go against the principles of a shared Europe born from the tragedy of two World Wars", had resurfaced "because we forgot to defend Europe".

And he advocated transnational lists for future European elections, so everyone "will vote for the same list all over Europe". By 2024, he said, half of the European Parliament should be elected from a pan-European list, with the first seats up for a pan-European vote being the ones vacated by the UK when it exits the EU in 2019.

2024 was a key year in Mr Macron's Euro vision. By then, he said every student in the EU should speak at least two languages, and there should be a minimum of 20 cross-border 'European Universities'.

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