Lisi Niesner | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, looks on during a news conference in Salzburg, Austria, on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
French President Emmanuel Macron has called for Europe’s leaders to defend the “unique” model of the European Union, and to stop blaming the continent’s institutions when things go wrong.
Macron made his comments in a 25-minute speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
“To accuse Brussels and Strasbourg of every ill, carrying on in this manner is a fool’s game,” he said. “It might be more comfortable, but it will not solve any problems.”
The rising support for nationalist and anti-European movements across the region is one of the biggest issues that the EU is facing as it heads towards parliamentary elections in 2019. Many analysts believe that the growing anti-European sentiment in some regions is the result of years of criticism directed at the EU by national politicians.
According to Macron, it’s time to European leaders to “listen to the anger” and defend the EU model.
“Let’s compare each other, compare Europe with the other powers… where else in the world are there the same requirements — financial, diplomatic, this obligation to respect minorities, to respect women, the private life… where else is it this developed?”
The French leader compared Europe to the U.S to highlight the continent’s ideals.
“This country (the U.S.) is rejecting multilateralism, free trade and climate change. I’m convinced that this (European) model is more powerful than ever but at the same time very fragile, because its strength depends on our commitment… We must defend this model together each and every day.”
Macron also referenced countries that he considered to have deviated into “authoritarian democracy.”
“We are seeing authoritarianism all around us and the response is not authoritarian democracy, but the authority of democracy,” he said, in a light reference to Hungary and Poland. The latter is being investigated by European authorities for implementing changes, relating to the independence of its judiciary and freedom of speech, that are perceived as undemocratic and against the rule of law.
Macron received a standing ovations at the end of his speech from most lawmakers. Those representing nationalist parties remained in their seats.
Last September, Macron laid out his vision for the future of Europe. At the time, he suggested that European countries should move forward with further integration, even if other member states would prefer to take a more gradual pace.