En Marche for the EU? Macron’s Plan for European Integration By Joshua Turner
As we move closer to the year anniversary of Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping victory in the French presidential election, he is not content with reshaping France’s political landscape, instead hoping to change the way European Union politics is conducted. Given that he was able to lead an upstart political party, En Marche, from having no seats in parliament to a majority, it is difficult to write off his EU plans as grandiose ambition. But this endeavor will be difficult even for someone of Macron’s stature.
At the heart of this new strategy is an attempt to strengthen a move towards greater integration in the face of both Brexit and an uncertain time in German politics. Both of these could be enough to convince a more cautious observer that now is not the right time to be pushing the issue- Macron is neither cautious nor content with observation.
First up is an idea to have the twenty seven EU states engage in rigorous democratic debates on the future of Europe, to take place later this year. The impetus for this is clearly to head off any surprise opposition from states on further integration while giving states that remain skeptical a fair hearing; Macron does not want any Brexit-like surprises.
Macron is also pushing for closer monetary union, getting a handful of countries to sign on to some rather ambitious proposals. This comes amid pushes for greater defense, migration policy, and climate change cooperation. Macron clearly believes that the populist wave that has crashed over Europe is in decline, and that now is the right time to push his agenda.
That he is willing to be so daring in the face of opposition from established European parties should surprise no-one, though the end goal may remain elusive. Any changes to the European parliament will likely see a decline in the power of those currently there, and as a general rule those who currently have power are unlikely to give it up in the name of an amorphous greater good. Elections for new MEP’s in the coming year should be a good sign of how successful Macron can be, given that it will be En Marche’s first shot at gaining seats.
With all this being said, even Macron has had to scale back his previously lofty goals for EU parliament elections, declaring that he will attempt to form new groups of MEP’s after the elections and not before. While it remains to be seen how successful Macron is in his push for greater integration, given his successes it is difficult to bet against him.
Joshua Turner is a Masters of International Relations candidate at American University and editor of The Hitch.