Macron’s French EU presidency presentation turns into a settling of scores – EURACTIV.com

President Emmanuel Macron presented the programme of France’s six-month EU Council presidency before very agitated MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday (19 January), but it quickly turned into a sparring match with the French opposition. EURACTIV France reports.

The parliamentary session in Strasbourg, meant as an exchange of views between MEPs and the head of state about the French EU presidency, became a tense session where Macron’s political opponents aired their grievances.

It was Green MEP Yannick Jadot, also a candidate in the French presidential elections, who started the hostilities.

“You made a beautiful speech. Everything was there. […] Except that you have been president of France for five years and, as such, you are accountable for a record for France and Europe,” said Jadot, who also criticised “the climate alliance with Poland and Hungary” regarding the EU taxonomy, a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities.

“You will go down in history as the president of climate inaction,” he told Macron, in reference to the latest hit movie “Don’t look up”.

Jordan Bardella, MEP for the Identity and Democracy (ID) group and president of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National also took the floor: “Your Europe is 60 years old. Ours is 3,000 years old,” he said, criticising Macron for his migration policy.

The upcoming presidential election in April “will not only decide the fate of France but of the whole of Europe”, Bardella said, describing Macron as a “divider” and “liquidator at the head of the French state”.

Macron replied that he was “surprised that anyone would be reproached for signing texts with Poland or Hungary” and added that Jadot’s bias would amount to “stopping the EU right now”.

Le Pen wants EU to be ‘association of free nations’

After the defeat in the 2017 French presidential election, Marine Le Pen’s right-wing Rassemblement National renewed its discourse about Europe, aiming to appeal to a wider electorate, but it is uncertain if this shift will give Le Pen a shot at winning the keys to the Elysée Palace in April

Manon Aubry, MEP of the radical left La France Insoumise, took a different tack.

“What you are protecting is certainly not the people who are struggling, but the multinationals and billionaires,” she told Macron.

She also called him the “president of contempt”, citing his comments that recently made the headlines, and accused him of “breaking social rights” and “repressing mobilisations”.

“The French presidency should not be an electoral march,” she also added.

A similar sentiment was voiced by another French MEP, François-Xavier Bellamy of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP).

“The timetable you have endorsed will serve your presidential campaign more than European action,” he complained.

Social Democrat MEP Eric Andrieu tweeted that he hoped “that the French presidency succeeds and reminds us, once again, that the general interest takes precedence over the particular interest, even if it is that of a head of state… during a campaign”.

‘Not a national debate’

Stéphane Séjourné, president of Renew Europe, a centrist political group dominated by Macron’s MEPs, reacted by saying: “What a shame to turn this hemicycle into a national assembly.

Shortly afterwards, the newly elected president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola of Malta, intervened to stress that this was “not a national debate”.

EU Fundamental Rights Charter

Amid the lively exchanges that were either marked by applause or hostile shouts, Macron still spoke about the priorities of the French EU Council presidency.

“We are the generation that is rediscovering the precariousness of the rule of law,” he declared at the start of his speech, before praising the European project and saluting “this Europe that has held the bar firmly” during the health crisis.

More concretely, Macron recalled his support for the European Parliament’s right of legislative initiative.

Finally, he proposed that legislators update the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to include environmental protection and recognition of the right to abortion, standing just a few metres away from Metsola, who is known for her anti-abortion stance.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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