Tuesday, January 18

Emmanuel Macron: Covid highlights the need to “strengthen” the powers of the EU | European Union

Emmanuel Macron has said that national divisions during the Covid-19 pandemic have highlighted the need to “beef up” the EU’s powers, as he opened a consultation on the future of Europe in an event that was almost canceled due to internal disputes.

Speaking from a television studio set up in the middle of the European parliament chamber in Strasbourg, the French president said he hoped that the Future of Europe conference, an ongoing series of events and online public opinion polls, would strengthen decision-making at EU level. .

Macron avoided mentioning the treaty change to shift powers from national governments to EU institutions, something vehemently opposed by a large number of member state governments that could be forced to trigger referenda in response.

Instead, he spoke in general terms of the difficulties experienced during the pandemic to coordinate efforts due to the lack of central powers in the health field and the problem that decision-making is “strangled in our procedures.” The most common form of EU decision-making, including foreign policy, is done through a “qualified majority” of support among the 27 member states.

“We were divided at the beginning, for some time, when it came to buying masks or closing our borders at times, even for recovery [fund]”Macron said. “The European Central Bank lived up to the challenge and suspended the budget and competition rules that allowed us to express our desire to reactivate the economy, but in many areas the European Union does not have the same competence and the same will, and sometimes it really has very little to work with in the healthcare field and that is still the case today.

“This weakness explains the difficulties in coordination,” Macron said. “Therefore, we must learn the lessons from this great upheaval of the pandemic; we have to strengthen our common capacity because it is at the European level that we will give the relevant response.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, with Macron at the Future of Europe conference
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, with Macron at the Future of Europe conference. Photograph: Jean-François Badias / AP

“And finally, we have often noticed that Europe was not moving fast enough, it lacked ambition,” he added. “Our European democracy is based on the commitment to achieve a balance, and that is something that we must protect like a treasure, because it avoids any hegemony. It is also a weakness when we are strangled in our own procedures … We need to find an effective way forward with ambition to overcome crises and avoid not making decisions ”.

Macron said the Conference on the Future of Europe, first proposed three years ago, was an opportunity to decide what the EU would like in 10 to 15 years.

However, he had risked getting off to the worst possible start due to a dispute between those who wanted to keep final decisions on reforms in a small executive board and the demand expressed by Guy Verhofstadt, the representative of the European parliament in the body, for a plenary in which deputies to the European Parliament, citizens and government ministers will participate, to have a greater participation.

The dispute, which had threatened to end with a humiliating cancellation of the launch, is a symptom of the divide between those who want the process to lead to the first change in the EU’s founding treaties since the Lisbon Treaty in 2007 and those trying to obstruct something. so radical.

Before its launch, celebrated on Europe Day that celebrates Robert Schuman’s proposal to pool German and French steel and coal 71 years ago, a text distributed by 12 countries called for commitments to “safeguard the inter-institutional balance, including the division of competences “. . “It should not create legal obligations, nor should it duplicate or unduly interfere with established legislative processes,” the note says.

The compromise reached will involve the regularly meeting plenary consisting of 433 participants, including 108 MEPs and 108 from national parliaments, as well as representatives from the European commission and governments, who will provide input and approve a final report from the executive board next spring. . Topics to be discussed will be determined by citizen panels and input collected from an online bulletin board.

In a sign of the looming interinstitutional debate, David Sassoli, president of the European parliament, a role similar to that of the speaker of the UK House of Commons, said he hoped the process would lead to greater powers for the directly elected chamber. including initiating legislation, a role monopolized by the European Commission.


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