PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday used a much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament to outline his vision for the future of the European Union, calling for a “stronger and more sovereign” Europe, even as he shaken Ukraine’s hopes. joining will wipe out the 27-nation EU bloc in the short term.
Macron, whose status as leader of Europe has grown after the departure of former Chancellor Angela Merkel from Germany, strengthened his position on the European stage late last month after winning a second term as president of France. He took his triumph over his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen, a longtime sympathizer of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, as a vote for a stronger Europe.
Mr Macron took the floor in the European Parliament in the eastern French city of Strasbourg just hours after Mr Putin defended his invasion of Ukraine in a speech marking the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. Referring to the war, Mr Macron, who has had a fit of diplomacy with Mr Putin to try to end the conflict, said Europe would “do anything” to ensure “Russia can never win”.
While Mr Putin in Moscow used the Victory Day celebrations to falsely portray his invasion of Ukraine as an extension of the fight against Nazism in Europe, Mr Macron said that “the European people, the Ukrainian people , today fight for freedom”. “We have given two very different images from May 9,” Macron later told reporters, referring to the Monday holiday.
In his first major speech since he was re-elected to the French presidency, Mr Macron ruled out Ukraine joining the EU in the near future, saying the membership process would likely take “decades of years”. Reflecting Europe’s commitment to Ukraine, he said Europe would continue to send military and humanitarian aid to the country.
Mr Macron suggested that instead of joining the EU, Ukraine and other countries seeking to join the bloc, such as Georgia and Moldova, could instead join a new “European political community” that would bring together those who shared the liberal values of the EU, in a kind of outer circle of European states. He said Britain, which left the EU in 2016, may also be able to join the new community.
“The European Union, given its level of integration and ambition, cannot be the only way to structure the European continent in the short term,” Macron said.
But Mr Macron did not set out what form this organization would take and it was unclear how viable it would be, given the already existing large phalanx of EU institutions.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany welcomed the proposal Monday evening at a joint press conference in Berlin with the French president. But he stressed that it should not affect the prospects of those countries that are already in the process of joining the bloc.
Joining the block is an arduous and arduous process. To join, a country must unanimously approve its candidacy by all EU member states, who are now 27. It must also make its political system, judiciary and economy compatible with the bloc by adopting the EU’s common law system, as well as over 80,000 pages of rules and regulations on everything from environmental standards to food hygiene rules.
Macron also surprised his audience in Strasbourg by saying that the bloc’s guiding treaties needed updating, as large parts of EU decision-making require unanimous approval from the EU’s 27 member states, an impractical requirement that he says is slowing progress. For example, the EU’s proposal to ban the import of Russian oil, which must be approved by all member states of the bloc, has met resistance from Hungary.