Germany’s vice chancellor is welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for reform of the European Union, saying that Europe needs to be strong to avoid being pushed around.
Olaf Scholz, who is also Germany’s finance minister, told the Funke newspaper group Tuesday that Macron “has sent a determined signal for cohesion in Europe.” He said “it is important that we are sovereign and strong so that we are not pushed around in the world.”
Scholz added: “I see us right beside Paris when it comes to reforms for a Europe that is capable of acting and a stable euro.”
Germany and France are the traditional motors of European integration, but their cooperation has often been marred by disagreement. Scholz is a senior figure in the center-left Social Democratic Party, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fractious governing coalition.
The European Commission is welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron’s appeal for a “European renaissance,” though it says it has already been working for years on many of the ideas he raised.
Chief spokesman for the EU’s executive body, Margaritis Schinas, on Tuesday read a list of ideas the commission and its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, have been developing since their term started in 2014.
They ranged from border guard and asylum agencies to security and food safety proposals or tackling climate change.
Schinas said: “For a European renaissance, France and the Commission are fighting the same fight.”
He conceded that any moves requiring changes to the EU’s founding treaties can only be decided “among our member states. These are the owners of the treaties.”
This version corrects that Schinas is male, not female.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s plea for a stronger European Union went out to publications “of record” in 28 nations, but didn’t always get prime placement.
In Hungary, whose President Viktor Orban has been a frequent target of Macron, it was published online only in the independent business weekly HVG.
In The Guardian in Britain, it disappeared from the international home page by midday and was deep in an inside section in the paper edition.
And in Poland, where the right-wing government is calling for greater autonomy from Brussels’ decisions, Macron’s column was published by the respected nationwide Rzeczpospolita daily.
The headline was on the front page but the full text was published on page 12, as an opinion column, without any comments.
The German government says it’s important for pro-European forces to set out their ideas for the future of the European Union but isn’t offering any immediate assessment of details of French President Emmanuel Macron’s latest reform proposals.
The government said in a brief emailed response Tuesday to a query on Macron’s plea to voters to choose a stronger EU: “It is important for the pro-European forces to set out their concepts before the European election. The German government supports active discussion on the direction of the European Union.”
Alexander Gauland, the co-leader of the far-right opposition Alternative for Germany party, charged that Macron’s “proposals for a ‘renewal’ of the EU would ultimately lead to yet more rules and bureaucracy and further limit the sovereignty of member states.” He said that “that will worsen the crisis of the EU.”
Gauland said that “the bigger the problems become in France, the more Macron plays global statesman.”
French President Emmanuel Macron’s plea in the publications of 28 nations for a stronger European Union has gained support from neighboring Belgium and Finland.
In a tweet Tuesday, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila offered support for Macron’s call for “security, sustainable growth and ambitious climate policy.”
Sipila added that people needed to see “the EU that is capable of making decisions and implementing them.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said he particularly hoped for “a Europe that protects liberty and democracy,” according to the agency Belga.
But in France, where Macron’s popularity has dipped since his election, there was skepticism.
Nadine Morano of the opposition Republicans said that “in this column, the word France appears just once. This is Macronism — France has to disappear into this European federalism.”