Macron says right, left discord like ‘civil war’
French President Emmanuel Macron warned on Tuesday that divisions between democracy and authoritarianism in Europe were becoming like a “civil war.”
In a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg that set out his vision of a reformed EU, Macron called on the bloc to resist the siren song of populism.
The young French leader’s call to arms comes after eurosceptic populists won elections in Hungary and Italy, and as Brussels confronts Poland’s right-wing government over the rule of law.
“There seems to be a sort of European civil war, where our differences and sometimes our national egotisms can seem more important than presenting a united face to the world,” the 40-year-old president said.
“There is a fascination with the illiberal and it’s growing all the time.”
Macron’s election victory last year against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, and his ardent pro-Europeanism have made him the poster boy for those aiming for a revived post-Brexit EU to battle the challenges of populism.
Macron said he was concerned by the growing sense of “doubt” in several European countries in the wake of the shock 2016 Brexit vote, which he said was creating divisions in the EU.
“I don’t want to belong to a generation of sleepwalkers, I don’t want to belong to a generation that’s forgotten its own past,” he told MEPs.
“I want to belong to a generation that will defend European sovereignty because we fought to obtain it. And I will not give in to any kind of fixation on au- thoritarianism,” he added.
His speech comes just days after Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a crushing re-election victory. Orban regularly clashes with Brussels but is a “hero” for US President Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon.
Macron’s words were welcomed by European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who told parliament afterwards: “The true France is back.”
The French president also launched into a spirited defense of his decision to launch air strikes alongside Britain and the US against alleged regime chemical weapons sites in Syria.
In terms of his European reforms, Macron has struggled to win support across Europe for all his proposals.