French President Macron urges EU to heed workers, middle classes
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday the European Union has failed to protect the less well-off as it pushes a neo-liberal agenda, signaling a more critical stance as euroskeptics make gains before elections next spring.
In recent months Macron has framed elections to the European Parliament next May as a battle between anti-immigrant nationalists and pro-EU “progressives.”
On Tuesday he addressed voters’ concerns that have boosted support for farright and euroskeptic parties in France, and drew parallels with Britain’s departure from the EU.
“We need to hear the fear and anger. There’s anger against a Europe that has become too ultra-liberal,” Macron told France’s Europe 1 radio in an interview.
“This anger is directed at an ultra-liberal Europe which no longer allows our middle classes to live decently,” he said, using a term associated in France with an excessively free-market ideology.
An Ifop survey published on Sunday showed the far-right Rassemblement National party, formerly the National Front, has moved ahead of Macron’s Republique En Marche party for the first time in a poll for the European elections.
It also showed far-right and anti-EU parties with a combined support of 30 percent, up from 25 percent at the end of August.
Macron said Brexit was the result of disenchantment of the working and middle classes with Europe and the City of London financial center.
“When Britain decides to leave Europe, it’s the middle classes which say: ‘This Europe you’re selling me, it makes the City better off but I, in the country or industrial towns, I’m worse off,’” he said. “We need to hear that, so we need a Europe that protects workers more.”
The French leader, who has championed a pro-business agenda at home including labor reforms and privatizations, has at the same time tried to placate protectionist instincts in France by touting a “Europe that protects.”
On Tuesday Macron also said Europe needed to build a real army to become less reliant on the US.
“We won’t protect Europeans if we don’t decide to have a real European army,” Macron said.