Sixty percent of French 'unhappy' with Macron as protests grow

Speaking after Macron, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU wasn't just a club led by France and Germany.

He defeated euroskeptic National Front leader Marine Le Pen in France's presidential election previous year by promising an answer to voter concerns over immigration, unemployment and security was more European Union, not less. Now, French President Emmanuel Macron has laid out his vision for the future of Europe in a major speech.

"I'm doing what I said I would", he told TF1 television during an interview last week, part of a media blitz to reconnect with voters and defend his reform agenda ahead of the anniversary.

In his first speech to the European parliament, Macron urged the EU to renew its commitment to democracy, and called for the defence of a European liberal democracy that offered protection of the rights of its minorities.

"Some people call this the old Europe".

He said Tuesday France is ready to increase its own contribution to the EU budget and insisted European countries should work on more closely harmonizing fiscal systems and tax levels. A decision to open membership talks would require all 28 member states' approval in June.

Macron's election past year, defeating the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, and his ardent pro-Europeanism have made him the poster boy for a revived post-Brexit EU whose proponents aim to battle the challenges of populism.

Juncker said Macron's arrival in power in France has "given new hope" to the world's biggest trading bloc.

Macron said democracy was the "best chance" for the European Union to fight against rising nationalism on the continent.

Macron was to attend a debate on Europe in the eastern town of Epinal later yesterday.

Merkel's center-left coalition partners, the pro-EU Social Democrats, meanwhile have been more openly supportive of Macron's reform drive. Foremost, the uncertainty sparked by German elections in September set off months of negotiations in Berlin, leaving Mr. Macron without his principal European negotiating partner.

In his speech at the parliament in Strasbourg and during the public debate in Epinal, Mr. Macron sought to show how a stronger European Union can protect citizens.


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