French president Emmanuel Macron laid out an overhaul of the EU on Tuesday (26 September) to make it more integrated, more democratic, and more competitive.
In a speech of more than 100 minutes at Paris Sorbonne university, which included many historical and literary references, Macron delivered a vision that is likely to stir debate among EU leaders, whom he called on to take positions.
"Look at our times, face up to it, and you'll see you have no choice," he told EU leaders and European people.
"You have one simple choice: to leave a little more space at each election to nationalists, to those who hate Europe … Or to take your responsibilities by taking all the risks, each in his country," he said.
He laid out a vision of the EU in 2024 that is based on "common democratic values" as well as a "simpler, more protective" single market.
This EU would include a more integrated eurozone with its own budget managed by a finance minister who would be held responsible by a eurozone parliament.
The budget would be funded by a tax on internet companies - which France is currently pushing - a "green tax", and a future corporation tax that would be harmonised.
The European Commission would be reduced to 15 members and half the members of the European Parliament would be elected through trans-national lists as soon as 2019.
Macron also proposed a common defence budget, with a "common doctrine" and a "common intervention force" by 2020.
He proposed a "European intelligence academy" and a European prosecutor to fight terrorism.
He said that the EU should have a common agency to manage asylum requests and centralise interconnected databases and biometric IDs.
The EU would have, at the same time, a common policy to train and integrate migrants.
Macron proposed a new EU agency for innovation - there is already one in Budapest - in order to invest in "new fields of research" like artificial intelligence.
He also proposed that another European trade prosecutor would "punish without delay" any unfair practices.
"We cannot afford to keep the same policies, the same habits, the same procedures, the same budget," Macron told his audience.
"The only way to ensure our future is to rebuild a sovereign, united and democratic Europe", he said.
Macron signalled that he was ready to push forward without all member states.
He said that he wanted the EU to launch a "group for the rebuilding of Europe" that would include countries that are willing to move forward and would work with EU institutions.
The group would be tasked with setting up a roadmap for Europe from now to summer 2018. A series of "democratic conventions" would take place in the meantime to allow citizens to contribute to the elaboration of the roadmap.
"Europe is already with multi-speed, so let's not be afraid to say it and make it happen," he said, in a reference to member states who refused more integration while fearing to be left behind.
He also proposed a "new partnership" to Germany, with a new Franco-German treaty next January, when the two country celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty that sealed their close cooperation.
'Audacity and sense of history'
Two days after German elections that oblige the chancellor to build a difficult coalition with the liberals and the Greens, Macron said he was sure that Angela Merkel will choose "audacity and the sense of history" rather than "timidity".
He tried to reassure Germany by insisting that a eurozone budget would not be used to "mutualise debts".
He said that the EU should create a "carbon tax" at EU borders while setting a "consistent minimum price [for carbon] within the European borders". He insisted on the need for a "real European energy market".
He also revived the idea of a tax on financial transactions - an idea that is currently stuck in discussion between member states - to finance EU development policy in Africa.
He argued that the EU needed a "partnership" with Africa, "otherwise others will do it".
He also said that the EU should rethink its common agricultural policy - of which France is one of the main beneficiaries - in order to protect itself against changes on world markets and to "give more flexibility" to regions to adapt.
Macron to lay out plan for EU 'pioneers'
French president Emmanuel Macron will present his proposals to "rebuild Europe" and fight back against anti-EU forces on Tuesday afternoon (26 September), right after the German elections increased uncertainties on which direction to take.
With plans to deepen EU integration among core groups of member states, Macron wants to "open a debate" with a discussion on his ideas among EU leaders "before the end of the year", a French source said.
The French leader wants the EU to set up a roadmap by next summer for reforms over the next 10 years.
He will speak to French and foreign students at the Sorbonne university in Paris, in a symbolic venue designed to point to the future of Europe.
His speech will address three issues, the source said: "a sovereign Europe, a united Europe, a democratic Europe".
Macron will detail his plans for a eurozone budget, parliament and finance minister, as well as to increase convergence between member states on tax and social issues.
He will propose to increase cooperation on defence, counter-terrorism, education, and culture.
He is also expected to propose the creation of an EU innovation agency and to expand the Erasmus student-exchange programme.
Macron, who said last month that "we have to think of a Europe with several formats," will insist that "pioneer" countries should be able to move forward "without being stopped by the countries that don't want [to go forward]," the French source said.
That means that the French leader would like to scrap the unanimity rule between EU leaders when important decisions have to be taken.
The idea is likely to be opposed by some member states, especially those who are not yet part of the eurozone or the Schengen travel area and who do not want to be left behind.
Macron will also detail his proposal for a series of "democratic conventions" that would be held across Europe in the first half of next year after EU leaders have discussed his ideas.
"Through these six months of democratic conventions, we should debate this roadmap, the principles for which the governments will have designed, and then we can meet again [and] build what will be the foundations for an overhaul of Europe," he said in a speech in Athens last month.
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker gave his support to the conventions idea in his state of the union speech in early September.
Macron will deliver his speech two days after the German elections, where Angela Merkel won a fourth mandate as chancellor but will have to build a coalition with the liberals and Greens.
The timing was intended as a way to impose Macron's thinking on the German coalition programme, in order to facilitate a future Franco-German plan for the EU.
But the election results on Sunday have created uncertainties about the future polices of the German government, and coalition talks could drag out until the end of the year.
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