French president Emmanuel Macron wants to launch citizens' debates across Europe in order to "rebuild" the EU in a more democratic way.
"Europe can continue its destiny only if it is chosen and wanted," he said in Athens on Thursday (7 September).
In a speech symbolically delivered in "the cradle of democracy", on the Pnyx hill, with the Acropolis behind him, the French leader called on Europeans to "have the courage to find again the path of democracy."
He said that he wanted to organize a series of "democratic conventions" in the first half of 2018 in EU countries that were willing to do so.
He explained that "the peoples of Europe will be consulted and will debate on principles proposed by the governments."
Then a "roadmap for Europe in the next 10 or 15 years" would be elaborated upon the citizens' ideas.
Referring to previously lost EU referendums in France, Netherlands, and Ireland, he noted that "the European project was turned down by peoples" but that those peoples "were not heard".
"In Europe today, sovereignty, democracy, and trust are in danger," Macron said.
"We must rediscover the enthusiasm that the union was founded upon and change, not with technocrats and not with bureaucracy," he added.
Macron's proposal on conventions was reminiscent of how he launched his own political career last year.
He started with a questionnaire to citizens when he created his political movement, which helped him to make a "diagnosis" of voters' expectations ahead of the 2017 elections.
His Athens gambit was also part of a strategy to shape EU politics, and to put France and Macron himself centre stage.
Macron, who has met almost all EU leaders in recent weeks, has said he will soon make 10 "concrete propositions" to rebuild Europe.
He intends to present them after the German elections on 24 September, but before German coalition talks start, so that they can be taken into account in the discussions to elaborate the next German government's programme.
The strengthening of the eurozone will form the bulk of Macron's propositions.
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