PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron’s plea to voters in 28 nations to choose a stronger European Union has gained support from outside his borders — and a good deal of skepticism from within.
In a column published for Tuesday’s editions throughout the bloc, Macron advised voters in the May 23-26 EU parliament elections to reject nationalist parties that “offer nothing,” laying down the battle lines for the vote.
Macron himself defeated an anti-EU candidate to become modern France’s youngest leader, but his popularity at home has dipped since taking office to the strains of the bloc’s anthem, “Ode to Joy.”
The column is his furthest-reaching attempt to shore up the EU, where nationalist and populist candidates have seen gains, including in neighboring Italy and most recently in the Estonia general election on Sunday.
“Freedom, protection and progress: we need to build European renewal on these pillars. We can’t let nationalists with no solutions exploit people’s anger. We can’t sleepwalk to a diminished Europe. We can’t remain in the routine of business as usual and wishful thinking,” he wrote.
He proposed the creation of an agency to protect member states’ elections from cyberattacks and other manipulations. He also seeks to ban the financing of EU political parties by foreign powers.
To address migration, Macron called for stricter border controls, a common border force, and common asylum rules.
Macron also called for Europe to lead the fight against climate change by setting a target of zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and cutting pesticide use in half by 2025.
In a tweet Tuesday, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila offered support for Macron’s call for “security, sustainable growth and ambitious climate policy.”
Sipila added that people needed to see “the EU that is capable of making decisions and implementing them.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said he particularly hoped for “a Europe that protects liberty and democracy,” according to the agency Belga.
But in France, where Macron’s popularity has dipped since his election, there was skepticism.
“Macron is all alone on the European stage. He got angry with the countries in the East, treating them as though they were insane. He got angry with Italy, treating it as a nationalist leper,” Jordan Bardella, head of the candidate list for France’s far-right National Rally, told BFM television. “He is now totally alone in his plans for a federal Europe, for a European renaissance, while all the people of Europe want to regain their power, their national sovereignty.”
Nadine Morano of the opposition Republicans noted that France seems to figure little in Macron’s plans.
“In this column, the word France appears just once,” she told FranceInfo radio. “This is Macronism — France has to disappear into this European federalism.”