Macron’s European Renewal: more than just a communication?

President Macron likes to address citizens in a direct manner. He did it in his campaign for the Presidential elections and as a reaction to the ‘yellow jacket’ protests. After the Sorbonne speech last year he has now published an open letter to European citizens in all 28 member states. In terms of the content, he takes a strong transnational, pro-European approach at a time when political parties usually campaign at a national level with their national European election programmes and sometimes ignore the manifestos of their European parties.

But how can the citizens reply on an equal footing if indeed this is even of interest for the author? Mainly by organizing themselves in Civil Society Organisations and expressing themselves through them. We call it civil dialogue, and it is contained in Article 11 of the Lisbon-Treaty. As much as the decision to write an open letter addressing all Europeans is welcomed and understood on an electoral basis, it should also be criticized since it does not mention or take into account organized civil society and the  “corps intermédaires”.

Macron called on Europeans to support his proposals for the EU to stand against nationalism and the threats it poses for peace, freedom and progress in our continent. A renewal of the European project is needed, and we definitely agree that things must change so that European citizens to find trust again in the EU. We also agree that for the next mandate to bring trust back into the EU it needs to be based on a progressive work plan. But this is not what Macron proposed today, contrary to what he says.

Every pro-European force has to commit to mobilising citizens to protect democracy in the EU against the threat posed by nationalism. For this reason, Macron’s letter can be appreciated, provided that he will maintain the same firmness when addressing European leaders in the next meeting of the European Council.

Macron is right when he states that the fight is not only against nationalism and populism, but against the status quo as well, and he warns against the potential traps. Indeed, for the “rEUnnaissance” to happen, we need a true paradigm shift. To recover the spirit of progress we need to take care also of those who are vulnerable. But this is not really what Macron has been doing in France.

For SOLIDAR, European standards of progress need to be advanced. Standards of progress that include respect for the rule of law and for CSOs to be allowed to operate freely. And for the standards of progress to advance we cannot accept only a debate on trade, the environment and/or equality without mentioning Agenda 2030 or the Pillar of Social Rights even once. For migration flows to be dealt with wisely, we need to first discuss the Dublin Regulation, not the Schengen rules.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to social investment, social sustainability and social justice. Democracy needs to be restored at the grassroots level on a daily basis, on the ground in Europe and in the member states. Nice words and directly addressing the people can sound convincing at first but it is what you deliver that counts, at the end of the day. Calling for progress in Europe is fine, delivering it in your own country helps credibility.

The debate is launched (again), civil society is ready to engage and to respond if this is more than just communication.

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