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Fight Over Values Risks a ‘European Civil War,’ Macron Says

“We need a sovereignty stronger than our own,” he said.

The French president also sought to remind those like himself, just 40 years old, who had no memories of World War II and few of the Cold War, that the European Union was intended to play a vital role in encouraging peace and stability.


A protest against the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest, Hungary, last week. He was recently re-elected. Credit Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images

“I am part of a generation that is suffering the luxury of forgetting the experiences of our ancestors,” he said. “I don’t want to belong to a generation of sleepwalkers that has forgotten its own past,” he said, a reference to a famous German trilogy of novels by Hermann Broch set before World War I. “I want to belong to a generation that has decided forcefully to defend its democracy.”

In a clear reference to Hungary and to Poland, Mr. Macron said: “In the face of authoritarianism, the response is not authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy.”

Both countries have moved to consolidate party authority by tightening control over state media and the courts, and both countries have vowed to protect one another from substantive efforts to punish these efforts by the European Union.

“Macron is the candidate of those who still believe in Europe,” said Christian Lequesne, a professor of European politics at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, or Sciences Po. “But his whole strategy is based on a new image at home, of a president able to reform this unreformable country, which will give him more leverage on the European level.”

For now, the jury is out, but Mr. Macron is trying to influence a conversation on Europe’s future that seems especially necessary as Britain prepares to leave the bloc and the United States appears to be disengaging, calling on his fellow leaders to engage in a public debate on these issues a year before elections for a new European Parliament.

It is vital, he said, “to have a democratic, critical debate on what Europe is about.” He has suggested deeper European integration, especially for those countries that use the euro, including an enhanced European budget.

But there is considerable resistance from other member states toward creating either a more tightly integrated Europe or a multitiered one that treats certain countries differently. And nationalism in Europe is on the rise, and not just in Central Europe, under pressure from migration, terrorism and globalization.


A statue of Alexander the Great in Skopje, Macedonia. Macedonia’s talks on accession to the European Union have been held up by Greece in a dispute over the country’s name. Credit Akos Stiller for The New York Times

As Mr. Macron spoke, the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, was working with Poland to soften its planned overhaul of the judiciary and so avoid being punished with a reduction in the funds the country receives from the future European budget, which is being debated now.

Poland’s government has been sharply criticized for trying to exercise too much political control over the judiciary and limit its independence.

As Europe contemplates what to do after Brexit, the commission had good news on Tuesday for Albania and Macedonia, urging the beginning of formal accession talks to join the European Union.

Currently only Serbia and Montenegro are in such talks, with membership not likely until at least 2025 or beyond. But this announcement was a significant sign of progress for Albania, and would represent the first start of accession talks in nearly five years.

The commission notes, however, that “continued concrete and tangible results” to assure an independent judiciary “will be decisive for Albania’s further progress.”

Edi Rama, Albania’s prime minister, called it “a new chapter in our history of long efforts, struggles, defeats and results for the last three decades to reach our European dream.”

In a telephone interview from Tirana, Mr. Rama said that the process of joining now is “meticulous and difficult,” given Europe’s internal problems. But for the Western Balkans, “countries that have had not a very generous history, the European path is the only instrument to modernize and build credible states and institutions.”

Macedonia’s talks on accession to both the European Union and to NATO have been held up for years by Greece, which is still trying to force the country, a former Yugoslav republic now formally known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to take a different name. Talks on the matter have been proceeding slowly but are said to be making new progress.

Source: NYT > World

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