Emmanuel Macron has called for a new European agency to fight against international cyber-attacks and the manipulation of election campaigns, as well as a ban on foreign powers funding European parties, as he set out plans to overhaul the EU in response to Britain’s vote to leave, reports .
The French president, a pro-European centrist, made the rare move of appealing directly to citizens across the bloc in a long letter published by the Guardian and 27 other newspapers.
Macron’s move comes weeks before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, and months before European parliament elections in which nationalist parties are expected to increase their share of the vote. He said it was urgent to address the failings exposed by the Brexit vote.
As part of what he called a “roadmap to European renewal”, he put forward a range of proposals for change including tougher joint action on internet hate speech, the supervision of internet giants, new competition rules, a minimum European wage and a new defence treaty. He also proposed that panels of European citizens should be consulted on EU reforms, not just during election periods.
“Never, since the second world war, has Europe been so essential,” Macron wrote. “Yet never has Europe been in so much danger.”
He cited the Brexit referendum result as the symbol of Europe’s crisis, an example of how people could turn away from the EU if it is just seen as a “soulless market” rather than “a historic success, the reconciliation of a devastated continent in an unprecedented project of peace, prosperity and freedom.”
He said Brexit symbolised a crisis in which Europe was seen as failing to respond “to its peoples’ needs for protection from the major shocks of the modern world.” He also warned, however, against lies and “irresponsibility”.
“Who told the British people the truth about their post-Brexit future?” he asked. “Who spoke to them about losing access to the European market? Who mentioned the risks to peace in Ireland of restoring the former border? Nationalist retrenchment offers nothing. It is rejection without an alternative. And this trap threatens the whole of Europe. The anger-mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything.
Macron later said: “The Brexit impasse is a lesson for us all”. In a nod to the Brexiters’ campaign slogan “take back control”, he said that in a changed Europe “the people will really take back control of their future”. In a suggestion the UK would deepen its future relationship with the EU, he said that “in this new Europe, the UK, I am sure, will find its true place”.