‘Vain’ Macron inflames Brussels fury as French leader hogs limelight at EU conference

Macron discusses ‘building the future’ of Europe

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France’s President got the event, held in Strasbourg, underway yesterday – but Pieter Cleppe said the length of the speech sent a defiant message to both the European Commission and the European Parliament, which are joint organisers. However, Ray Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, suggested Mr Macron might have been better advised keeping it short and sweet.

Mr Macron had initially been scheduled to speak between 2.05 and 2.10pm – less time than European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Parliament President David Sassoli.

However, the Frenchman, who is gearing up for next year’s Presidential elections, clearly had other ideas, going well beyond his allotted time slot.

Mr Cleppe, a research fellow with the Property Rights Alliance think tank, told Express.co.uk: “It definitely looks as if Macron was trying to make clear he was not pleased with the limited speaking time awarded to him.

The Conference is essentially a Macron vanity project

Ray Bassett

“Fundamentally, he has a point. EU member states should ultimately be in charge of the EU.

“And during any reflection exercise on the EU’s future, representatives of EU member states should therefore also carry more weight than representatives of EU institutions, like the European Commission or European Parliament.”

Mr Bassett told Express.co.uk: “Not much of a real surprise there. The Conference is essentially a Macron vanity project.

“His ego would not have allowed him to stay within the allocated 10 minutes at the Strasbourg opening.

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“He should realise that the best presentations are the short ones, not the long rambling speeches so beloved by Macron. Remember the Gettysburg address by Abe Lincoln was only 275 words.”

Mr Bassett said: “Just on cue, I also see that the eurofederalsts are starting to contribute articles to the media about the Conference and the need to further emasculate national Governments by transferring further powers in health and migration to Brussels.

“This is ironic given the mess Brussels has just made of the vaccine rollout. Despite that, we can expect a concerted campaign over the next few months to promote the cause of European Unity.”

Mr Bassett added: “Macron must be feeling the heat of Michel Barnier calling for some competences to be returned to the national capitals and positioning himself as a traditional Gaullist candidate for next year’s French Presidential elections.”

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Mr Macron used his speech to characterise Europe as an unfinished project, but one which was superior to its largest allies – although he carefully avoided singling any out by name.

He claimed: “They don’t have the same solidarity system.

He added: “The criticism, the challenging, the fights, quarrels disagreements is what defines us, and it’s also what makes us more effective. It allows us to express criticism democratically.”

Dismissing criticism of the bloc’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, especially related to its sluggish vaccine rollout, Mr Macron said: “I say on the contrary, it is the European model that has proven itself in this crisis.”

Europe had “resisted the pandemic together” as a result of its 71 years of shared history, Mr Macron insisted.

He also found time to highlight the virtues of the French city in which the conference was being hosted.

Mr Macron explained: “Here we are gathered in Strasbourg on May 9, which tells us a great deal about who we are, how we are going to work to shape ourselves.

“Strasbourg is the city of reconciliation after all, it is the living symbol of this Europe that said no to war, to build peace, to replace occupation with cooperation, to lift the worries of looking towards the borders, to breathe new confidence and friendship into European souls, that’s what Strasbourg is all about.”

Meanwhile Mrs von der Leyen urged all participants to keep an open mind.

She said: “We must ensure it is not an intellectual policy exercise or a closed political compromise.

“We should be honest that the conference is not a panacea or a solution to every problem.

“And we must listen to all voices – whether critical or complimentary – and ensure that we properly follow up on whatever is agreed.”

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