The place was crowded for Emmanuel Macron’s visit – the French Minister for the Economy on April 18th – for the first anniversary of the launching of Politico in the European capital. It was the first time that this journal received a national sitting minister for political debates.
It must be noted that French policy is still very relevant in Brussels and in the European sphere. The coming of the Minister was indeed much anticipated both by political circles and media. Over a hundred people – in general behind his cause and his ideas – were gathered to hear his talk, a few days after the launching of his new political movement: En marche.
Discussions mainly focused on two topics: French policy and the European Union. Mr. Macron answered, in English, in a very honest and laid-back manner.
« We need an open society »
If questions related to French policy were supposed simply to be an introduction to European matters, they hogged a great part of the debates. And the Minister for the Economy was right away asked to give his position on a possible candidature of François Hollande for the presidential election in 2017. He reasserted that the latter was the only one to decide, reminding them of what the President had said a few days ago; knowing that he would make his mind up in the next months.
The fact remains that Mr. Macron currently officially supports the French Head of the State and did not create his political movement with the idea of challenging him. According to the Minister, “the current political offer is not sufficient”. He wishes for the raising of a real political platform for the post-2017. Moreover, he insists on underlying ideas, which according to him are lacking, unlike candidates. “We never talk about ideas” he said, before adding that already a dozens of candidacies had already been received.
Mr. Macron confirmed to the audience that the movement “En marche” had the purpose to be cross-party and so it would welcome people from both left-wing and right-wing parties. He mainly wants to be at the origin of an inclusive platform, including people from the civilian society: “The civilian society talks about the politics saying ‘You are technocrats’. We need an open society”.
Video presentation of Macron's movement, En marche.
Regarding questions related to the economy, the Minister – well-known for his liberal and reforming orientations – reaffirmed that he wished for a “renewal of the economy”, with more flexibility. Thus, to give the possibility to people excluded from the labour market to do “small jobs” more freely, giving the example of Uber. “We will not be able to create a future with regulations from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. We are in a multipolar world. We need to adapt our economic model and our training model” he concluded about economy.
A willingness for "more European Union" and more solidarity
After talking about the responsibility of politicians regarding the rise of the Front National (editor’s note: far-right party), Emmanuel Macron answered questions related to the future of the European Union. Being in favour of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the famous TTIP, he considers that this latter is not dead and that it is a “good thing for Europe”, if well-negotiated. The negotiations rounds have indeed been multiplying for the past few years and some topics are still very sensitive – being agriculture or public markets.
The European steel crisis was also mentioned. On this matter, the French Minister is in favour of a certain amount of protectionism, because of “unacceptable Chinese trading practices” which are “decreasing the prices by 40 to 50%”. “If you think about liberty, you think about rules of liberty” he said, advocating a more effective and faster protection of the European industry.
On matters more institutional and political, the politician maintained that “We need Europe to deal with the situation. We are not better equipped at the national level to face crisis [Financial crisis, terrorism, refugee crisis] ». “We have the opportunity to be stronger and stronger” he said, keeping throughout the discussion his Euro-enthusiasm and his desire to see more European integration, but also to reform the Union.
Finally, the speakers’ questions ended with the Franco-German relationship. The Minister showed solidarity with his President and his government, assuring them that the relations were very good between Angela Merkel and François Hollande. He even added that the relations are currently better than when Nicolas Sarkozy was president. But according to him, both parties have to make efforts: France must go forward with a new treaty and Germany should accept more transfer of power.
Despite the discussion being very intense for over an hour, it did not result in any policy statement or staggering statement. Mr. Macron simply reiterated his political line and his views on European Union. So, no surprises, but a real enthusiasm on the part of the Minister in a tumultuous political time for French left-wing politics.