Macron calls for more optimism in Europe at end of Germany visit

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Macron calls for more optimism in Europe at end of Germany visit

French President Emmanuel Macron called for more optimism and drive in Europe after receiving the Peace of Westphalia Award at the end of his three-day state visit to Germany on Tuesday.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who presented the award, praised the French Prime Minister as a "passionate European" and thanked him for his affection for neighbouring Germany.

Macron is to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for talks in the government guest house in Schloss Meseberg north of Berlin later in the afternoon, focusing on European competition policy and cooperation in defence.

Steinmeier: Macron is a 'doer'

Steinmeier praised Macron as a driving force behind European development and Franco-German friendship during his speech in Münster, where Macron was awarded the International Award of the Peace of Westphalia.

"You are not just a doer, you are an encourager. Where others speak of borders, you speak of horizons," Steinmeier said.

Steinmeier drew particular attention to Macron's plea for a common European security policy, common European defence and joint action on internal security.

Macron had invoked European sovereignty long before Russia launched its attack on Ukraine in 2022, the German president said. "A Europe that defends its interests proactively and independently – politically, technologically and militarily."

More optimism

Macron has called for more optimism and drive in Europe. "I believe we need to be more optimistic," he said in his acceptance speech.

"Being optimistic as Europeans means being sure that Europe is the right answer." This refers to the major current challenges such as the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis and the threat to democracy.

"We are too divided, too slow and too timid in Europe, that is the reality," said Macron. The EU needs to simplify processes, act faster and invest more, he said. Europeans need to join forces on security and defence and establish joint armed forces, according to Macron.

The European states would also only have a chance of overcoming the climate crisis and developing future technologies and artificial intelligence together and not on their own, also in the face of competition from China and the United States, he said.

Franco-German relationship

The Franco-German relationship has been problematic over the past two years of the Scholz government, with differences over Ukraine and over economic links with the United States and China.

While Macron has called for greater European autonomy and measures to protect the European economy from US and Chinese competition, Scholz has maintained Germany's traditional Transatlantic posture and sought to retain German access to Chinese markets.

Scholz has also been deeply sceptical of Macron's suggestion that European ground troops might become involved in the Ukraine War.

Competitive EU

In a joint article in the Financial Times published on Monday, Scholz and Macron called for a competitiveness agenda to be at the centre of the EU's next five-year term after the European elections in June.

Europe must be a strong global industrial and technological leader and at the same time realise its goal of making the EU the first climate-neutral continent, according to the article.

In order to fulfil these ambitions, the EU needs "more innovation, more single market, more investment, more level playing field and less bureaucracy." Together, they will work to strengthen the EU's sovereignty and reduce critical dependencies, the leaders wrote.

Scholz and Macron called for the EU's technological capabilities to be strengthened by promoting cutting-edge research and innovation as well as the necessary infrastructure.

One of Europe's greatest strengths is the single market, which enables companies to develop innovative products and services, grow and compete while ensuring high standards, they wrote.

"We have to make full use of and significantly accelerate existing EU instruments, from important projects of common European interest to the role of public procurement, considering a more strategic approach in relevant sectors, and to modernise our competition rules in view of global competitiveness," the leaders wrote.

Peace protest

Peace activists were planning a protest in Münster to demonstrate against arms deliveries to Ukraine, and anti-nuclear protestors are to demonstrate against France's plans to expand its nuclear power stations.

"We are counting on several hundred participants," police spokesman Jan Schabacker said ahead of the ceremony. But he added that police were expecting the protests to pass off peacefully.


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