Macron Denounces the Populist “Leprosy” in Europe

Macron dénonce «la lèpre» populiste en Europe LE FIGARO, 22nd June 2018. The countries of Central Europe will boycott the summit meeting on the migration crisis set for Sunday (24th June) in Brussels. One camp against another. In a virulent speech given on Thursday 21st June at Quimper [Brittany], Emmanuel Macron chose confrontation over consultation — with the populist governments now in power in the heart of Europe — in the struggle against “resurgent nationalism, and the closed borders advocated by some”, and those who “discard even [the right to] asylum”. Just a few days before a particularly tense mini-summit dedicated to migration, the Head of State appears to have wanted to kick off the campaign for next year’s European elections.

“I say this to you in the utmost seriousness”, he began, in defence of the core of his political DNA: Europe. “There are many who detest her, but they have detested her for a long time and you see them rising like lepers everywhere in Europe, in countries where we had thought it was impossible that they would reappear. And our friend-neighbours: they say the worst things, and we just get used to it! They launch the worst provocations, and nobody, but nobody, is scandalised by it!” These particularly severe comments target first of all Italy, a country that has been governed for only a very short time by an alliance between the extreme Right and the populists of the Left, united in their rejection of a certain European ideal, and in their opposition to the reception of refugees on the Continent. The [Italian] Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, has created shock-waves by foreshadowing a census of the Romany population.

“Our friend-neighbours: they say the worst things, and we just get used to it! They launch the worst provocations, and nobody, but nobody, is scandalised by it!” — Emmanuel Macron, at Quimper.

But the Head of State was without doubt thinking of the countries of Central Europe that form the Visigrad Group. Leaders from Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia met in Budapest on Thursday, with the Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz. Vienna occupies the rotating presidency of Europe from the 1st July, and Austria shares their policy of strict control [of the borders], even of closure. The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, announced that the Visigrad Group would boycott the forthcoming meeting in Brussels. “The mini-summit arranged for Sunday is unacceptable: they want to warm-over an old proposal that we’ve already rejected”, added the Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki.

Eleven countries, on the other hand, have already announced their participation: Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Greece, Holland, Bulgaria, Belgium, Denmark and Malta. But this manœuvre, the purpose of which is to save Angela Merkel, who has been on an ejector-seat since her coalition threatened to collapse, has begun badly: the draft of a final communiqué, circulated in advance to the press, has incurred the wrath of Rome, which is now close to cancelling its attendance. “It is unacceptable to participate in a summit, the conclusions of which have already been written”, said the President of the [Italian] Council, Giuseppe Conte, in a message published on the Internet. Angela Merkel should pick up the phone to assure him that this text — foreshadowing fines for asylum-seekers leaving their country of registration, a “flexible” mechanism for readmission amongst member-states, but also a system of “solidarity” for sharing out migrants within the EU — had been “set aside”.

The proponents of openness are on the defensive. In Jordan on Thursday, Angela Merkel tried to reiterate some principles: “We must [continue] to be an open country”, she said to a female student who was worried whether she should be “fearful” of going to Germany. But time is running out for Merkel: her Bavarian coalition party, the CSU, has given her until 1st July to find a solution, on pain of unleashing a political crisis.

The situation is no less difficult for Emmanuel Macron. At Quimper, he replied to the “givers of lessons” who criticise his migration policy and his refusal to accept ever more migrants: “Explain to me how we are to accept everyone. Look at French society and its fractures! Look at what we’re already doing, too; we don’t need to blush”, he said. “Europeans are accused of not being up to the task, not at all as we would wish. And we forget to denounce those who do nothing at all about it!”, he added. Attack, as a means of defence. ⇒ Le Figaro