Road to EU 2024

The Speech on Europe at the Sorbonne: Emmanuel Macron Warns of a “Deadly Europe” and Outlines Future Perspectives for a “Powerful Europe”

April 2024
By Eleonore Para

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During a ninety-minute address in the grand amphitheater of the Sorbonne, seven years after his “Sorbonne 1” speech, Emmanuel Macron reviewed European achievements and outlined the roadmap for the European Union. The purpose of this intervention: “to influence the agenda” of the next European Commission after the elections next June. However, for many, this speech marks the beginning of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign to support the lead candidate of the majority, Valérie Hayer.

The President reviewed the European achievements: successes include the response to the Covid crisis, the war in Ukraine, but a harsh realization: “Our Europe today is deadly. It can die, and that depends solely on our choices.”

“The risk is that Europe will become detached, and we are already beginning to see this despite all our efforts. We are still too slow, not ambitious enough,” he warned.

“It is today that the issue of peace and war on our continent and our ability to ensure our security or not is decided,” stated the head of state. “Looking to the next decade, the risk of being weakened is immense,” he added, also considering that the values of “liberal democracy” are “increasingly criticized and contested.” According to Emmanuel Macron, “the major transformations, those of the digital transition, artificial intelligence as well as environmental and decarbonization efforts, are happening now.”

The President laid out his proposals for a powerful Europe. First on defense: Emmanuel Macron expressed a desire to create a “Europe power” that “commands respect,” “ensures its security,” and regains “its strategic autonomy.”

Emmanuel Macron also called for Europe to “fully and completely regain control of [its] borders and assume responsibility for them.” He proposed a “political structure” on issues of migration, security, the fight against organized crime, and terrorism.

In terms of the economy, the French president wants Europe to aim to be a global leader by 2030 in “five strategic sectors of tomorrow”: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, space, biotechnologies, and “new energies (hydrogen, modular reactors, and nuclear fusion).” He also wishes to enshrine “European preference” in “defense and space” within the community treaties. He has also called for a revision of the European trade policy because China and the United States “no longer respect the trade rules as they were written fifteen years ago.” Emmanuel Macron has also called for a simplified Europe: “Simplification means more single market,” “to allow our startups to immediately have a domestic market that is an internal market of 450 million consumers.”

Regarding the agricultural crisis, “The anger of our farmers was not an anger against Europe,” but “against regulation, complexity, aberrant norms, and the poor application of European and French law,” he estimated. He discussed the initial responses provided at the French and European levels, and argued for better European food sovereignty, better protection of the prices of European products, the quality of products entering Europe while also strengthening European exports.

Several proposals concerned the youth: Emmanuel Macron advocated for lowering the digital age of majority in the European Union to 15 years and for “parental control” of access to social networks below this age. The president also wishes to deepen programs in favor of European youth, “We need to increase tenfold the Erasmus of apprenticeship and professional training, with a goal of at least 15% of apprentices in European mobility by 2030.” The president added, “Transmitting the European spirit to the younger generations also means giving them the opportunity to have a tangible experience of our continent, that is, to travel.” Emmanuel Macron thus advocated for students to be able to “travel by train everywhere in Europe.” “And for my part, I wish that it be based on a Europeanization of the Culture Pass,” he added further, saying he was inspired by the Italian example for the deployment of this scheme in France.

Finally, the head of state defended a “European humanism.” “Being European, means defending a certain idea of man that places the free, rational, and enlightened individual above all,” he indicated. Mr. Macron also argued for the “conditionality” of European aid on respect for the rule of law. He reminded that in Europe much has been achieved in terms of balancing professional life and the life of parents, caregivers, transparency of remuneration, parity, etc., and reiterated his goal to have the right to abortion inscribed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.