A New Page For Europe? Thoughts On A Historic Speech – Nikos-Pavlos Kotzias, Greece

makron-pnika-1

President Emmanuel Macron delivering his speech from the Pnyx with the Acropolis in the background, source: newsit.gr

On the 7-8th of September, French President Emmanuel Macron made his first official state visit to Greece. The purpose of the visit was twofold: firstly to discuss the Greek economy and possible French investment and secondly, to outline his vision for Europe and the structural reforms he proposes. Although his visit might have been overshadowed by countless lifestyle articles on his considerably elder wife and what she wore -sexist topics left for another day- it was nonetheless historic.

The President chose to deliver his speech at the Pnyx, the birthplace of Western democracy, with the Acropolis as a fitting and symbolic backdrop for what he was about to say. Yet few expected the length, specificity, and passion emanating from his speech. Macron chose the perfect time to fill in the gap left by Brexit and the upcoming German election, to take the reins of Europe, to become  a voice of progress and reason in a troubled period for European politics.

His speech began with him attempting to speak in Greek and praising Greek democracy, and continued with Macron calling the Greek debt crisis a European, rather than national, failure. “Europe is transformation. We need to move on, especially after we have made so many mistakes. […] More than ever, we need Europe. […] It would be suicide, we need to find the power to restart Europe.” He went on to propose a “New Europe of hope and democracy” to tackle the problems it is currently facing: global warming, migration and safety were few of the ones he named.

The new diction appearing here is that of a  “European Sovereignty” based on openness and democracy, emphasizing that the Greek people had been forced to pay for their politicians’ lies. Macron paints a picture of older generations building a Union for future Europeans behind closed doors, and directly blames the crisis, suspiciousness, and Brexit on the lack of unity and transparency. “Not for future generations. But for you, the youth. There is nothing we can do. What will Europe be like in the upcoming years? I want all of you to choose your future. To be able to choose, just like we could.” And perhaps, his most profound quote – “We promised [Greeks] a life in Paris and Berlin […] yet we promised them the same here: [that Greece will become like Berlin]” – highlights how the European miracle was based on lies and inequality.

After this criticism, President Macron went on to present his roadmap on the future of Europe, urging for the creation of a central defense force, a new Eurozone Minister of Economics, centrally controlled public spending, a new parliament for the Eurozone and radical changes to the entire structure of an already complex system. Hoping to regain people’s trust and hope in the system, he promised to amend the treaties, but this time through open discussion between leaders and the people, letting the citizens determine their future, starting as early as this January.

For him, Europe has failed because of treason behind a democratic facade. “Behind me is the Acropolis […], the idea that something was born here, something that belongs to us and inspires us. The Parthenon is a mirror of our European identity.”. He even made the proposal on a European Summit on identity, based in Athens, to discuss how the continent will develop, protect, and discuss what being European means, before finishing on an encouraging note on not looking back like the Athenian owl, and aspiring for the future whether or not we are afraid of it.

The European Union has indeed reached a turning point in its history, albeit a paradoxical one. As much as it is stagnating,  some of the most controversial points, like solidarity, defense, a common army and its democratic nature, subjects that for decades have been taboo, are being discussed more than ever before. Macron has long been opposed to the bargaining nature of European politics, urging towards more co-decision and discussion, rather that leaders focusing on self-interests and getting the most out of their participation in the Union – basically, he is against a Europe “à la carte”.

Nothing Macron said inspires much controversy or disagreement, as many of the proposal are not that original, so there is no reason this roadmap should not be implemented soon. Undoubtedly a new treaty is on the works, most likely after Brexit, but perhaps Mr Macron’s plans on how it should be drafted are mere illusions. Not simply because there is already a standardised process, or even the fact that having all those meetings, assemblies, consultations and discussion will no doubt be overshadowed by individual goals and vision of the partaking parties, but mostly because he assumes that the average European will be actively engaged and supportive of this process. For the record, the French actually rejected a European Constitution back in 2005 after a referendum and with Euroscepticism on the rise, the amendment proposed will be no easier.

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On the 7-8th of September, French President Emmanuel Macron made his first official state visit to Greece. The purpose of the visit was twofold: firstly to discuss the Greek economy and possible French investment and secondly, to outline his vision for Europe and the structural reforms he proposes. Although his visit might have been overshadowed by countless lifestyle articles on his considerably elder wife and what she wore -sexist topics left for another day- it was nonetheless historic.

The President chose to deliver his speech at the Pnyx, the birthplace of Western democracy, with the Acropolis as a fitting and symbolic backdrop for what he was about to say. Yet few expected the length, specificity, and passion emanating from his speech. Macron chose the perfect time to fill in the gap left by Brexit and the upcoming German election, to take the reins of Europe, to become  a voice of progress and reason in a troubled period for European politics.

His speech began with him attempting to speak in Greek and praising Greek democracy, and continued with Macron calling the Greek debt crisis a European, rather than national, failure. “Europe is transformation. We need to move on, especially after we have made so many mistakes. […] More than ever, we need Europe. […] It would be suicide, we need to find the power to restart Europe.” He went on to propose a “New Europe of hope and democracy” to tackle the problems it is currently facing: global warming, migration and safety were few of the ones he named.

The new diction appearing here is that of a  “European Sovereignty” based on openness and democracy, emphasizing that the Greek people had been forced to pay for their politicians’ lies. Macron paints a picture of older generations building a Union for future Europeans behind closed doors, and directly blames the crisis, suspiciousness, and Brexit on the lack of unity and transparency. “Not for future generations. But for you, the youth. There is nothing we can do. What will Europe be like in the upcoming years? I want all of you to choose your future. To be able to choose, just like we could.” And perhaps, his most profound quote – “We promised [Greeks] a life in Paris and Berlin […] yet we promised them the same here: [that Greece will become like Berlin]” – highlights how the European miracle was based on lies and inequality.

After this criticism, President Macron went on to present his roadmap on the future of Europe, urging for the creation of a central defense force, a new Eurozone Minister of Economics, centrally controlled public spending, a new parliament for the Eurozone and radical changes to the entire structure of an already complex system. Hoping to regain people’s trust and hope in the system, he promised to amend the treaties, but this time through open discussion between leaders and the people, letting the citizens determine their future, starting as early as this January.

For him, Europe has failed because of treason behind a democratic facade. “Behind me is the Acropolis […], the idea that something was born here, something that belongs to us and inspires us. The Parthenon is a mirror of our European identity.”. He even made the proposal on a European Summit on identity, based in Athens, to discuss how the continent will develop, protect, and discuss what being European means, before finishing on an encouraging note on not looking back like the Athenian owl, and aspiring for the future whether or not we are afraid of it.

The European Union has indeed reached a turning point in its history, albeit a paradoxical one. As much as it is stagnating,  some of the most controversial points, like solidarity, defense, a common army and its democratic nature, subjects that for decades have been taboo, are being discussed more than ever before. Macron has long been opposed to the bargaining nature of European politics, urging towards more co-decision and discussion, rather that leaders focusing on self-interests and getting the most out of their participation in the Union – basically, he is against a Europe “à la carte”.

Nothing Macron said inspires much controversy or disagreement, as many of the proposal are not that original, so there is no reason this roadmap should not be implemented soon. Undoubtedly a new treaty is on the works, most likely after Brexit, but perhaps Mr Macron’s plans on how it should be drafted are mere illusions. Not simply because there is already a standardised process, or even the fact that having all those meetings, assemblies, consultations and discussion will no doubt be overshadowed by individual goals and vision of the partaking parties, but mostly because he assumes that the average European will be actively engaged and supportive of this process. For the record, the French actually rejected a European Constitution back in 2005 after a referendum and with Euroscepticism on the rise, the amendment proposed will be no easier.

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