Analysis. French President Emmanuel Macron said only a strong EU can guarantee ‘freedom, protection and progress.’ He is walking a tightrope in his calls for ‘protection’ and ‘sovereignty.’ (Not Brexit-style sovereignty, however.)

Macron launches media blitz to unite Europe

Emmanuel Macron has joined the battlefield in the fight for Europe. He has chosen to come out swinging in all of Europe at once, publishing an op-ed on Tuesday in 28 countries (including Britain, despite the imminent Brexit). He chose Italy’s RAI TV channel as his first media stop, in a long interview with Fabio Fazio on Sunday.

Despite the crisis of the yellow vests in France and the looming March 15 deadline for the end of the country’s “Great Debate”—after which, in April, he will need to accomplish the very risky feat of giving a response to the demands put forward by the French people—Macron has chosen to tie together the two main challenges he is facing: calming the storm of the popular revolt in France, and putting forward a proposal for a Europe that would both offer “protection” and allow the people to recover their status as “sovereign” (which doesn’t mean independence, as the British had thought).

He recalls the arguments of John Locke (as Mario Draghi also did in a recent speech), arguing that the only possible way to guarantee “freedom, protection and progress” in today’s world is with a stronger EU, united in facing the challenges brought by China and the US, as well as Russia’s maneuvering and the risks of terrorist attacks, which remain present. Macron’s chosen approach makes it possible to avoid facing the “nationalist” front head-on, and instead circle around it to a different path.

Macron’s pro-European offensive seems to also be an indication that on May 26, the European elections will not be paired with a referendum in France—which was one of the demands of the yellow vests, who want to have a popular vote on the framework for organizing referenda by public initiative (RIC)—thus purposefully avoiding any dilution of the importance of the European vote.

La République en Marche has not yet chosen the person who will head its list for the European elections, nor has it presented its list of candidates (and it will probably do so only after the end of the Great Debate). Ideally, Macron should be the one to guide the selections process, as is happening in the enemy camp: the National Rally has already been on the campaign trail for weeks, and Marine Le Pen is very active, even though the person she put at the head of the party’s list is Jordan Bardella, young and relatively unknown.

As to who will head the En Marche list, the names most talked about are those of two women ministers: Agnès Buzyn, the Minister of Solidarity and Health (who recalls Simone Veil, the Holocaust survivor and former Health minister who was her mother-in-law) and Nathalie Loiseau, the career diplomat who is in charge of European Affairs. The latest polls are giving quite a bit of hope to LREM, which could end up getting the highest number of votes, defeating the National Rally (a defeat for the latter compared to 2014, when the National Front ended up in first place), and send up to 24 MEPs to Strasbourg, which would put it in a strategic position for the negotiations for new alliances, since the reign of a “Grand Coalition” majority (PPE and S&D) looks to be over.

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