Emmanuel Macron admitted bloc embroiled in ‘European civil war’ even before UK left EU
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Mr Macron, the French President, is coming under heavy scrutiny within France for his botched handling of the coronavirus vaccine roll-out, with figures this week showing just over 500 jabs had been administered. The French President has also been condemned from some across the bloc after no deal was nearly reached between UK and EU over its future trade relationship. Some argued he, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, were behind some of the stalemates, which saw a nail-biting conclusion, and ultimately a deal reached on December 24.
But despite his ardent faith in the bloc, Mr Macron unleashed a tirade directed towards nationalists, who he argued were making the EU weaker.
He argued that “illiberal democracies” were on the rise within the bloc, claiming there was a “context of division – and indeed doubt – within Europe”.
The French politician added: “There seems to be a sort of European civil war where selfish interests sometimes appear more important than what unites Europe.”
In a direct reference to the re-election of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Mr Macron added in 2018: “In the face of authoritarianism, the response is not authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy.”
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Days after the UK left the EU on January 1, Charles-Henri Gallois, the President of Generation Frexit – a term used to symbolise France’s possible exit from the bloc – demanded that 2021 be the year the French are given a chance to vote on their place in Brussels.
He said he hoped Mr Macron “will allow the French people to also be able to express themselves democratically on our membership of the EU”.
Mr Macron has also seen developing anti-EU sentiment grow as more than 10,000 people signed a petition urging the government to allow a vote.
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And with France beginning to establish a stronger pro-Frexit feeling, unearthed accounts show that Mr Macron himself was only too aware of how the bloc is considered by other member states.
Mr Macron faces re-election in 2022 and will likely come up against right-wing rival Marine Le Pen, a lawyer serving as head of the National Rally party.
While facing the wave of negative EU criticism from the likes of Ms Le Pen, Mr Macron has continued to attempt to demonstrate how being part of the bloc is better than being out of it.
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He has vowed to make France an even bigger voice and used his presence in the trade talks to complain about fishing rights post-Brexit in British waters.
Yet, his involvement caused Irish fishermen to turn on Mr Macron, arguing the new pact over fishing between the UK and EU demonstrated the “duplicitous nature of the protracted negotiations”.
Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation – Ireland’s largest fishermen’s representative body – added that the “repeated guarantees” made to those in the Irish trade had effectively been broken.
The trade deal will see the EU handing back 25 percent of its share of the catch in UK waters over a five-and-a-half-year transition period.
Annual negotiations on some 100 shared stocks will take place from 2026.
Although some in France are opposed to Frexit, a poll in May 2020, showed that around three in five people in the country did not trust Brussels.
The Jacques Delors Institute’s study indicated that the lack of trust in the EU rose by 10 points since Mr Macron was first elected in 2017.
Of those asked, 32 percent said they did trust the EU while the final 10 percent didn’t express an opinion.
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