The French president Emmanuel Macron vowed to lead a “rebuilding” of the European Union, warning that “sovereignty, democracy and trust are in danger” and that its citizens no longer understand the project during his speech at the Pnyx under the Acropolis. “2,500 years ago here on the hill of Pnyx, the Athenians invented Democracy” were the first words that French President Emmanuel Makron said in Greek.
Macron praised Greece’s austerity reforms but said ordinary Greeks had paid a heavy price and repeated his call for an easing of the country’s debt burden. He reiterated that Athens should be granted debt relief and said he hoped the issue would be resolved in 2018 when Greece is due to exit its €86bn rescue programme.
In a speech in Athens, Macron called for greater European Union cooperation and solidarity, reiterating his longstanding calls for an integrated eurozone with its own financial minister, parliament and a standalone budget to head off future crises.
Macron applauded the often unpopular reforms of prime minister Alexis Tsipras, and insisted that after years of gruelling austerity and the “incredible efforts of the people,” Greece was finally overcoming its problems. “The Greek crisis is slowly ending. We can see that Greece is recovering,” he said, praising Tsipras for his decisive action in the completion of two compliance reviews with international lenders.
“Our generation can choose to [do this] … we must find the strength to rebuild Europe,” he said.
The pro-business, centrist French leader whose popularity at home has slumped since he was elected in May, warned that Europeans “must not abandon the fight” of shared values or else the EU would ebb away or die, riven by internal conflicts.
He warned the bloc must reinvent itself and become “more democratic,” more than “simply summit after summit” of officials shut away in crisis meetings.
Macron promised a road map for the rebuilding of the EU in the coming months, arguing that nations sticking together inside the EU was the only way to protect citizens against problems including climate change and terrorism.
However, Macron cannot detail any plans for eurozone or EU reform until after this month’s election in Germany, when it will become clearer to what extent a new government in Berlin would be open to backing his ideas.