With the European Union heading into a series of critical elections, French leader Emmanuel Macron sounded the alarm about foreign interference and called for the formation of an EU-wide body to protect voting from “cyberattacks and manipulations”.
The creation of such an agency to counter fake news is the first proposal of its kind and came in a 1,600-word essay translated into 22 languages and to be published as an op-ed in newspapers in each of the EU’s 28 members from the UK’s The Guardian to Madrid’s El Pais. Macron’s advisers said capitals had been alerted about the coming article.
In the op-ed, Macron doubled down on his vision for bloc as an ever-closer union that includes a climate bank to fund energy transition, and a regulator for Internet platforms to force greater transparency for their algorithms.
“In this spirit of independence, we should also outlaw the financing of European political parties by foreign powers,” he went on to say. “We should ban from the Internet, with European rules, all hate and violent speech, for the respect of the individual is the foundation of our civilisation and dignity.”
Macron wants to rally parties that still believe in greater European integration ahead of the late May EU parliament elections, which will be held in the shadow of the UK’s imminent departure and a spirit of nationalism gripping several countries across the EU, from founding members like Italy to relative newcomers like Slovakia.
“Never since the Second World War has Europe been so necessary, and yet never has Europe been in such danger,” Macron wrote. “Brexit is a symbol, a symbol of this crisis of Europe which was not able to provide its people protection against the great shocks of the contemporary world.”
He was critical of the euro-scepticism sweeping the continent and framed it as a “rejection without a project”. He proposed the reorganisation of the passport-free Schengen zone to strengthen the EU’s outer borders and unify its asylum criteria, a “buy-Europe” act to benefit local businesses with public contracts.
Macron also called for greater defence cooperation to include Britain, even after Brexit. He said he had no “taboos” about rewriting EU treaties to make the changes he’s proposing.
Populist parties running the gamut from anti-establishment to anti-immigration are expected to gain seats in the late May EU parliament vote but not achieve a majority. Macron had once pushed for pan-European lists for the election, but the EU Parliament voted down that idea in favour of maintaining country-by-country voting.
Macron’s En Marche party has yet to announce who will head its list in France, which votes on May 26. – Bloomberg
Did you find this article insightful?