French President Emmanuel Macron won a fair share of praise but also a dose of criticism during his much-awaited ‘Future of Europe’ speech at Strasbourg’s plenary last week. It formed the centre-piece of proceedings that also included debate around protection for journalists, the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, money laundering and other topics.
Macron’s reformatory zeal wins fans
In a relatively short address the French President laid out his vision focusing on ‘European sovereignty’ that also warned of the dangers of a "sort of European civil war" brewing and "a fascination with the illiberal" that is "growing all the time". He also spoke about a risk of becoming “a generation of sleepwalkers” that has forgotten that its shared history is founded on stopping a world war from happening again.
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker was gushing in his praise, saying “the real France is back.” Other MEPs were also quick to laud Macron for his pro-EU stance and evident zeal to transform sluggish institutions that have been resistant to change. Even the infamous Eurosceptic Nigel Farage quipped that Macron could be “the EU’s last chance.”
Greens Macron response goes viral
But perhaps the most remarkable and subsequently viral response came from Greens/EFA co-president Philippe Lamberts who ripped into Macron for failing to uphold France’s ideals of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.”
He called out the violent and heavy-handed treatment migrants face at the hands of French police and also accused the French president of helping the rich whilst leaving the most vulnerable fall by the wayside.
"President Emmanuel #Macron, whenever you act in favour of a fairer, more sustainable & democratic Union, we’ll be by your side. Whenever you do not, we’ll stand in your way" #FutureofEurope pic.twitter.com/FC507Vfx5b— Greens in the EP (@GreensEP) April 17, 2018
The French investigative journalism website Mediapart produced a remix and it also featured on the Brut online media channel. At the end of the speech Lamberts reached under his table to produce a climbing rope to signify France's need to lift up its most vulnerable citizens.
Our co-chairs Reinhard Bütikofer and Monica Frassoni said Macron's speech was a “meaningful, forward-looking and encouraging event” in a press release, though they were also critical of his handling of migration.
A crack down on money laundering
Another item of note on the agenda was the outcome of negotiations on the update to the anti-money laundering directive led by Greens/EFA MEP Judith Sargentini as co-rapporteur.
These new measures will be tough on financial crime and help prevent money flowing out of the real economy, away from vital public services such as schools and hospitals.
Good news for organic produce
We were also excited to witness the sealing of a new deal on organic farming regulation steered by Greens/EFA MEP Martin Häusling.
Responding to the vote, Häusling said the new legislation will enable the continued growth of the organic sector, while simplifying the rules. Current laws, he says, dates back to the 1990s. Consumers are set to benefit by getting a clearer idea about what lies behind an organic label.
Good news!! New rules on #organicfood were just approved by the #EPlenary! We've been fighting hard for this for years.— Greens in the EP (@GreensEP) April 19, 2018
Check here the clearer rules on #organic farming and food🍅: https://t.co/0LFmmoTIWy pic.twitter.com/jiRj52hh7y
Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg received a special RSVP from MEPs during the Strasbourg plenary week. They want to speak to him about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and how the world’s biggest social network plans on stopping the data of its approximately 2.2 billion active users from being compromised. It’s still unclear if he’ll be respecting his date with European lawmakers.
It was also a good week for investigative journalists. The European Parliament approved a resolution for better protection following the shocking deaths of journalists Ján Kuciak and Daphne Caruana Galizia who were brutally murdered on European soil for doing their jobs. It’s an important topic for Green parties who are deeply concerned about the vulnerability of people who reveal compromising material. The resolution calls for a thorough and independent investigation, and for national and EU authorities to look into the cases that the targeted journalists were working on.
A circular economy
And finally, the European Parliament approved a series of legislation related to waste and packaging in order to make the European Union as a whole achieve its climate commitments while at the same time helping the economy. While the ambition and action of the approved texts is not as strong as the Greens have been calling for, if fully implement, this will be an important step towards achieving the end goal of a circular economy.
That wraps up this Green take on proceedings at the Strasbourg plenary week . The next sitting will take place on 2 May in Brussels. Thanks for reading and let us know what you think about how successful (or not) we've been at bringing about change in the EU.