- Macron’s Plan to Save Europe is Compelling – But He’s on His Own
by Timothy Garton Ash, https://www.theguardian.com/international
The French president is the best European leader we’ve got. But without support from Germany, there’s little he can do.
France is back: vigorous, lucid, ambitious. Hurray. But who else is there to help get Europe going again? Italy is having a nervous breakdown, Spain weighed down by trouble at home, Poland throwing a massive wobbly, Britain hovering near the exit, and Germany slumped on the sofa. Talk about a dysfunctional family.
But let’s dwell for a moment on the good news. Macron is spelling out a coherent vision for reviving Europe, while briskly proceeding with long-overdue change at home. Twelve months into his five-year term, he has used his parliamentary majority and the extraordinary power of the presidencycreated by Charles de Gaulle to push through a whole raft of domestic reforms. His government is considering what Le Figaro calls a “vast programme” to cut public spending by around €100bn (£88bn) over the five years of his term. Here in Paris, train strikes make getting about a little bit more complicated, but the inevitable protests have so far been modest by French standards. If the eurozone economy keeps growing – and with the Italian crisis, that’s now a bigger if – France could not only have more growth but, crucially, more jobs.
Meanwhile, Macron has spelt out a compelling vision for the future of the European Union, in a carefully composed suite of grand speeches delivered in Athens, in the European parliament, at the Sorbonne, and on receiving the Charlemagne prize in Aachen, where I heard him at first hand. I find his combination of historically informed lucidity, strategic ambition and personal passion hugely impressive. Compared with the admittedly thin competition among political leaders in Europe, indeed across the west, this physically small man is our only giant.