Monday, April 24, 2017

Brussels backs Macron: EU elites to campaign for europhile - but will it just HELP Le Pen?

SENIOR eurocrats and EU ministers last night broke with protocol and waded full on into a member state’s domestic politics by openly backing europhile Emmanuel Macron to become the next French president. In a rupture with long-standing tradition top heavyweights including Jean-Claude Juncker, Michel Barnier and Angela Merkel all issued full-throated support for the centrist as he prepares to go head-to-head with Marine Le Pen. –– ADVERTISEMENT –– It is customary for Europe’s elite to hold back from commenting on national elections, citing the custom that it does not meddle in its members’ internal politics. Last week EU officials refused to comment on the potential outcome of Britain’s contest, to be held on June 8, saying the decision was a matter for UK voters.But it appears eurocrats have made an exception for this year’s French election and are now set to actively campaign on behalf of Mr Macron, who narrowly beat the eurosceptic Ms Le Pen in the first round of voting last night. In reality the populist Ms Le Pen, who is standing on a virulently anti-establishment platform, is unlikely to mind seeing her rival being lavished with praise by the likes of Mr Juncker. The messages of support for Mr Macron, which poured in from prime ministers and presidents across the continent last night, will only provide her with more political ammunition with which to rail against what she sees as corrupt elites.Ms Le Pen has attempted to portray the pro-EU former banker as a poodle of both Brussels and Berlin, and has said he will represent their interests and not those of the French people. She is now likely to up those attacks in the next two weeks before the final vote, and will be able to point to the entire establishment lined up behind her rival in much the same way as Donald Trump did with Hillary Clinton. Last night Mr Juncker’s chief spokesman said the EU Commission boss had “congratulated” the centrist frontrunner for winning the first round, and added he “wished him good luck for the next round”. Meanwhile the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, a former French foreign minister, described Mr Macron as a “patriot and European” and endorsed him for the final vote, saying: “France must stay European”. The EU’s foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, noted that Mr Macron gave his speech last night in front of supporters waving flags of France and the EU and described him as “the hope and future of our generation”. And the bloc’s Commissioner for finance, Pierre Moscovici, wrote on Twitter: “Emmanuel Macron now carries the flag for all democrats and pro-Europeans. We should all support him. He will have mine.” Mrs Merkel has not yet personally provided her views on the result, but senior officials within her team and Government made their stance crystal clear. Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said: “I am certain that Emmanuel Macron will be the next president of France. Great for Europe.” And the Chancellor’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier tweeted: “The result for Emmanuel Macron shows: France AND Europe can win together! The middle is stronger than the populists believe!” The chancellor’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, also wished Macron “all the best” in the run off against Le Pen and wrote: “Good that Emmanuel Macron was successful with its course for a strong EU + social market economy.” Belgian prime minister Charles Michel added his “hearty congratulations” for Mr Macron, saying doing so was “my statement of support for an optimistic and forward-looking European project”.Here in the UK, the Government of Theresa May stuck with protocol by refusing to be drawn on any reaction to the first round of voting. However, some prominent current and former politicians did provide their views including ex Chancellor George Osborne, a personal friend of Mr Macron. He tweeted: “Congratulations to my friend Emmanuel Macron. Proof you can win from the centre. At last, the chance for the leadership that France needs.” Lib Dem leader Tim Farron also offered his congratulations, writing: “Congrats Macron. We stand with you against Le Pen's divisive politics. Time to turn the tide and stand up for openness, tolerance and unity But former Ukip leader Nigel Farage was less impressed by the first round result, posting: “Macron speaking with EU flag behind him. Says it all.” He later added: “Macron speech was vacuous nonsense. Other than backing the status quo he says nothing.”

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