From the day ‘En Marche’ was launched, France and Europe have become well acquainted with Macron’s tendency to be forthright in his convictions – for engaged citizenry, for a revolution of standard political party structures, for change in the way things are done in politics.
With political objectives of En Marche having been derived from over 25,000 detailed interviews with citizens – Macron ploughed through the political obstacles to become a leading power in Europe, for which the source is undoubtedly – citizens – both in France and throughout Europe.
In public affairs, his approach has been quite often identified as both strategically well placed and lucky – in that a lot of a politician’s chance of winning is derived from the palatability of one’s opponent. Either way, by seizing upon similar sentiments that have served to fracture many, he was able to turn this into a way to capture and unite the support of the people. This made it very difficult for political opposition, who were fond of saying that Macron would be both for and against everything.
One thing he has been clear on – that the political system was broken and that it was only together as citizens of a greater whole, that it would be solved.
He is a non-nationalist politician that not only admits to the system being broken but often proposes what could be perceived as revolutionary political moves to fix said ‘broken system’ – a bold move politically, but one that skimmed the surface of political fragmentation as well as the struggles of the French Socialists and Republicans – to land Macron in the seat of President.
But will he be able to drive frank conversation, and the engagement of citizens at the European level?
During last week’s speech in Strasbourg, Macron’s first to the European Parliament, he utilised his concise impassioned speech to lay both accusations, and define challenges at the feet of MEPs, all the while treating this speech as a ‘call to action’ for the MEPs present, as well as the citizens of Europe as a collective.
The power of his words and ability to articular clear calls to action was a key observation of those who heard him speak, whether one believed in the reforms he recommended or not.
Additionally, many have observed that the colourful speech was clearly not seen as just a speech to MEPS, but also a speech to those European citizens represented by MEPs.
Particularly of interest for the thinking at hand – the under 30s – who have been a key sources of En Marche’s power and ability to enact change in France. A generation that grew up understanding their role as both national citizens as well as citizens of Europe.
In his speech, Macron reminded his audience that the answer to problems is not always a “yellow brick road” or having “poisoned” discussions over joint issues like migration. While he acknowledged that the fragments within Europe have become akin to a “civil war… where there is an increasing fascination with illiberalism” and where “inward-looking nationalist selfishness” is rampant, he did not dwell on this, but rather driving what he views as necessary actions to secure a future for Europe.
Macron passionately implored that leaders to not become a “generation of sleepwalkers”, instead urging citizens and their elected representatives to wake up fully and seize the opportunities before us. To move towards a “new European sovereignty that gives a clear responsibility to our citizens, that shows we can protect them and what they are concerned about”.
In this, he is incredibly bold, yet has encapsulated sentiments often expressed by those globally exposed, educated under 30s who refer to themselves worldwide as European. Who if, as a block of voters, they become actively engaged citizens, could lay the foundations for the Europe of tomorrow. A key demographic that is usually disregarded within the prioritisation of Eurosceptic campaigns.
So, with his impassioned speech and his continued advocacy, there are many questions that we will be looking to see if Macron’s words and actions address.
Will Macron stir up and spur more active citizenry across Europe?
Will European leaders be inspired to change their leadership approach to make the EU accessible?
Will Macron encourage more politicians to take up the mantle of not just being a national representative but also European simultaneously?
While it may be that his ideas around turning the European Stability Mechanism into a European Monetary Fund are not successful and it may be that current EU leaders do not see the same need for change that Macron advocates, what is clear is that Macron is very different from many of the politicians that surround him – he will continue to stand out.
In this, while he may not always express mutually agreeable political stances, there is a tremendous opportunity before us, to rally all Europeans to not just be citizens of their member state, but to truly be engaged citizens of Europe.
As Macron stated, “People haven’t given up on Europe. It’s the treachery of clerics who’ve done this.”
“We have to make European democracy live and come alive”
The advocacy of a future for Europe in which no longer are Europeans passive citizens, but rather a future in which European truly engage in and are in every definition of the term ‘active citizens’.
And active citizenry, no matter your political convictions, will undisputedly be vital to whichever pathway the future of Europe follows.
We shall watch and see in Macron will provoke an increase in engaged or active citizens.