May 23. 2024. 8:32

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‘Sorbonne II’: Is Macron preparing a new speech on Europe?

Making the rounds are rumours that France’s Emmanuel Macron may be preparing a new speech on the future of the EU, to be delivered in Strasbourg on the same week as the European Parliament’s last plenary, akin to his 2017 ‘Sorbonne speech’ – but no one knows for certain what it will contain.

With under two months to go before June’s EU elections, and Macron’s Renaissance party dwindling in popularity, his supporters are looking to give the campaign a second wind.

His backers may have just found what they’re looking for: a grand scale speech on the future of Europe, dubbed ‘Sorbonne II’ – a reference to Macron’s 2017 Sorbonne speech, hailed at the time as drawing out an ambitious and unique vision of Europe.

Euractiv was told by sources inside Macron’s camp that something could be organised on Tuesday (23 April) in Strasbourg, amid the European Parliament’s last plenary of the 2019-24 legislature – before everybody goes off to campaign for June’s EU elections.

France’s Presidential Palace, the Elysée, did not deny setting up such an event, but said that “nothing is confirmed yet.”

And questions remain over the very nature of Macron’s intervention, and what he would say.

“If you refer back to [Macron’s] closing remarks at the conference on the future of the EU in May 2022, you’ll find some clear issues raised, which he will most certainly perhaps develop further,” French Renew MEP Fabienne Keller hinted last week, in front of journalists.

In a landmark speech he gave at the Parliament’s plenary in Strasbourg two years ago, the French president had hinted at a review of EU treaties and had called for the end of unanimity rule on foreign affairs and tax issues. He also said he was ready to explore granting the Parliament agenda-setting powers.

But others told Euractiv the blur was complete.

“We know nothing about it,” one source from the Renaissance delegation told Euractiv, except that “it’s meant to be Sorbonne II”.

Agendas still bear a question mark.

Two party officials Euractiv spoke to did not deny that such a speech was in the works, but did not hint at the content.

“It’s down to the Elysée,” one said, while the other affirmed that “nothing has been locked down at this stage”.

It is also unclear among party heavyweights if Macron’s intervention would take the shape of a conference or a TV appearance.

All these unknowns notwithstanding, it seems all but certain a speech is in drafts – and it could help Macron, who benefits from contrasted support across the EU, restore his European stature.

To some, he’s helped the bloc break taboos on joint borrowing for the benefit of economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic, or for European defence.

To others, he has cared too little for Eastern Europeans, leaving them on the side, as they hoped to prevent Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Read more with Euractiv

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