French President Emmanuel Macron decries 'national selfishness'

French President Emmanuel Macron's approval ratings were hit by a fresh decline in April as his package of reforms to transform the country fell short to win public support, a survey showed on Wednesday.

In his first speech to the European parliament, Macron urged the EU to renew its commitment to democracy, and called for the defence of a European liberal democracy that offered protection of the rights of its minorities. "The response should not be authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy".

Macron's election previous year, defeating the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, and his ardent pro-Europeanism have made him the poster boy for a revived post-Brexit EU whose proponents aim to battle the challenges of populism.

He said Tuesday France is ready to increase its own contribution to the EU budget and insisted European countries should work on more closely harmonizing fiscal systems and tax levels. "There is a fascination with the illiberal and it's growing all the time".

Macron's speech was welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said: "The true France is back". "We are 28" member nations.

In a sign of further differences within the bloc, the EU's executive on Tuesday recommended accession talks start with Albania and Macedonia even as Mr. Macron said the European Union should get no bigger until there are major reforms.

He told European Union lawmakers it was important "to have a democratic, critical debate on what Europe is about". The deadly tendency which might lead our continent to the abyss, nationalism, giving up of freedom: "I reject the idea that European democracy is condemned to impotence", Macron said.

Calling for fellow European Union leaders to follow his example in holding a public dialogue on Europe's future, Macron noted that he was launching the process later that day in eastern France.

All EU countries, except Britain and Hungary, have agreed to seek the opinions of their citizens on the EU's future through debates and online consultations.

The coalition German Chancellor Angela Merkel finally formed has stuck to Germany's reluctance to share financial burdens, defying Mr. Macron's core ambition for a common eurozone budget to boost investment and fight recessions.

  • Anthony Vega