Dear President Macron ,
Thanks to your letter to me and other citizens of Europe. I appreciate you taking the time to write (I assume of course that you are still writing to me even although I will not be a citizen of the EU soon – I will still be a citizen of Europe – You would not be one of those who confuse the EU with Europe?). Let me ask you some questions that arise out of your letter.
Firstly you speak of values that unite us. Could you tell us what those values are? Given that the EU refused to mention its Christian foundations in its re-written constitution – could you tell us what these values are and where they come from?
Secondly I question whether you understand Brexit or why we voted for it. It was not because of a narrow nationalism but rather because of an openness and a love for democracy. We think that people should be governed by those they elect, and that we should be able to remove those who make our laws. Our concern with the EU is not that it is too broad and open – it is that it is too narrow and authoritarian.
Thanks also for your concern about a hard border in Ireland. But if you are genuinely concerned you could of course just state that there will be no hard border. The only reason you want it, is to protect your precious closed protectionist market – the Single Market – what Mrs Thatcher called Thatcherism in Europe. It is sad that you are prepared to threaten and endanger the peace in Northern Ireland by using the border as a bargaining tool to protect your commercial interests.
You claim that sovereignty can only be had by empires and you want to create a European Empire/Super State. You cite history but you seem to forget that the history of Europe has largely been of wars caused by those who wanted to create a European Empire. Be careful what you wish for. Your reaction to the populism currently sweeping the continent – largely in reaction to the damage caused by the elitist EU project – is to demand more of the same. You want more EU. More centralisation. You want one EU economy, one EU set of rules and one EU army. Your solution to what you call ‘the trap of the status quo’ is to have more of the same.
You say that “it is European civilisation that unites, frees and protects us.”. But what is this European civilisation and what is it based on? How does it unite, free and protect us? There have been other European leaders who claimed the same thing – but ‘strength through unity’ hasn’t always worked too well for the people of Europe has it?
Freedom and Censorship
Your words come across to me as at best meaningless and at worst duplicitous. They indicate that you have learned little from the lessons of European history. So you speak on the one hand of freedom and yet you talk about banning and censoring people on the internet (yes I know you say it is of incitement to hatred – but that is a wooly and meaningless term – for example I could argue that your letter is an incitement to hatred of those who voted for Brexit – does that mean it should be banned?!). You say that our first freedom is democratic freedom yet you want us to be governed by a European Commission which is unelected and cannot be removed by the electorate. You talk about fortress Europe – banning outside interference in our elections – as though the internet did not exist. Will you ban all Americans, Australians, African, Arabs and Asians who have any media interests in Europe? What you really mean is that you will permit outside ‘interference’ for those who agree with you, and ban those who disagree with you?
I appreciate your remarks about a partnership with Africa. About time. Because one thing the EU has done is exploit Africa and close our ‘common’ market to Africans. I was speaking to a Kenyan businessman who was delighted at the opportunities that Brexit might bring. My fear of course is that what you are really suggesting is another form of colonialisation – the imposition of the new Western secular illiberal values (abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, Queer theory etc) using the EU’s economic muscle. Strange how you decry ‘foreign’ involvement in EU politics but you seem happy to get involved in the internal politics of other countries?
To be honest your comments on creating Fortress Europe – a European Superstate to take on the Chinese, Americans and Russians make me glad that we are getting out (if we ever do). A European army, common EU police combined with an EU protectionist market where everyone inside has to obey your rules, and no one outside is let in without submitting to those rules. These are not the principles of an open and free society. You decry state nationalism but seem to want to replace it with EU nationalism. No thanks. I prefer internationalism.
Progress and Privilege
You talk about progress and renewal and a new renaissance – but you offer us no explanation of what those mean and more importantly how we are to get them. All you have spoken about in your letter are the states instruments of control (media, economy, police, army and institutions). Your words are just soundbites from someone who is in a position of great privilege and seems determined to protect that privilege. They offer nothing to the majority of people who do not share your privilege. They are the words of a Napoleon not the words of those who sought Liberte, Eglite, Fraternite’ .
Two Great Frenchmen
Your country France has produced many great people. None more so that the two I leave you with – one a Catholic and the other a Calvinist.
Pascal once wrote : “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.”
He also stated: ““Knowing God without knowing our wretchedness leads to pride. Knowing our wretchedness without knowing God leads to despair. Knowing Jesus Christ is the middle course, because in him we find both God and our wretchedness.”
Calvin said: “Man’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake God and forge some idol in his own brain.”
Your whole system forsakes God. Therefore it cannot succeed. Whenever Europe’s rulers have forgotten their Christian heritage they have created a desert. Napoleon, Marx and Hitler are all European rulers who thought they could rule without God.
“When God wants to judge a nation, He gives them wicked rulers.” ~ John Calvin
Calvin wrote a book to the French king – explaining what Christianity is and its role in the State. Can I suggest you read his Institutes of the Christian Religion? (as well as Pascal’s Pensees!).
(Here for example is some wisdom for today: “For the fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.” ~ John Calvin)
If you want to ‘progress’ then I suggest you return to the values of Pascal and Calvin. On the other hand if you want to regress to the pre-Christian Greco/Roman/Pagan Europe, then carry on with your fanciful notions and your rejection of our Christian heritage. You will call it paradise but you will create a desert.
Can I plead with you to leave your Napoleonic fantasies and return to the truth that made Europe great – the truth of Jesus Christ.
A European Citizen.
Ps. If you want to know where Europe is heading then I suggest you read – Douglas Murray – The Strange Death of Europe – Part One – Meaningless Shallowness
President Macron’s Letter
Citizens of Europe, if I am taking the liberty of addressing you directly, it is not only in the name of the history and values that unite us, but because time is of the essence. A few weeks from now the European elections will be decisive for the future of our continent.
Never since the second world war has Europe been so essential. Yet never has Europe been in such danger. Brexit stands as the symbol of that. It symbolises the crisis of a Europe that has failed to respond to its peoples’ need for protection from the major shocks of the modern world. It also symbolises the European trap. The trap lies not in being part of the European Union; the trap is in the lie and the irresponsibility that can destroy it. Who told the British people the truth about their post-Brexit future? Who spoke to them about losing access to the EU market? Who mentioned the risks to peace in Ireland of restoring the border? Retreating into nationalism offers nothing; it is rejection without an alternative. And this is the trap that threatens the whole of Europe: the anger mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything.
Yet we need to do more and faster, because there is another trap: the trap of the status quo and resignation. Faced with major crises in the world, citizens so often ask, “Where is Europe? What is Europe doing?” To them it has become a soulless market.
Yet Europe is not just an economic market. It is a project. A market is useful, but it should not detract from the need for borders to protect and values that unite. Nationalists are misguided when they claim to defend our identity by withdrawing from the EU, because it is European civilisation that unites, frees and protects us. But those who would change nothing are also misguided, because they deny the fear felt by our people, the doubts that undermine our democracies. We are at a pivotal moment for our continent, a moment when together we need to politically and culturally reinvent the shape of our civilisation in a changing world. Now is the time for a European renaissance. Hence, resisting the temptation of isolation and division, I propose we build this renewal together around three ambitions: freedom, protection and progress.
The European model is based on freedom: of people, diversity of opinions and creation. Our first freedom is democratic freedom: the freedom to choose our leaders as foreign powers seek to influence our votes at every election. I propose the creation of a European Agency for the Protection of Democracies to provide each EU member state with European experts to protect their election process against cyber-attacks and manipulation. In this same spirit of independence, we should also ban the funding of European political parties by foreign powers. We should have European rules banishing incitement to hatred and violence from the internet, since respect for the individual is the bedrock of our civilisation and our dignity.
Protecting our continent
Founded on internal reconciliation, the EU has forgotten the realities of the world. Yet no community can create a sense of belonging if it does not have protected territorial limits. The boundary is freedom in security. We therefore need to rethink the Schengen area: all those who want to be part of it should comply with obligations of responsibility (stringent border controls) and solidarity (a single asylum policy with common acceptance and refusal rules).
We will need a common border force and a European asylum office, strict control obligations and European solidarity to which each country will contribute under the authority of a European Council for Internal Security. On migration, I believe in a Europe that protects both its values and its borders.
The same standards should apply to defence. Substantial progress has been made in the last two years, but we need to set a clear course. A treaty on defence and security should define our fundamental obligations in association with Nato and our European allies: increased defence spending, a truly operational mutual defence clause, and a European security council, with the UK on board, to prepare our collective decisions.
Our borders also need to guarantee fair competition. What country in the world would continue to trade with those who respect none of their rules? We cannot suffer in silence. We need to reform our competition policy and reshape our trade policy, penalising or banning businesses that compromise our strategic interests and fundamental values such as environmental standards, data protection and fair payment of taxes; and the adoption of European preference in strategic industries and our public procurement, as our American and Chinese competitors do.
Recover the spirit of progress
Europe is not a second-tier power. Europe in its entirety is a vanguard: it has always defined the standards of progress. In this, it needs to drive forward a project of convergence rather than competition: Europe, where social security was created, needs to introduce a social shield for all workers, guaranteeing the same pay for the same work, and an EU minimum wage, appropriate to each country, negotiated collectively every year.
Getting back on track also means spearheading the environmental cause. Will we be able to look our children in the eye if we do not also clear our climate debt? The EU needs to set its target – zero carbon by 2050 and pesticides halved by 2025 – and adapt its policies accordingly with such measures as a European Climate Bank to finance the ecological transition, a European food safety force to improve our food controls and, to counter the lobby threat, independent scientific assessment of substances hazardous to the environment and health. This imperative needs to guide all our action: from the Central Bank to the European commission, from the European budget to the Investment Plan for Europe, all our institutions need to have the climate as their mandate.
Progress and freedom are about being able to live from one’s work: Europe needs to look ahead to create jobs. This is why it needs not only to regulate the digital giants by putting in place European supervision of the major digital platforms (prompt penalties for unfair competition, transparent algorithms, etc), but also to finance innovation by giving the new European Innovation Council a budget on a par with the United States in order to spearhead new technological breakthroughs such as artificial intelligence.
A world-oriented Europe needs to look to Africa, with which we should enter into a covenant for the future, ambitiously and non-defensively supporting African development with investment, academic partnerships and education for girls.
Freedom, protection and progress: we need to build European renewal on these pillars. We can’t let nationalists with no solutions exploit people’s anger. We can’t sleepwalk to a diminished Europe. We can’t remain in the routine of business as usual and wishful thinking. European humanism demands action. And everywhere, people are standing up to be part of that change. So by the end of the year, let’s set up, with representatives of the EU institutions and the member states, a Conference for Europe in order to propose all the changes our political project needs, which is open even to amending the EU treaties. This conference will need to engage with citizens’ panels, and hear from academics, business and worker representatives, as well as religious and spiritual leaders. It will define a roadmap for the EU that translates these key priorities into concrete actions. There will be disagreement, but is it better to have a static Europe or a Europe that advances, sometimes at different speeds, and that is open to all? In this Europe, the people will really take back control of their future.
In this Europe, the UK, I am sure, will find its true place. The Brexit impasse is a lesson for us all. We need to escape this trap and make the forthcoming elections and our project meaningful. It is for you to decide whether Europe and the values of progress that it embodies are to be more than just a passing episode in history. This is the choice I put to you: that together we chart the road to European renewal.
• Emmanuel Macron is the president of France
© Project Syndicate, 2019