Macron Gambles on Centrist Populism in His Campaign for EU ‘Renewal’

Macron Gambles on Centrist Populism in His Campaign for EU ‘Renewal’
A newspaper featuring an open letter from French President Emmanuel Macron on a newsstand in Paris, March 5, 2019 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

French President Emmanuel Macron has apparently gotten so much mileage at home out of his “Grand débat national,” or great national debate, that he has decided to take it on the road for a European tour. Several months ago, Macron began engaging in marathon dialogue sessions around France with local elected officials in an attempt to respond to the grassroots grievances that gave rise to the Yellow Vest movement. Though initially greeted with skepticism by many, Macron’s impressive ability to discuss arcane policy matters at length and in depth without the assistance of notes or aides paid off in opinion polls. His favorability ratings have since returned to levels last seen before the emergence of the Yellow Vests.

Now, in an open letter published simultaneously in dailies across the European Union on Tuesday, Macron capped off his proposals for “European renewal” with a call for a Conference for Europe “to engage with citizens’ panels and hear academics, business and labor representatives, and religious and spiritual leaders” and “define a roadmap for the EU that translates these key priorities into concrete actions.”

The similarity to Macron’s listening tour back home is no coincidence, and the contrast in both the method and the substance of Macron’s latest package of EU reforms with his previous proposals is revealing.

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