Macron, Battling the Far Right at Home, Pushes for a Stronger Europe

Challenged by the extreme right and perhaps more vulnerable than at any time in his presidency, Emmanuel Macron of France sought renewed momentum on Thursday through a sweeping speech on the need for a more assertive Europe, a theme that he has pressed with urgency since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The nearly two-hour speech reflected Mr. Macron’s conviction that only a reinforced and “sovereign” European Union — a “Europe power,” as he puts it — can save the continent from strategic irrelevancy in an unstable world that is dominated by the United States and China and confronting wars in Europe and the Middle East.

“We must be lucid about the fact that our Europe is mortal,” Mr. Macron declared before an audience of government ministers, European ambassadors and other dignitaries. “It can die. It can die and whether it does depends entirely on our choices.”

The speech, at the Sorbonne University in Paris, was a follow-up to one that Mr. Macron gave in the same location in September 2017. Then, Mr. Macron discussed the future of Europe and the European Union as a young, recently elected and disruptive president still enjoying a political honeymoon. Today, without an absolute majority in Parliament, and with his popularity falling after seven years in office, he has become a divisive figure and has struggled over the past two years to give direction to his second term.

Coming less than two months before elections to the European Parliament on June 9, Mr. Macron’s decision to speak out was widely seen as a bid to boost his centrist Renaissance party, which is placing second in the latest polls behind the far-right National Rally party led by Jordan Bardella.

Mr. Macron described a world at “a turning point,” in which a Europe that could no longer depend on America for its security, on Russia for its energy and on China for its industrial production must become more strategically autonomous, technologically innovative and militarily resilient.

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