Macron Pushes a Broad Alliance Against Nationalists for EU Vote

(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron is preparing for a showdown between supporters of liberal values and proponents of nationalism as he bids to rally support ahead of European elections in May.

Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium, The Netherlands’s Mark Rutte and Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel gathered with Macron on Thursday near Luxembourg’s capital city to discuss a European strategy. Macron’s Republic on The Move party has held talks in recent months exploring the possibility of joining forces with several European parties, including the liberal ALDE group, which includes the three Benelux leaders.

Macron Pushes a Broad Alliance Against Nationalists for EU Vote

“We see this as a cooperation of the progressive forces that will combat the far right. We need to form a critical mass,” Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, a lawmaker in Macron’s party who works on European election strategy, said in an interview.

“We see this as a merger of interests, to form a common platform,” he said, adding that they’re also in talks with ALDE, Ciudadanos in Spain as well as individual politicians in the European People’s Party and the Socialists.

Macron’s travels to meet with leaders in more than a dozen capitals across Europe is part of his political strategy to transcend the traditional party system. For the French leader, the European elections loom large as the results will affect the appointment of not just EU lawmakers but also the European Commission president who heads the bloc’s executive arm. Macron expects a very clear bifurcation in the ballot: nationalists versus progressives, an official in his office said.

Progressive Solutions

“These progressive solutions that we carry are the most respectful of the values of our Europe but also the most efficient to face its challenges,” Macron said, pointing the finger at nationalists for trying to destroy the EU. “We share the desire to have a more united and sovereign Europe. I hope we can continue to do this together.”

Macron and his envoys, including his party chief Christophe Castaner, are in talks for a common platform across political groups. This was discussed in Luxembourg, Anglade said, but the 40-year-old leader’s vision of a Europe unbound by borders will have to overcome many hurdles.

Bettel, speaking to reporters in Luxembourg, said the gathering wasn’t a campaign meeting ahead of the EU vote, and that this wasn’t “the three liberals inviting the French president” to join their party. Rutte added that forming a cross-party coalition wasn’t “why we met here today.”

Castaner, who met former Belgium prime minister and ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt last week and is on his way to Poland to meet local political parties, is continuing his work to convince Europeans to join Macron’s “alliance.” He traveled to Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal and several other EU countries to promote the French leader’s plan, Anglade said.

Even though Rutte doesn’t share all of Macron’s views he does agree on the essential issues, which could help them become allies, the Elysee presidential palace official said.

And Macron’s party is still working to find a partner in Germany, Anglade said. At the press conference, Macron reached out to German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of their Friday meeting, saying her actions are “on the side of the progressives.” He also asked for the EPP group -- of which her CDU party is a key member -- to “clarify” its political positions.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.