French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the European Parliament FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images

Macron’s Vital Message

In a recent speech, Macron set out a potent agenda: the EU must convince its citizens that it deserves their support, by engaging with them directly and offering a compelling narrative that emphasizes its unwavering commitment to liberal democracy. Everyone who believes in the EU should now be stepping up to support that vision.

MADRID – When Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France last year, he was presented as a kind of European savior, a wunderkind who had burst onto the French political scene just in the nick of time. Now, many are asking, with a combination of schadenfreude and defeatism, whether Macron’s star burned too bright – and is thus destined to burn out fast. But this focus on Macron’s record so far threatens to overshadow his crucial message about the future of European democracy.

Macron won the French presidency not by appropriating veiled nationalist-populist messages, as Mark Rutte did to hold on to power in the Netherlands, but by championing a positive and robust pro-European platform. With his ambitious calls for European unity and dogged support of liberal democracy, Macron inspired hope that the wave of anti-European populism had crested, and that real progress was on the horizon.

But the last year has produced, at best, mixed results. Germany’s federal election last September delivered a weak mandate for Chancellor Angela Merkel, and established the far-right Alternative für Deutschland as a real political force. This was followed in February by the ignominious resignation of European cheerleader Martin Schulz as leader of the Social Democrats.

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