Emmanuel Macron: Europe—It Can Die. A New Paradigm at The Sorbonne

Emmanuel Macron: Europe—It Can Die. A New Paradigm at The Sorbonne


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Emmanuel Macron: Europe—It Can Die. A New Paradigm at The Sorbonne

For the first time in English, we publish the full text of Emmanuel Macron’s speech on Europe at the Sorbonne. French and Spanish versions can be found in the pages of Grand Continent.

Prime Minister,

Madam President of the National Assembly, 


Madam Prime Minister, 

European Commissioner,

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament, 

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the European Parliament, 

Attorney General,

Chief of defense, 

Préfet de Région,

Madam Mayor, 

Mr. Rector,


Ladies and Gentlemen,  in all your roles and capacities, 

Seven years after my Sorbonne speech, I wished to come back here, to the same place, to take stock of our achievements and discuss our future. Our European future, which is, by definition, the future of France. The two are inextricably linked. 

Right here, in September 2017, I said that, too often, our Europe no longer had ambition, was no longer pushing forward, either from weariness or conformity. The European spirit was given over to those who attacked it.

We proposed building a more united, more sovereign, more democratic Europe. More united, so as to carry weight in the face of other powers and this century’s transitions; more sovereign, so as not to allow others to dictate its destiny, its values and its way of life. More democratic, because Europe is the land where liberal democracy was born and where people make their own decisions. 

At that time I set a timeline of seven years. Here we are. We have not accomplished all we set out to, and we must be aware of this, especially when it comes to making Europe more democratic. We must admit that progress has been limited in that regard, sometimes due to reluctance to change treaties, to change rules, our collective organization, and even if there were some innovations in this area — a significant convention and a number of discussions— we did not go far enough. 

There were, however, successes, particularly in the areas of unity and sovereignty — which were not easily won. Europe itself also experienced unprecedented crises during this period. There was Brexit, of course, an upheaval whose disastrous effects we have since seen. This has resulted, I have noticed, in no one else daring to suggest leaving either Europe or the Euro. There was the global pandemic, which abruptly brought death back into our lives. There was the war in Ukraine, which marked the return of tragedy to our daily lives and an existential risk to our continent. 

Despite this, and in a context of continued and accelerating environmental and technological transitions in recent years that are fundamentally reshaping the way we live and produce, our Europe resolutely forged ahead. And this concept of sovereignty, which just seven years ago may have seemed very French, has gradually become European. And in spite of these unprecedented converging crises, rarely has Europe made so much progress, which is the fruit of our collective work. All this has been achieved through a number of steps — which I believe are historic — that we have taken these last few years. 

The first is the choice of financial unity made to overcome the pandemic. I would like to reiterate this point because clearly this subject had not come up before the pandemic but when we, the French, did propose the common debt capacity, we were told, “That is a wonderful French idea, but it will never happen.” Well, we were able to build a Franco-German agreement just a few weeks after the start of the pandemic. Then, as Europeans, we were able to raise 800 billion euros. This step toward  common debt was what then Finance Minister Scholz, who later became Chancellor, very rightly called a “Hamiltonian” moment. But it was a choice of a united Europe whose direct consequences we have seen everywhere in our regions and communities. Thanks to what we accomplished as Europeans, we were able to carry out recovery projects, support our businesses — and SMEs throughout our country have reaped the benefits.

The second decisive choice was the choice of strategic unity on matters that until that point were the sole preserve of individual nations. Health, for example. Commissioner Breton is here, and he certainly recalls working with the President of the Commission and his colleague in charge of health to steer a policy that did not exist and was not foreseen in the treaties: that of producing vaccines in Europe, securing supplies and distributing them throughout Europe. We accomplished this.

If France was able to begin vaccinations at the beginning of 2021, it is because of this European response and this capacity to create this policy that did not exist in our legal texts. The French did not produce the vaccine on our own soil. We must be humble enough to recognize this. It is because of Europe that we are able to move forward. It is the same in the case of energy. Who would have believed that we would be able to overcome our dependence on Russian fossil fuels, purchase as a bloc, and reform our electricity market so quickly? And on defense, who would have bet on European unity from the very first day of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and on the European Union’s massive military support? 

We did it. 

The third decisive step in recent years was that we began to lay the foundation of greater technological and industrial sovereignty. No other region in the world, other than Europe, would have accepted to the extent that we do, to be dependent on others for vital products and essential components. As early as 2018, we launched an initiative with Germany to support our battery industry, which was later extended to hydrogen, electronics, and healthcare. We  have also launched major projects with Germany such as the next-generation tank and the Future Combat Air System. With our Dutch friends, we have also launched major initiatives on submarines. But, from the moment the pandemic broke out, and especially in the first weeks following the Russian aggression against Ukraine, we created a true strategic autonomy during the Versailles Summit. Yes, this strategic autonomy which we spoke of at the time, embracing this concept as Europeans, is the choice to put an end to our strategic dependencies in key sectors, from semiconductors to critical raw materials. European texts were adopted, and a policy of investment, security and relocation was adopted. This is unprecedented in our contemporary history. Over the past seven years, Europe has begun to overcome, if I may say so, its technological and industrial naiveté. Just as it has begun to correct its trade policy, even if on this subject — and I’ll come back to this — we are, in my view, only halfway there.

The fourth decisive step taken in recent years is that we have made the fundamental and, I believe, unique choice to anticipate, prepare, and plan for Europe’s major challenges. We have heard a lot of criticism, particularly of the Green Deal [in English in the original text]. Please excuse this Anglicism in this setting. But Europe is the only political area in the world that has planned its transitions. And by adopting directives on digital technology, which allow us to regulate both content and the market, and by adopting a text that allows us to lay the groundwork for our energy transition and, in a way, to establish the cohesiveness of our policy in Europe in relation to our international commitments, we have made a transparent choice.

Simply put, we now need to plan how to flexibly implement them in each country, and, above all, the investment policy that goes along with them. We have set out a European plan for these transitions, whereas in the rest of the world, the major powers have made commitments but have not begun to explain how they are going to meet them. These are the foundations that we need to see as stable milestones. I will return in a moment to the question of how to structure them so that they are compatible with a policy of economic growth, full employment and industrial development.

The fifth decisive step in the past year is that Europe has begun to clearly reaffirm the existence of its borders. Europe is a generous idea, founded on the free movement of people and goods. Sometimes, however, it has forgotten to take responsibility for and protect its external borders — not as impenetrable fortresses, but as boundaries between the inside and the outside. There can be no sovereignty without borders. And in doing so, despite the divisions that had blocked our progress in this area for almost ten years, we have, in particular during the French Presidency [of the European Council], drawn up a first agreement on asylum and migration which has just been adopted, and I would like to thank all those who made it possible. This agreement, for the first time, makes it possible to improve control of our borders, by introducing mandatory systematic registration and screening procedures at our external borders to identify those who are eligible for international protection and those who will have to return to their country of origin, and to improve cooperation within our Europe. This is an essential achievement of the last few years.

The sixth advance is that we have begun to rethink our geography within the limits of our neighborhood. Europe now sees itself as a coherent whole in the wake of Russia’s aggression, affirming that Ukraine and Moldova are part of our European family and are destined to join the Union when the time comes, as are the Western Balkans. As I said last year in Bratislava, it is up to us to ensure that they are firmly anchored in Europe, to support the reforms needed to prepare them for this path, which can only exist if they integrate the Community acquis, and at the same time to reform our Union, which can only be enlarged if it is thoroughly reformed and simplified.

We have also, for the first time, considered our links with everyone on a continental scale, through the European Political Community. This initiative, which we proposed in May 2022, will enable us to go beyond the 27-nation framework and to think about our Europe, from our British friends to Norway and the Western Balkans, and to start building concrete corporations across the continent on a geographically significant scale.

Since 2017, all this has been possible thanks to the commitment and action of many of those who are here in this room today. I would like to pay tribute to the work of successive ministers, administrations and all the teams who made the French Presidency of the first half of 2022 such a success, but I would also like to thank all our European colleagues who have supported this ambition, our MEPs who voted for it, and the Commission for its hard work over the last few years. It’s a collective effort that I have just summarized here, but which has meant that this seemingly strange concept of sovereignty has gradually taken hold, and that yes, Europe has risen to these challenges over the past seven years. We have also done so using a different method, which was not just a “Brussels method”, if I may put it that way.

I wanted to visit all the European capitals during my first term of office, without exception. We have also built special ties, forging closer links with Germany through the Aachen Treaty, with Italy through the Quirinal Treaty, with Spain through the Barcelona Treaty, and very soon with Poland, again through a new treaty. Implementing a policy of equals, re-engaging with our Central and Eastern European partners, also allows us to engage in a new dialogue and move from the Weimar to the MED9 formats, trying to have this multi-faceted geography, if I may put it that way, which creates particular sympathies and affinities within this Europe, but which, from one step to the next, enables it to move forward. Yes, we have achieved a great deal in recent years. Without this action, without this progress towards European sovereignty and unity, we would undoubtedly have been left behind by history. Moreover, if we had reacted as we did at the time of the financial crisis, the situation would have been dramatic. We approached the financial crisis divided and with little sovereignty. That’s why it took us, if I dare say, four or five years to solve it, whereas in the United States, where it originated, it was solved in less than a year. We have reacted swiftly and collectively to the crises we have faced, which means that we can stand together and be here today.

But is it enough? Can I come to you with a self-congratulatory speech and say: “Well, we’ve done everything right, it’s great, Europe is strong. Let’s get on with it”. Awareness and honesty dictate that we recognize that the battle is not yet won, far from it, and that as we look ahead to the next decade — because that’s the horizon we have to look at — there is a huge risk that we will be weakened, or even left behind. This is because we are at an unprecedented moment of upheaval in the world, of accelerating major transformations.

My message today is simple. At the end of the World War I, Paul Valéry remarked that we now know our civilizations are mortal. We must be clear about the fact that today, our Europe is mortal. It can die. It can die, and it all depends on our choices. These choices have to be made now.

Because the question of peace and war on our continent, and of our ability to ensure our security or not, is being played out right now. The major transformations — the digital transition, artificial intelligence, the environment and decarbonization — are playing out now, and the reallocation of production factors is now playing out. And the question of whether or not Europe will be a powerhouse of innovation, research and production is playing out now. Because the attack on liberal democracies, on our values, — I say this in this place of knowledge — on what is the very bedrock of European civilization, a certain relationship with freedom, justice and knowledge, is being played out now or not.

Yes, we are at a tipping point, and our Europe is mortal. Simply put, it is up to us. And this is based on some very simple observations that illustrate the gravity of what I am saying.

First of all, we lack the capacity to effectively address the risks we face. Despite everything we have done, which I have just mentioned, we face a crucial challenge in terms of both rhythm and model. We have begun to wake up. France, for its part, has doubled its defense budget. We are in the process of doing so with this second military programming law. But on a continental scale, this awakening is still too slow, too weak in the face of the world’s generalized rearmament and its acceleration. Tensions between the United States and China have led to an increase in arms spending, technological innovation and military capabilities. We now have uninhibited regional forces that are also demonstrating their capabilities, such as Russia and Iran, to name just two. Europe is surrounded, pressured by many of these powers on its borders and sometimes within it. Yes, we are still too slow and not ambitious enough to face up to the reality of these transformations. Whatever the future brings, we have to face it too. 

The United States of America has two priorities. America first, which is legitimate, and China. Europe is not a geopolitical priority in the coming years and decades, no matter how strong our alliance and how fortunate we are to have an administration that is very committed to the Ukrainian conflict. And so, yes, the days of Europe buying its energy and fertilizers from Russia, outsourcing to China and relying on the US for security are over.

We have started to undertake major changes. But we are not up to the task, because the rules of the game have changed. And the fact that war has returned to European soil, and that it is being waged by a nuclear-armed power, changes everything. The very fact that Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons changes everything. This is the first change in the rules.

The second change is that, economically speaking, our model as it stands today is no longer sustainable, because we legitimately want to have it all, but it no longer works. We obviously want social benefits, and we have the most generous social solidarity model in the world. This is one of our strengths. We want to address the climate emergency with decarbonized energy, as I was saying, but we are the only region that has taken the necessary steps to achieve this. Others are not moving at the same pace.

We want trade that benefits us, but with many others who are starting to change the rules of the game, who are over-subsidizing, from China to the United States. We cannot sustain the most demanding environmental and social standards, invest less than our competitors, have a more naive trade policy than them and think that we will continue to create jobs. It simply does not make sense.

The risk, then, is that Europe will fall behind. We are already beginning to see this, despite our best efforts. Between 1993 and 2022, gross domestic product per capita in the United States rose by almost 60%. Europe’s has grown by less than 30%. This was even before the United States passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a massive policy to attract our industries and subsidize all green industries and technologies. Our challenge today is to move much faster and rethink our growth model. Because here too, the rules of the game have changed, and they have changed in a simple way. The two leading international powers have decided to stop respecting the rules of trade. I am putting this in very simple terms, but that is the reality since the Inflation Reduction Act. For the last twenty years, we have all been saying: let’s bring China into the WTO, and our objective is that, basically, the second largest trading and economic power should follow our rules. Now it is as if the world’s leading economy had suddenly decided that it was going to do the same. And that’s what’s happened. As a result, we can no longer meet our targets. The risk is obviously our decreased prosperity which is dramatic for a continent like ours, which also has the most onerous social model in the world, and which extracts the most from the wealth it produces.

Then there is the third observation which underlies the significance of the current moment: the culture war, the battle of imaginations, narratives and values, which is becoming increasingly delicate. For a long time, we thought of our model as irrepressible: democracy spreading, human rights progressing, European soft power triumphant. And democracy continues to be attractive to many people around the world. But we must look at things clearly. Our liberal democracy is increasingly criticized, through false arguments, with a kind of reversal of values, because we let it happen, because we are vulnerable. Everywhere in our Europe our values and our culture are under threat because the fundamentals are being challenged, believing that authoritarian approaches would somehow be more effective or attractive, under threat also because our dreams and our narratives are less and less European. Everywhere, the content that our children and teenagers are being exposed to is increasingly American or Asian, belonging to the digital explosion that has taken over our lives and to which I’ll return in a moment.

So, yes, our Europe is being increasingly challenged in its ability to be attractive for its political model, with, in my view, bad reasoning and false arguments. Above all, it is much less powerful in its ability to produce grand narratives. There are grand narratives that inspire the planet, and Europe is increasingly consuming narratives produced elsewhere. This means we are unable to shape the future. It is these three facts — geopolitical and security, economy, cultural and intellectual aspects — that lead us to say today that, fundamentally, the question of our sovereignty, in terms of its very content, is even more important today than it was yesterday.

But what does it mean to be sovereign in this changing world? What does it mean to be sovereign when I tell you that Europe could die? It means responding to these three challenges of our time, to the acceleration of history, to its intensification.

Thus, the solution lies in our ability — because the rules of the game have changed on each of these points — to make major strategic decisions, to embrace paradigm shifts and, ultimately, to respond with power, prosperity and humanism. And it is these three points that I would like to return to today. I believe that it is through power, prosperity and humanism that we can give substance to this European sovereignty and enable Europe to be a continent that will not disappear, a political project that stands its ground in the world and at this time, when it is under threat more than ever.

I. Europe as a power

Europe as a power is simple: it is a Europe that commands respect and ensures its own security. It recognizes and protects its borders. It is aware of the risks to which it is exposed, and prepares for them. To achieve this, we need to emerge from a kind of strategic minority. Why do we need to do this? Because we were, in a way, implicitly conceived that way. At the end of the Second World War, many European countries agreed to delegate their security to others, as was often imposed on them, because we did not want them to rearm too quickly. And, as I stated earlier, we have delegated everything that is strategic: our energy to Russia, our security — not France, but several of our partners — to the United States and equally critical perspectives to China. We must take them back. This is what strategic autonomy is about.

A. Defence scaling

The first step is to scale-up our defense. 

The main danger to European security today is obviously the war in Ukraine. The condition sine qua non for our security is that Russia does not win the war of aggression it is waging against Ukraine. This is imperative. That is why we were right, from the outset, to sanction Russia, to help the Ukrainians and to continue to do so, to be fortunate enough to have the Americans on our side for this, and to constantly increase our assistance and support.

Quite simply, I fully assume the decision I made in Paris on February 26th to reintroduce strategic ambiguity. Why? Because we are facing a power that no longer has any inhibitions, that has attacked a European country, and is no longer involved in a special operation, and no longer wants to tell us what its limits are. Why should we have to say every day what our strategic limits are? If we say that Ukraine is the condition of our security, that what is at stake in Ukraine is more than the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this already key country, but the security of Europeans, do we have limits? No. And so, we must be credible, dissuade, be present, and continue the effort. But this war, which involves a nuclear-armed power that uses this threat in its rhetoric, is undoubtedly only the first manifestation of the geopolitical tensions that Europe must learn to live with. This is why we are undergoing a profound change in terms of security. Recent events have shown the importance of missile defenses and deep strike capabilities, which are essential for strategic warning and escalation management in the face of uninhibited adversaries.

That is why what we need to develop — and this is the new defense paradigm — is a credible defense of the European continent. Of course, the European pillar within NATO that we are in the process of building, and which we have convinced all our partners of its merits in recent years, is essential. But we need to give substance to this credible European defense, which is the very condition for rebuilding a common security framework. Europe must know how to defend what it holds dear with its allies and alone if necessary. Does that mean we need an anti-missile shield? Perhaps. Is it by increasing our defense capabilities, and which ones? Without a doubt. Will it be enough to counter Russian missiles? We must work on this point. But when we have a neighbor who has become aggressive, who no longer spells out his limits, but who has ballistic capabilities, which it has greatly improved in recent years, whose ranges and technology have been transformed, who has nuclear weapons and has increased their capabilities, it is clear that we need to build this strategic concept of a credible European defense for ourselves.

This is why, in the coming months, I will be inviting all our partners to help build this European defense initiative, which must first and foremost be a strategic concept from which we will then derive the relevant capabilities: anti-missile, long-range weapons, and all other useful capabilities. France will play its full part. We have a comprehensive military model, whose objective is to be the most effective army on the continent, and we also have nuclear weapons, and therefore the deterrent capability that goes with them. Indeed, nuclear deterrence is at the heart of France’s defense strategy. It is therefore an essential element in the defense of the European continent. It is thanks to this credible defense that we will be able to build the security guarantees expected by all our partners, throughout Europe, and which will also contribute to building a common security framework, guaranteeing security for all. It is this security framework that will also enable us, the day after [the war in Ukraine], to build neighborly relations with Russia.

Above and beyond this essential paradigm shift for our Europe, we need to create a genuine strategic cohesion between European armies. This means launching a second stage of the European Intervention Initiative, which I proposed in 2017. It was a true success. Thirteen member states have joined. We have been able to build pragmatic, operational cooperation. We did this in the Sahel with the Takuba Taskforce. This was also the framework that enabled us to build a European operation, Aspides, in the Red Sea, a first of its kind. The ability to lead coalitions together requires a common culture, the development of European regional security and defense strategies in the Mediterranean, Africa, the Indo-Pacific and the Arctic, to unify our visions and better distribute our forces among Europeans, as well as the creation of a European Military Academy, to train future European military and civilian leaders in security and defense issues.

We also need to press ahead with implementing the Strategic Compass, which we concluded under the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and in particular to set up a rapid reaction force to be able to deploy up to 5,000 military personnel in hostile environments by 2025, particularly to come to the aid of our citizens. We must also invest in the new frontiers of warfare. The hybrid war being waged by Russia is already playing out. We must protect our infrastructures be they transport, hospitals, power grids or telecommunications. I also want us to develop a European cybersecurity and cyberdefense capability. And while we are all in the process of building these capabilities for our own armies, this is an unprecedented opportunity to immediately build European cooperation and act as Europeans in the face of these risks. As you can see, assuming our responsibilities means deciding for ourselves and steering our own European defense efforts. We must build a new paradigm, greater cooperation and concrete initiatives together.

To this end, we already have frameworks and groundbreaking partnerships in place. The United Kingdom is a natural partner, a long-standing ally, and the treaties that bind us, including the Lancaster House Treaty, form a solid foundation. We must build on this. Strengthen this. Brexit has not affected this relationship. Perhaps we should even extend this foundation to other partners? The European Political Community is certainly the right place to build this new security paradigm, this additional degree of cooperation, and to construct this common security and defense framework.

Finally, of course, there can be no defense without a defense industry. In this respect, we need to transform the urgent need to support Ukraine into a long-term effort. This is what we call the “war economy” that we are pushing so hard with the Ministers. We have a long way to go, because we have under invested in our own production for decades. Essentially, the dividends of peace have meant that Europeans have insufficiently produced and invested, which has also created a high level of dependence on non-European industry. We must produce faster, we must produce more, and we must produce more in Europe. This is fundamental. This is why I firmly believe that we need a European preference when it comes to purchasing military equipment.

If we look at the European Peace Facility we set up at the start of the war: three-quarters of it was used to purchase non-European equipment. The need was urgent. We were unable to produce everything in Europe. But there were also firmly established responses. It is always better to buy, often American, sometimes Korean, but how can we build our sovereignty, our long-term autonomy, if we do not also take responsibility for developing a European defense industry?

We must succeed in developing a European preference, succeed in developing European industrial programs, accept increased support from the European Investment Bank and accept additional financing, including the most innovative, such as the idea of a European common debt proposed by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

The aim of a European defense industrial strategy is to produce more, faster, in Europe. For those of us with a strong defense industry, this is an extraordinary opportunity, because we can also, if we know how to structure our efforts, raise our standards. This is what we have done in recent years with the Rafale, with Croatia and Greece. Who thought, seven years ago, that the Rafale would become one of Europe’s air defense solutions? It is now becoming one. But it is also what will push us to develop common standards as Europeans, because one of the problems we have is that we remain too divided when it comes to the defense industry. Our fragmentation is a weakness. We saw this cruelly and concretely during the war in Ukraine, when we sometimes discovered, as Europeans, that our guns were not of the same caliber, that our missiles did not match each other’s, and that this in fact reduced our ability to act together in the same theater of operation. So, yes, this effort will also require standardization, the development of major players, and therefore European consolidation, and the organization of a genuine defense industrial policy. This is a necessity, and we must accept it.

As you can see, we need to embark not just on a new stage, but truly build a new defense paradigm, from the strategic concept to greater integration, from a new common framework to new capabilities. But this European defense power obviously relies on the diplomacy that goes with it.

Diplomacy is the responsibility of each Member State, and is theirs alone. But we can expand it and anchor it in greater European cohesion. This is why I believe that in the coming years, we must continue to pursue this approach and this awakening of security and defense. We must continue to forge partnerships with non-EU countries, in other words, build a Europe capable of demonstrating that it is never the vassal of the United States, and that it also knows how to speak to all the regions of the world, to emerging countries, to Africa, to Latin America. Not merely through trade agreements, but with genuine strategies for balanced, reciprocal partnership.

This is what we set out to build at the European Union-Africa Summit in the first half of 2022, extending to Europe’s Indo-Pacific strategy. We want to show that we are a power of balance that speaks to the rest of the world, rejecting the bipolar confrontation that too many continents are settling into. Having an Arctic strategy, an Indo-Pacific strategy, a Latin America strategy and a strategy with the African continent means showing that Europe is not just a piece of the West, but a continent-world that thinks about its universality and the planet’s great balances, that rejects confrontation between regions and wishes to build balanced partnerships.

This is absolutely essential, and we must continue along this path, which enables us to have a distinctive voice on issues such as education, health, climate and the fight against poverty, as we did with the The Paris Pact for People and the Planet. We aim to show that we never have double standards, and that we do have our own autonomy in these areas too.

B. A Europe that controls its borders

A powerful Europe is also a Europe that controls its borders. As I said, the adoption of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum was a major step forward. But I wish to reiterate this at a time when, as we all know, the issue of borders and immigration is legitimately challenging all our societies and our country. This is even more important for France, because France is a country — pardon the technical term — of secondary movements, as they say. In other words, immigration does not arrive in France directly, but enters the European continent, and the Schengen area in particular, through other borders.

And so, France, sometimes more than others, needs an effective European policy and good cooperation, because immigration starts at European borders, not just French ones. We are a country which men and women fleeing misery come to, who themselves are sometimes the victims of trafficking networks, who may sometimes seek legitimate asylum when they are fighting for freedom, but who always arrive, whether via Spain, Italy, the Balkans or Greece, on European soil, and then make their way to our country. And so, yes, more than anywhere else, we need stronger European cooperation. That is why, now that the Pact on Migration and Asylum has been adopted, we need to implement it, because it offers us new instruments that we have not previously had such as registration, monitoring, and more effective conditions of return to the country of first entry. This is already an unprecedented step forward. But we need to be more firm in terms of repatriation and readmission for all the men and women who arrive on our soil and who are planning to stay, and who are not eligible for asylum. This requires real European policy and coordination. This will involve greater cooperation with countries of origin and transit, more transparent conditionalities and a relentless fight against the business model of human smugglers and traffickers.

It is among the 27, and in particular within the Schengen area, that we must cooperate and build these policies. I do not want a policy of naiveté, and we cannot simply look at the ineffectiveness of our repatriation policies today, because they are too divided. I do not believe in the model being proposed today which would consist of finding third countries on the African continent or elsewhere, where people arriving illegally on our soil who do not come from these same countries would be taken to. We are creating a geopolitics of cynicism that betrays our values, creates new dependencies and will prove totally ineffective. 

The key is simply to condition our visas and trade preferences with countries of origin and transit, and to make these countries accountable for their migration policies. If we do this together, it will be an effective approach. Today, we are simply too divided. The repatriation of unauthorized migrants to their country of origin must be one of the key elements of our visa policy and of our trade preferences in terms of conditionality. We also need to forge new operational partnerships to combat migrant smuggling and human trafficking, and to mobilize Frontex, which will soon reach 10.000 border guards and coast guards, to support repatriation efforts and further expand this structure. We believe in it. I have always defended it. I continue to believe in it, even if those who have served it sometimes start to doubt it 1 .

In order to protect its citizens, Europe must also fight against threats and networks that disregard borders and states. This is another area where Europe needs to be cohesive, over and above immigration. Terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, online hate, and crime are all areas where we need to step up European action. This is why, first and foremost, I want the Schengen Council to become a true Internal Security Council of the Union. Our borders are a common good. For the euro, a common good that we created, we were able to build a political structure that was decided in an intergovernmental, credible way: the ECOFIN Council. Our borders are a common good. We need to build a political structure that enables decisions to be made among all the countries that share it, and to take joint decisions on issues such as immigration, the fight against organized crime, terrorism, drug trafficking and cybercrime. Let us change governance to make it much more effective. We must also, within the framework of the Schengen Information System, go much further in sharing information, to prevent the departure of terrorist fighters, returns from conflict zones, prevent radicalization, and also have a real policy for removing terrorist content, hateful, racist and anti-Semitic content. And it is as Europeans that we will be able to obtain this from platforms which, today, are failing to honor their commitments on this subject, either in terms of moderation, or in terms of restraint. And it is as Europeans, within the framework of such a Council, that we can have an effective policy against organized crime and drugs. This is a real scourge which is currently affecting those countries, in particular, which are most at risk because they have major ports and entry points, or sometimes because some of them thought that the most liberal policies would prevent criminalization, which is quite the opposite. Here too, we need a European approach.

As you can see, this Power Europe is all about defending and protecting our borders, and it represents a profound paradigm shift in terms of the fact that, as Europeans, if we want to withstand this change in the rules, this escalation of violence, this uninhibited use of capabilities on our continent and beyond, we need to adapt in terms of strategic concepts and resources, and we need to regain full control of our borders, and fully take responsibility for it.

II. A Europe of progress and prosperity

The second key element is prosperity. If we want to be sovereign at a time of profound transformation, we need to build a new model of growth and production. This is essential, because there can be no power without a solid economic base. Otherwise, power is decreed, but very quickly, it is financed by others. Nor can there be an ecological transition without a solid economic model. And there can be no social model, which is one of Europe’s strengths, if we do not produce the resources we then want to redistribute. And for a long time, Europe was the main asset of our growth in an ordo-liberal model of competition and free trade, and at a time when, basically, the rules were very different, raw materials did not seem to be limited, there was no geopolitics of critical materials, climate change was ignored, trade was free, and everyone respected the rules. That was the world we lived in until recently. In just a few years, everything has changed. Raw materials are limited, as well as critical materials and energy. And when it comes to fossil fuels, we do not produce them on our own soil; unlike the United States and many other countries, we are dependent. For critical materials, we need them, and China has started to trade and secure a lot of capacity. As for trade, as I have said, the rules are fundamentally changing. A sort of return to a natural state. 

Yet we have clear objectives: we want to produce more wealth to improve our standard of living and create jobs for all; we want to guarantee the purchasing power of Europeans — this is the concern of all our fellow citizens. This is very concrete; this is the objective of our European policy — we want to decarbonize our economies and meet the challenges of biodiversity and climate; we want to ensure our sovereignty and therefore control our strategic production chains; and we want to maintain an open economy to remain the great trading power that we are.

Our objectives are clear, but we are not there yet and we cannot achieve them with our current rules. We are not there because we are out of step with the changing world. Because we regulate too much, we invest too little and we are too open and do not defend our interests enough. That is the reality.

And so, here too, we need to construct a new paradigm for growth and prosperity if we are to meet the five objectives I have just outlined. Because if we do it with the rules in terms of competition policy, trade policy, monetary policy and fiscal policy that we have today, we will not succeed. And it will be done with a simple adjustment: we will lose production.

And why, here too, do I feel a sense of urgency? Firstly, because I can see the 30-year gap between Europe and the United States, but also because the reallocation of factors of production is happening now. Because the question of where green technologies will be, and where artificial intelligence and computing capacities will be, will be decided in the next five or ten years – probably even more so in the next five than the next ten. And so, we must be ready to meet history now. It’s time to stop over-regulation, increase investment, change our rules and better protect our interests. That’s the goal. That’s the new model.

And it is this prosperity pact that we need to build, based on a few very simple elements.

A. Produce more and greener

First and foremost, we need to produce more and greener, and decarbonized production is an opportunity to reindustrialise and maintain our industries in Europe. As we have seen in recent years, from hydrogen to semiconductors and electric batteries, France has rebuilt its industrial capacity through the transition. This means we have to stop pitting decarbonization against growth. If we know how to do it, and if it involves new investment sectors, it works, and that’s the model we’re advocating. We are on the way to becoming a leader in batteries. We will achieve our goal of meeting 100% of battery requirements in Europe by 2030. And we will also catch up in semiconductors, with the objective of doubling Europe’s market share by 2030. And as I have said, the results in terms of jobs, from Dunkerque to Fos, in terms of training, attractiveness, innovation in our regions, and reducing our dependence are there for all to see. And so, green reindustrialization is something that Europe is enabling and supporting, and this is what will help us regain our capacities, become the first continent with zero plastic pollution, and to be a continent at the heart of decarbonization and electrification. 

B. Simplification: the end of complicated Europe 

The second condition is simplification. 

Ever since Jacques Delors created the single market 30 years ago we’ve been deepening it and expanding it through ever-greater integration. This is a common-sense action, and the single market is an action of simplification; it means going from 27 systems of rules to one. In his report, Enrico Letta has proposed that we continue this modernization and this work for the benefit of our fellow citizens and our businesses. I am in favor of extending the single market to sectors that have until now been ignored: energy, telecommunications, financial services. This is essential, because it will enable us to reduce the fragmentation of our rules in these major sectors, and therefore succeed in driving greater innovation, lowering transaction costs and increasing our capacity to innovate, invest and better serve our interests.

We also need to take responsibility for the evolution of our competition policy, to help European champions emerge, and to provide substantial support for companies in our strategic sectors, with new common investments — a point I will return to in a moment. But simplification also means more single market, and simplifying the rules between the 27, so that our start-ups can immediately have a domestic market that is the European market, because otherwise, they are at a real competitive disadvantage compared to a Chinese or American start-up. Our strength lies in our domestic market, with 450 million consumers. The single market is a choice for simplification.

We need to put an end to complicated Europe. We have developed useful regulations that have provided milestones, benchmarks and direction. But we have also at times gone into far too much detail, preventing economic players from planning for the long term and creating competitive disadvantages for our players in relation to their international competitors. We need to have the courage to lighten the load, first and foremost by reviewing the thresholds and obligations weighing on VSEs and SMEs. We need to better engage our companies, our citizens and our regions from the outset, and take their limitations into account from the moment standards are drawn up, to when they are implemented. We need to return to the principle of proportionality, i.e., more ambition on major issues, more support, more trust and less text, and to the principles of subsidiarity – which enables us to have ambitions, European rules for what pertains to them, but to allow for flexibility at the national level when it comes to implementation. And this is why the next few years, the next mandate, will also have to go through several waves of simplification of our regulations, without taking anything away from our ambitions and our milestones on the major points we have decided on, but simplifying implementation and providing better support for our economic players.

C. Industrial policy: “Made in Europe” in strategic sectors

The third condition of this prosperity pact is to accelerate industrial policy. This was a dirty word just seven years ago, as you may recall.

As far as industrial policy is concerned, we used to say that this was not really Europe’s objective. And at a time when many are revisiting the concept “the freedom to stay” 2 , industrial policy is the answer. It offer the possibility of producing everywhere on European soil, whereas somehow the European Union, by relying too much on a model of competitiveness, including intra-European competitiveness, has created imbalances, which the cohesion policy had not sufficiently compensated for, and which subsequently created the demographic imbalances experienced by many of our partner

I strongly believe that industrial policy is key for our prosperity and in relation to the outside world, as well as in the development of European territories and regions. Made in Europe is an area where France and Germany have a great deal in common. Chancellor Scholz called for this in his speech in Prague in August 2022. It has been at the heart of our strategy for the past seven years, and is at the heart of the Versailles strategy we built as Europeans. 

This industrial policy, that we have pursued in recent years through innovation, from the Chips Act to everything that has been done around cleantech and other areas, must have production targets on European soil, training initiatives, joint investments, and it must consolidate what we have already done in strategic sectors: raw materials, semiconductors, digital technology and healthcare, where European policy is also a response to the needs of our fellow citizens. It is this policy alone that will enable us to respond to the shortages of medicines we are experiencing, or to the issue of patient access.

We must continue to consolidate our industrial strategy in these sectors. The method works, but we need to extend it to tomorrow’s strategic sectors, without waiting for dependencies to emerge. Let us decide now to make Europe a world leader in five of the most emerging and strategic sectors by 2030: 

  • artificial intelligence, by investing massively not only in human resources, but also in computing capacity. We have only 3% of the world’s computing capacity. We have an objective of catching up, but by 2030-2035, we need to move up to at least 20% if we want to be credible players;
  • quantum computing; 
  • space, where we need to consolidate Ariane 6. I say this at a time when we are hearing many things. Ariane 6 is the key to Europe’s access to space. It is an absolute necessity. But beyond NewSpace and onboard space missions, we also need space ambitions at European level;
  • biotechnologies ;
  • new energies: hydrogen, modular reactors and nuclear fusion.

The European Union needs dedicated financing strategies for at least these five strategic sectors. To do this, we need the right instruments. This means we need to define, we need to invest in these sectors, and we need to act together, but, as I have said, we need the right instruments. We have begun to have some, for exemple the  Projects of Common European Interest, the IPCEI, which our industrial partners are very familiar with. They played a very structuring role when we decided, in 2018, with Germany, to move forward. Here too, we must get back in sync. After the Inflation Reduction Act and Chinese overinvestment, our instruments no longer work because they are too slow and too uncertain. So, in a way, we need to invent new IPCEIs. We need to give our manufacturers greater clarity, reduce lead times by at least half, have mechanisms as simple as tax credits, give manufacturers 5 to 10-year planning horizons, respond very quickly — 3 to 6 months —, and succeed in the key sectors we need to support.

As we can clearly see, in sectors such as critical drugs and chemicals, we are losing capacity because our instruments are not fast enough, effective enough or clear enough. We need to adopt different rules for industrial policy and competition policy. We need to enshrine in our treaties European preference for actors in strategic sectors, such as defense and space. Because in reality, our competitors already have this. They have it. If there is no preference for European companies in the space sector, there will be no more space sector. The same goes for nuclear power. Who has seen the US Department of Defense or the US Department of Energy finance an emerging European player? I have seen many American start-ups, supposedly the result of spontaneous entrepreneurial genius, massively subsidized by American institutional policy. We should do the same. We are in competition. European preference in strategic sectors such as defense and space, and exemption from free competition to support key sectors in transition, such as artificial intelligence and green technologies is essential. It is the only thing that will allow us to respond to over-subsidization by China and the United States.

D. Energy and agriculture

Among strategic sectors, there are two that I would like to speak about more specifically: energy and agriculture. Energy, because this is undoubtedly the sector where we have made the most reforms. But this is where we need the most fundamental transformations in the future. We have to take on the task of building an atomic Europe, while recognizing that the Euratom project is one of the founding ambitions of the 1957 treaties. The challenges are considerable, but we need to move forward. Europe’s current price-competitiveness problems have an impact on the labor factor. We are attempting to respond to this through reforms. But given our social model, we know that we have limits in this respect. We have a price-competitiveness problem when it comes to energy because we are dependent and because, today, we do not produce fossil fuels. The sooner we make the transition, the sooner we will regain this competitiveness. So, yes, decarbonizing the energy sector is the key to reconciling climate, sovereignty, and job creation. We therefore need a combined strategy: energy efficiency, deployment of renewable energies and deployment of nuclear power. This is what will make Europe a true electricity powerhouse. That is the key.

We have made mistakes in recent years, starting with the fragmentation of the European hydrogen and electric markets. We need to be absolutely technology-neutral. Essentially, we need to build a Europe where carbon-free electrons can freely circulate. Forgive me for putting it like this, but this is exactly what we need to do. Whether it is produced using renewable energy or nuclear power, it does not matter. If we know how to produce decarbonized electrons on European soil, then this is an opportunity because it avoids the carbon electron and avoids the one we import. We therefore need technological neutrality, and we need to build much more renewable and nuclear capacity. We need to consolidate the nuclear alliance we have built up, which brings together some fifteen member states, embrace this Europe of atomic energy, and invest in electrical interconnections. That is the key. This will enable manufacturers and private individuals throughout the continent to sign contracts that offer visibility and a secure supply of low-cost, low-carbon electricity produced on European soil.

The other strategic sector I wanted to return to is agriculture. We have discussed this subject at length, albeit somewhat defensively, given the anger that has been expressed. But the anger of our farmers has not been against Europe. They know how much, particularly in France, where Europe represents almost 10 billion euros in subsidies to our agriculture, where it is the only relevant market, and where we also have agriculture that is a major exporter. This anger is against over-regulation, complexity, absurd standards and the flawed application of European and French law. As a result, the Prime Minister and his ministers have made a huge effort to build a roadmap — already more than ¾ implemented — which is all about simplification and support.

But Europe is key when it comes to agriculture, because here too, it’s a matter of industrial policy and sovereignty. This is something I have been saying since the Covid pandemic. Who would be foolish enough to outsource their food? We have no right to allow food dependencies to develop. We already had them; we have started to repair them, particularly in terms of animal proteins, which were an old post-war geostrategic choice where we outsourced them to other continents. But we must absolutely continue to strengthen our food sovereignty.

It is absurd — as I hear from so many of my colleagues — that agriculture should always be the adjustment variable in trade agreements. No! No! We need to produce our own food, we need to continue importing and exporting, and we need to do so openly, but we also need to avoid dependencies. The day you become totally dependent on plant protein, the day you become totally dependent on part of your European diet, good luck. At that point, we will have a field day explaining that we have restored sovereignty over semi-conductors and so on. Just imagine, we will go before our compatriots and say: we’ve done everything right, but we simply thought that food would always circulate freely. There is a geopolitics to food too. Therefore, agriculture is a question of sovereignty, employment and production.

We need a strong, simplified common agriculture policy that reduces complexity and the administrative burden. But we also need to support the sustainable transition in our farming and fishing sectors, to accompany changes in practices, to phase out the use of phytosanitary products wherever technological solutions exist, to renew our fishing fleets in order to decarbonize them — as we recently did for our overseas territories —,  but we clearly need to defend this sector and adopt a policy of better consumer information, support to manage climate and environmental impacts, as well as to protect our producers against unfair practices with a truly uniform implementation at the European level. This is what we are calling for, with European health and control authorities to prevent unfair practices between Europeans, and a genuine European customs force to ensure that imported products, which are sometimes simply relabelled in a port and then returned to the European market, are subject to the same production rules that we imposed.

This is the key to an ambitious industrial policy.

E. A new trade policy

This leads me to the fourth aspect of this prosperity pact: the revision of our trade policy. And this is where, in my view, there is undoubtedly one of the most fundamental paradigm shifts. Openness, yes, but defending our interests and — as I mentioned — that cannot work if we are the only ones in the world respecting the rules of trade as they were written 15 years ago. If the Chinese and Americans no longer respect them by over-subsidizing critical sectors, we cannot be the only ones to do so. It will not work. It is not working. And in this respect, we are also too naïve or too culturally weak.

We have real leverage. We are a market of 450 million consumers. This is a huge strength. And so, we have to protect our health by strictly applying our health standards. We have to protect our social model by applying our social standards. And we must protect our climate ambitions by defending our environmental standards. Otherwise, we will be creating a continent that over-constrains producers on its own soil and, through its trade policy, lifts constraints on the products it imports. That would be fantastic. We will become a consumer market where there will no longer be any producers who comply with our objectives, and who will be obliged, as a result of these dependencies, to consume products that do not meet our standards. This is the reality. If we want to be consistent with our ambitions, we need to fundamentally overhaul our trade policy.

We have begun to do this: the CETA, which we have concluded with the Canadians, thanks to the work we have done and precisely because of the adjustments we have made, is a good agreement. I say this because we must not give in to demagoguery. And I am saddened by what I have seen, including in the French debate over the last few weeks: we mustn’t fall into the trap of rejecting all trade agreements, because then, good luck, demagoguery wins! Those who tell us that trade is bad will go and explain to all our farmers that they are winners with CETA against Canada. And why are we winners with CETA? Precisely because we included mirror clauses, because this is a new-generation trade agreement that allows our cheese and milk producers to export to Canada, but which, where there are different standards for meat, avoids importing meat that does not comply with European standards.

We are not in favor of closure. Closure would be detrimental to European manufacturers, farmers and producers. We are in favor of fair competition, and therefore a revised trade policy, as we have also done with New Zealand. Modern and fair trade agreements are those in which compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement is an essential clause, and which include strong clauses on the production conditions of certain sensitive goods, particularly agricultural products. This is what makes all the difference, especially with the outdated Mercosur agreement as it has previously been negotiated.

We need to systematize the use of fair competition instruments. We must include mirror clauses in our trade agreements. We must launch a major reciprocity strategy to impose mirror measures in all new European standards and review existing standards. In doing so, we must also display the carbon footprint of products so that consumers are aware that “Made in Europe” is almost always better for the planet. And to be clear, if a product does not meet the key standards, then it must not be allowed to enter the Union.

Clear rules, clear controls and common customs forces. That is the only credible trade policy, and it is also a kind of fair protection for our borders and our producers, so that we do not succumb to deindustrialization. The carbon border tax is a tool that paves the way, and we need to extend it, complete it, and improve it so that it cannot be circumvented, and so that it applies to processed products.

Finally, we need to strengthen our economic security instruments. This is what I discussed with Prime Minister Rutte in The Hague, namely the security of our jobs, our companies and our creativity. This means better protection of our industrial and intellectual property, better filtering of non-European investment in sensitive sectors, and better protection against physical attacks, for example on our undersea and telecommunications cables, or our European satellite systems such as Galileo, Copernicus or tomorrow’s IRIS. Economic security is also at the heart of this trade strategy.

F. Investing in innovation, research and competitiveness

The fifth pillar of this shared prosperity is the fight for innovation and research. Indeed, we must first and foremost be obsessed with productivity. And for that, we need to be a major power in innovation and research.

For many of our countries — I am speaking from this place of learning — we are already such a power, but we need to train even more talent, and above all we need to keep it in our laboratories, our universities, our major centers, and attract others. And we need to be aware that, in this respect, there are risks: competition from America, and Asia

To achieve this, we need to reaffirm the objective of devoting 3% of European GDP to research. This is a priority. In France, we have reinvested, but we must continue the effort, in terms of public funding, but above all private funding, with additional research partnerships. Throughout Europe, we must now consolidate and demonstrate that this is a key element of the prosperity pact. The Horizon Europe program, with which our researchers are very familiar, needs to be strengthened by focusing on the most effective programs, in particular the European Research Council.

Changing the paradigm in this field also means once again daring to take risks. The European Innovation Council has been instrumental in breaking new ground in recent years, but we need to go much further when it comes to breakthrough innovations. And we need to commit to going as far as a European DARPA, which we don’t yet have. With the best scientific teams in each discipline — assuming risks, and therefore losses of capital when projects don’t work out, which is the very key to breakthrough research projects — we need to commit to being a continent that invests in breakthrough innovation and the most advanced fundamental research. It is through these discoveries, in fact, that quantum computers, the materials of tomorrow, electronic chips, and low-consumption batteries will be able to reposition Europe on the geopolitical growth map. And whether it’s a question of phasing out the use of phytosanitary products, whether it’s a question of responding to this objective of public health and therefore of the link between the environment and human health, whether it’s a question of providing a real response with a European research and investment plan for treatments against cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegenerative diseases, or rare and orphan diseases, Europe is the right scale for these major issues of research, reinvestment and joint programs.

We therefore need clear and ambitious objectives, and the key is training and the ability to retain and attract our talents. I have spoken a great deal about rare resources and critical materials, but in the future, perhaps even more than today, the scarcest resource is human capital and talent. This is why a policy of training, research and higher education is absolutely crucial for Europe.

Naturally, it must also be accompanied by a policy of deploying and developing our start-ups — which we have begun to launch with Scale-up Europe — talent and capital to ensure that we are a continent of innovation.

G. A Savings and Investments market

The final condition of this prosperity pact is precisely the ability to invest — forgive me for putting it so bluntly — money. It’s true that the rules of the game in Europe today are no longer adequate, because if we look at defense and security, artificial intelligence, the decarbonization of our economies and clean tech, we have a wall of investment.

All these numbers are based on reports. I read all the reports, I look at what Enrico Letta and Mario Draghi are writing, what the Commission has written, and there is consensus. Everyone says: it’s between 650 and 1,000 billion euros more per year. This is a lot, and we cannot delay this investment because we cannot put on hold our security. We are not going to cry over spilled milk. We cannot postpone these investments because now is the time to make them, and investment decisions are made now or not at all. So, it is now, within the decade, that we need to make this massive investment — and we’re lagging behind the United States and China.

In some ways, this massive investment must also involve a paradigm shift in our collective rules.

The first thing that strikes me as outdated is that we cannot have a monetary policy whose sole objective is inflation, especially in an economic environment where decarbonization is a factor driving up structural prices. We need to have a theoretical and political debate on how to include in the objectives of the European Central Bank at least a growth objective and even a decarbonisation objective, or at least a climate change objective, for our economies. This is absolutely essential.

Secondly, we must obviously increase our joint investment capacities. As I have said, we need to invest several hundred billion euros more every year. The response we have had in Europe in recent years has been to provide national flexibility: state aid. This is not a sustainable response, because it fragments the single market. It contradicts what I outlined earlier. We need shared capacity, and so we need a surge in joint investment, a major collective budgetary investment plan. What we need are subsidies.

I do not want to pre-empt things here; I want them to be discussed with all our partners. Do we need a common borrowing capacity? Does it mean using existing mechanisms such as the European Stability Mechanisms or similar? Essentially, we need to succeed in doubling Europe’s financial capacity for action, or at least doubling it in budgetary terms. We need this surge in public investment to invest public money in these sectors, which means revisiting the highly sensitive issue of the Union’s own resources. I support this, and believe that we should have additional own resources without ever burdening European citizens: carbon border tax, revenue from the European carbon trading scheme, taxing financial transactions like France does, taxing the profits of multinationals where they are actually made, and using resources from ETIAS, the tax paid by non-EU nationals when they enter the Union. There are plenty of own resources, which do not affect European citizens, that could be used for this budget.

And then, beyond monetary policy, beyond our common budgetary policy, which must be much more ambitious and strong with this additional 1.000 billion plan; we need to mobilize private investment and our private financing capacities to a greater extent. Our Europe has two major shortcomings. I would even say three.

The first is that it saves a lot of money. We accumulate savings. We’re a very rich continent, we have very competitive players. But because our capital market system is not integrated, these savings are not going into the right sectors and the right places. This is the first shortcoming.

Second shortcoming: we don’t focus enough on risk. This is due to the fact that our economy is highly intermediated, with 75% going through banks and insurance companies, and we’ve imposed rules that don’t allow them to focus on equity and risk.

Third shortcoming: every year, our savings,  amounting to around  300 billion euros a year, go to finance the Americans, whether we look at treasury bills or capital risk. This is absurd. 

And so, we need to respond to these 3 absurdities by having a real savings and investment market, in other words, successfully creating the elements of solidarity to make it work, so that our investment funds and all our capital market players can circulate savings to ensure they are properly distributed in our economy.

We’re trying to move forward. We have already started. And I think we need to give ourselves 12 months, no more, because we’ve been promising this for too many years. And within 12 months, we should manage to build a system with single supervision, common bankruptcy rules, and elements of tax convergence in order to build a system fairly comparable to what we’ve done on banking supervision. Alternatively, as some have suggested, we may have to devise a system like we did for competition, which allows for more flexible intervention systems, but which also makes it possible to achieve a sort of union and, in any case, create circulation. I do not wish to pre-empt the technical solution, but we need to create this vital union to be able to circulate capital.

Secondly, we need to review the way Basel and Solvency are applied. We cannot be the only economic region in the world to apply it. The Americans, who were the source of the 2008-2010 financial crisis, chose to not apply it. I am not in favor of taking everything away, nor am I in favor of returning to a culture of financial irresponsibility. I am simply in favor of restoring a culture of risk in the management of our savings. If there’s no culture of risk, there can be no investment in research, in innovation, in start-ups, in our companies. I am also in favor of introducing European products and solutions so that our savings can be used to finance our economy. In short, a true single market, a Savings and Investment Union, a relaxation of rules that drives out risk, and European products that enable us to avoid this flight of capital.

As you can see, what I am outlining here is truly a new model for growth and prosperity, which requires simplification: taking on a massive industrial decarbonization policy, a fundamental change in our industrial, competitive and, above all, trade policy, an even more ambitious research and innovation policy, and this change in our monetary, budgetary and financial paradigm.

So, to conclude, why do all this? I said at the start that our Europe could die. It could die if it does not maintain its borders. If it does not know how to respond to external risks in terms of security. It can die if it becomes dependent on others. If it cannot produce in order to create wealth and redistribute it. But Europe is also at a point where it can die on its own. This is because we are returning to a time that our Europe once knew. Peter Sloterdijk describes it very well in the lectures he is currently giving at the Collège de France – with his trademark slightly ironic pessimism — when he says that we are returning to those moments when Europe considers its decline and doubts itself.

Once again, Europe does not love itself. When you consider all that it has done and all that we owe it, this seems strange. It would take too long to say that, structurally, Europe has always doubted itself. We are the continent, the civilization, that undoubtedly invented self-doubt and self-questioning, the culture of confession. We are also faced with doubts because our democracy is being challenged, as I said earlier, and because our demographic decline is a source of deep concern. So, our Europe runs the risk of, in a way, getting used to this decline.

3. A humanist Europe

This is why what I want to propose today, the promise that I would like to pledge, is to try to defend the European humanism that binds us together. If we want to protect our borders, if we want to remain a strong continent that produces and creates, it’s because we’re not like others. We must never forget that. We are not like others. Camus had this magnificent phrase in his Letters to a German Friend: “Our Europe is a shared adventure which we will continue to pursue, despite you, in the wind of intelligence.”

This is Europe. An adventure that we continue to pursue, despite all those who doubt, in the wind of intelligence. What does this mean? It means that to be European is not simply to inhabit a land, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, or from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. It means defending a certain idea of man that places the free, rational and enlightened individual above all else. And it means realizing that from Paris to Warsaw, from Lisbon to Odessa, we have a unique relationship with freedom and justice. We have always chosen to put Man, in the generic sense, above all else. And from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment to the fall of totalitarianism, this is what Europe is all about.

It’s a choice that’s constantly reiterated and that sets us apart from the rest of the world. It is not a naïve choice to entrust our lives to large industrial players on the pretext that they are too strong. This is not coherent with European choice and European humanism, which is a choice that refuses to delegate our lives to state-controlled powers that do not respect the freedom of the rational individual. It is trust in the free individual, who is endowed with reason. It is a trust in knowledge, freedom and culture. It’s a constant tension between traditions, permanency and modernity. It’s an imbalance, being European, and that’s what we have to defend. This fragile humanism that sets us apart from others. And I would like to stress that this is a matter for the present. We must defend it because, as I said, liberal democracy is not a given. I say this on such an important day, with a thought for our Portuguese friends, who celebrate today 50 years to the day after the Carnation Revolution.

Freedom has to be won. Everywhere on our continent, it has been built through struggle, even up to the beginning of this century. We must never forget that freedom cannot be taken for granted. It means we cannot be complacent. That’s why we must continue to defend what constitutes the rule of law: the separation of powers, the right of opposition and minorities, independent justice, freedom of the press, autonomous universities and academic freedom. This is denied in too many European countries. That’s why I defend the budget conditionality linked to the rule of law in the payment of EU funds. And we still need to strengthen it further with procedures for establishing and sanctioning serious violations. Europe is not a counter where you can pick and choose your principles.

That’s also why we need to strengthen our ability to fight against interference and propaganda, particularly in these electoral times. Our Czech friends have experienced it, our Belgian friends have denounced it, but today, through television channels, through social networks, through the use of a form of naivety of our rules which were made for actors who respected democratic civility, we are seeing a return of propaganda and false information to our soil, upsetting our liberal democracies and advocating a different model. 

We must fight against it, enforce full transparency and, above all, ban such content when it destabilizes elections. However, there is every reason to be optimistic. Just a few months ago, when many were saying it was all over, Poland not only had the highest voter turnout in its history for a democratic vote, but also re-elected a party that is patriotic and defends liberal democracy. 

And so, we need to take this fight for liberal democracy and political openness all over Europe, and try to Europeanize it as much as possible. I do not wish to go on at length here. During the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe, I defended citizen participation, citizens’ panels, the European Citizens’ Initiative and European referendums. I believe that we need to develop these initiatives in Europe, as they are essential to give greater substance to a European demos as well as to enable these transnational lists, which are simply the possibility of having, at the moment of the European elections, a real European democratic debate. Look at the elections we have today, they are all national elections. That’s the reality. Because we don’t have a list across Europe. So far, this idea has not, if I may say so, met with the unanimous approval by our partners. But the point is that we cannot have a continent with increasingly influential bodies, while democratic participation remains at 1979 levels. We also need to be bold enough to make Europe more democratic, and this will also be accompanied by revised rules. Here too, there is a very strong Franco-German agreement to move towards qualified majority voting on foreign policy and taxation, which is part of the crucial reforms that we need. We have to go much further on this subject, but I won’t overwhelm you today.

Above all, as I was saying, defending this European humanism means considering that beyond our institutions, beyond this liberal democracy that we hold dear, that we must defend and strengthen, it is the forging of citizens through knowledge, culture and science that is being played out in our Europe. 

To be European is to believe that there is essentially nothing more important than to be a free individual, endowed with reason and knowledge. At a time when skepticism, conspiracy theories and doubts about science and scientific authority are flourishing, we have a responsibility as Europeans to defend and teach it as well as defending free and open science, to share. We will fight this battle on an international level, but we must also strengthen our instruments. Seven years ago, I proposed the creation of University alliances. More than fifty have been created thanks to university presidents, students and professors, and I would like to thank you all. These alliances enable us to structure the circulation of knowledge and exchanges. We need to move on to a second stage: consolidating funding, as well as strengthening integration and moving towards fully joint European degrees. European excellence also lies in a certain savoir-faire. That’s why we need to increase the Erasmus program for apprenticeships and vocational training tenfold, with a target of at least 15% of apprentices in European mobility by 2030. 

Conveying this spirit also means creating alliances of European museums and libraries to facilitate partnerships, encourage digitization and improve circulation and access to works and books in Europe. Conveying this European spirit also means spreading a common imagination. In this respect, I would like to see ARTE, Europe’s leading audiovisual platform, become a platform for all Europeans, able to offer even more high-quality content than it does today, distributed in all languages throughout Europe. We want to promote the richness of our European cultural heritage, encourage the learning of European languages, and defend our model of copyright protection and funding for artistic creation, as we have successfully cemented in recent years. So, beyond Erasmus, and the Erasmus for apprentices, in a very concrete way, as Enrico Letta pointed out in his report, is the ability to travel by train throughout Europe. Our capital cities are not yet properly connected. The Interrail Pass is a success. It must now be backed up by a Europe of trains, which is as much a connection project as it is a cultural project; in other words, it’s a project for the movement of students, young people and knowledge between capitals. And for my part, I hope that it will be based on the Europeanization of the Pass Culture, which is not a French invention. You all know how much we enjoy being proud of ourselves, but this is an invention of Matteo Renzi, which we have copied. We tried to improve it, and several others followed, and that’s what Europe is all about, drawing inspiration from good examples. But now we need to make it widely available, because the Pass Culture offers tremendous access for young people and for many families.

As you can see, we are still very ambitious about this Europe of knowledge, culture and intelligence. But we also have to defend it in the present moment. Because we are here today, in this university, in a physical place where we can exchange ideas under the auspices of great minds 3 , in a time and a civility we are familiar with; but no one can ignore that our lives today are happening in another space, even more so that of our children and our teenagers — the digital space.

This is something we Europeans have no control over. In this space, first of all, we don’t produce enough content – that’s part of the ambition I’m talking about and defending – but we don’t even make the rules anymore. This is a profound, anthropological, civilisational change. When children today spend hours in front of screens, when teenagers discover culture, intimacy and emotional life through these screens and the content they can be exposed to, when democratic debate is structured in this space, this digital space that we inhabit most of the time, are we Europeans serious about delegating it to others? No.

And I’m deliberately telling you that this is a cultural and civilisational battle. Because this is where our democracy really comes into play; this is where our public opinion is forged. A democracy in which the vote is free is formidable. But if that vote is influenced, if opinions are distorted, if decisions are changed by the policies of one party or another, what kind of democracy do we have? So I say to you very strongly: this is not a technical issue, it’s not a public policy issue. The ability to create a democratic, digital public order is for us a matter of survival.

It’s a question of survival, of defending our humanism. Today there are basically two models. There’s the Anglo-Saxon model, which in fact chooses to delegate this living space to private decisions: we’ll evolve, but we believe in it. There are these big companies that have social networks and platforms; they have algorithms where it all seems very complicated, but we consumers like it, it seems efficient. It’s a choice that puts the citizen in a subordinate position to the consumer. Then you have another choice, that of control, which means that in the face of this disorder, we control. This is the state takeover in China, but also in several authoritarian powers that are moving towards this model.

The humanist model that Europe must develop – and it can only exist in Europe – is a model that creates a democratic order, which means transparency and fairness, where we debate and choose the rules. That’s why I want to defend a Europe of the digital majority at the age of 15. Before the age of 15, there must be parental control of access to this digital space, because if we don’t control the content, access is the source of all kinds of risks and distortions of the mind and justifies all kinds of hatred. We have to do it, as we do with our children, and I say this with a great deal of common sense. Does anybody send their child into the jungle at the age of 5, 10, 12? I don’t think anybody in their right mind would. We protect them within the family; we accompany them to  school, hand them over to trustworthy people who will educate them. Then, when we can, we organise activities so that he can learn more and become emancipated. And today, for a few hours a day, we open the door to the jungle. And the same child can fall prey to cyberbullying; and the same child can fall prey to pornographic content and child pornography. That’s what this space is, because it’s not regulated and it’s not moderated. Do you want me to tell you how many French-speaking moderators each of these platforms and networks has? Some don’t even have ten. We need to take back control of the lives of our children and teenagers in Europe and impose the digital majority at the age of 15, not before, and require platforms to moderate or shut down certain websites.

And we must then, much more passionately, re-civilise the digital space. Where we ban racist, anti-Semitic and hateful speech, we must ban it with equal vigour in the digital space, where the presumption of anonymity leads to the disinhibition of hatred. This is a civilisational and democratic battle. We must fight it as Europeans. It is essential, and I put it here, at the heart of the battle we must wage.

And, of course, our European humanism is also a humanism of dignity and justice. We love freedom and knowledge, but we also have a unique sense of justice and equality. This is what distinguishes us from other continents.

Equality between women and men is at the heart of this project. In Europe, we have achieved a lot in terms of work-life balance, parents, carers, pay transparency, equal pay and so on. Today, I would like us to go further by enshrining the right to abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, as we have done in our Constitution. Because equality between women and men is at the heart of this humanist project, it is at the heart of what makes Europe what it is.

This Europe is also based on social cohesion, on the will to build a cohesive society. In keeping with the legacy of Jacques Delors and his European programme to help the most disadvantaged, I propose the creation of a European solidarity programme, supported by the European Social Fund, to support Member States’ initiatives to combat all forms of insecurity and to provide social support for the transitions we are undergoing.

And so Europe must also equip itself with new instruments to support people and regions in this social transition; this is essential. Let’s protect and support Europeans with this policy of justice and a guarantee of a Europe that allows them to exercise all their rights: freedom of movement, accessibility, the fight against discrimination and progress.

And when we talk about justice, I’m not going to discuss the debate, which I think is very lively, on the taxation of income — because it’s a good debate when we see the accumulation of wealth in this globalised world that we live in – but I am convinced that it’s not a debate that we have to have at European level; it’s a debate that we have to take to the international level, as we have done with the minimum tax and as France has managed to do. That is why, with President Lula, we have built this alliance for the taxation of very high incomes within the G20, and why it is within the G20, on the scale of the enlarged OECD, that we must fight this existential battle.

At its core, this European humanism, this “certain idea of Europe” that George Steiner spoke of, is made up of very sensitive things: this idea of the freedom of the rule of law, this desire to preserve knowledge and culture, this relationship with equality that I mentioned.But it is in fact this Europe of the cafés, of our capitals, which has so many layers, and it is the constant tension we have between the heritage to be handed down and the modernity that shakes things up. That is why our Europe is always caught in this tension, but it has something to say about it.

It has its say by continuing to defend our culture and its dissemination, as I mentioned, by defending its uniqueness, the dialogue between its universities, its places of social interaction, its cafés, as well as being this piece of land that has decided to protect its landscapes. And I believe that the ambition that we must have and that we have begun to have for our forests, our seas and our oceans is to be thought of as such.It’s not some kind of fad, some kind of disembodied modernism that wants to throw ecology into everything, because that’s how I sometimes hear it characterised. No. Protecting our forests, protecting our biodiversity, protecting our seas and oceans is just a way for us European humanists to measure that we know how to count to three: the generation before us, the generation after us and our own; and that our Europe is a treasure that we have inherited and that we are going to pass on. None of what I’ve just said can be achieved by eliminating natural resources that are not replaceable, and that’s why the objective of biodiversity, the objective of protecting our forests, our oceans and everything else that we have to develop in the policies that we have to implement for our Europe, is an objective that is above all humanist.

I say this also because I’m not one of those who believe that nature has superior rights to man. For me, European humanism means protecting nature because it is part of our balance and part of what has been handed down to us, but doing so as humanists for ourselves and our children.


Ladies and gentlemen, I know I have been too long, but there is so much more to say. And I am well aware that at the end of this speech some people will criticise me for not talking enough about the African continent, our neighbourhood, treaty reform and modernisation, and everything else I haven’t said.

Europe is a never-ending conversation. It’s also a project that knows no borders. From a philosophical and civilisational point of view, it’s true. We must never forget that the abduction of Europe was carried out by a Greek god in lands that were supposed to be Asian. There’s a kind of ambiguity there, and that’s why it never ends. 

Right here, at the Sorbonne, Ernest Renan asked what a nation was. 

And the time has come for Europe to ask itself what it intends to become.

For me, talking about Europe is always talking about France. As you have seen, we are living in a decisive moment. Our Europe could die, as I said, and it could die by a ruse of history. The fact is that it has achieved a great deal in recent decades; the fact is that European ideas have won the Gramscian battle; the fact is that the nationalist movements throughout Europe no longer dare to say that they are going to leave the euro and the Union. But they’ve got us all used to the “yes-but” approach: “I’ll take everything Europe has done, but I’ll make it simpler; I’ll do it by not respecting the rules, by flouting its foundations”. Essentially, they’re not proposing to get out of the building or to demolish it; they’re just proposing not to have any more co-ownership regulations, not to invest, not to pay rent. And they say: “this will work”. And the risk is that all the others get scared and say: “The nationalists, the anti-Europeans, are very strong everywhere in our countries”. It’s normal, there’s fear, there’s anger in these moments of shock that we’re experiencing, precisely because our fellow citizens, all over Europe, feel that we could die or disappear.

The answer lies not in timidity, but in boldness. The answer is not to say, “They’re on the rise everywhere”, but to say, “We have a choice”. This year, the British will choose their future, the Americans will choose their future; on June 9th, the Europeans will do the same.

But the choice is not to do what we’ve always done, it’s not just to adapt. It’s about embracing new paradigms. Following Voltaire, I know it’s difficult to be optimistic — for some people it’s even a question of credibility. But it’s a form of optimism of will.

Yes, I believe we can regain control of our lives, of our destiny, through the power, prosperity and humanism of our Europe. And at a time of uncertainty, to quote Hannah Arendt in the Human Condition: “Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.”

What I propose is that, on the strength of our clear-sightedness, we make these few great promises for Europe over the coming decade, and fight hard to keep them. Then we may have a chance of knowing the future. In any case, we will have fought to choose ours.

Vive l’Europe ! Vive la République et vive la France !


  1. This is a reference to Fabrice Leggeri, the former Executive Director of Frontex, who is running for the French far-right Rassemblement National in the European elections.
  2. Reference to Letta’s report on the Single Market.
  3. In the Sorbonne Grand Amphitheatre, six alcoves are home to statues of Robert de Sorbon, Descartes, Lavoisier, Rollin, Pascal and Richelieu.
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Emmanuel Macron, Emmanuel Macron: Europe—It Can Die. A New Paradigm at The Sorbonne, Apr 2024,

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