SENIOR German conservative Manfred Weber has urged French President Emmanuel Macron to “listen” to anti-establishment protesters, stressing that European citizens should play a key role in shaping government policy.
The yellow vest crisis – which started as a protest against fuel tax hikes and morphed into an anti-Macron rebellion – could mark a shift towards the extremes and boost populism. Asked to comment on France’s yellow vest crisis, Mr Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, told AFP Mr Macron, like all reformists, faces the tricky “question of social treatment,” and how to deal with the social impact of economic reform. He said: “I am fully in favour of reform projects… but these must be implemented in an inclusive manner, by involving the people [affected] more directly. This is an issue that we must respond to, at national and European level.”
Involving citizens in policy making and listening to their concerns is “crucial for the political future” of Europe, Mr Weber continued.
The German MEP also hailed the French centrist’s europhile credentials, saying that a France run by a pro-EU president was “good for Europe”.
Mr Weber also commented on the upcoming European Parliament elections in May, saying that the vote would pit those who say “yes” to more Europe against those who say “no”.
He said: “Too many extremists – both from the far-left and the far-right – are opposed to the idea of working together on the European level,” he said, citing France as an example.
“If you vote for [French far-right leader Marine] Le Pen, you will get more insecurity and uncertainty. Europe, however, promises certainty.”
May’s parliamentary elections are shaping up to be a battle between pro-Europe forces under the leadership of Mr Macron and populist, radical eurosceptics led by Mrs Le Pen and Italy’s Matteo Salvini.
An Ifop poll of voter intentions published in November – the most recent to date – showed Mrs Le Pen’s Rassemblement national (RN) party winning the most French seats in the European parliament, and moving ahead of Mr Macron’s La République en Marche for the first time.
Mr Macron, for his part, has been struggling to keep the lid on the biggest political crisis of his 20-month presidency, which has put his EU campaign plans on the back burner.