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Macron pitches ‘made in Europe’ to guarantee prosperity in ‘Sorbonne II’ speech



“Europe could die,” French President Emmanuel Macron warned in his speech on the future of the EU at Sorbonne University on Thursday (25 April), stressing the importance of an industry ‘Made in Europe’, particularly in sectors like energy and digital.

“We must be clear about the fact that our Europe today is mortal…It can die, and that depends solely on our choices. But these choices have to be made now,” he told the 500-person audience, which included ministers, French Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, former prime minister Elisabeth Borne, and the leader of the Democratic Movement (MoDem, Renew), François Bayrou.

In an almost two-hour speech, seven years after his first EU speech in the same hall, Macron also unveiled his 10-year vision for Europe as the campaign for the upcoming European elections is in full swing.

Disentangling Europe from the US

Macron reiterated support for rapidly developing the bloc’s defence industry through a new round of joint debt, agreed to prioritise production outputs to Ukraine, and called for greater “strategic intimacy” between different armies but fell short of calling for a European army.

He also warned that regarding defence, “Europe is no longer a priority for Washington.”

He praised the adoption of the EU Migration Pact, stating Europe is taking its security seriously and “regaining control over its borders” while sidestepping the topic of enlargement and any talk of treaty reform.

“Made in Europe” strategy

Macron stressed the need to work on a “Made in Europe” strategy and develop a European industry in key areas.

While it was “a dirty word seven years ago”, Macron stressed that “industrial policy is a key milestone for our prosperity.”

To achieve this, Macron favours “producing more” and “producing green”, particularly in five strategic areas where Europe must become a leader by 2030: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, space, biotechnology, and energy.

Macron also explained his support for Enrico Letta’s proposals for greater European integration of the energy and telecommunications sectors.

A ‘Europe of the atom’

On energy, Macron said the EU bloc should become a leader in hydrogen production, small nuclear reactor development, and nuclear fusion.

The French president is pushing to deploy small modular reactors (SMRs). Industry players have formed an industrial alliance to pool resources and ensure that small modular reactors (SMR) technologies are deployed as quickly as possible, with the support of the European Commission.

According to the press release published after his speech, Macron has made it clear that he wants to build a “Europe of the atom “by guaranteeing European sovereignty over the entire cycle and by building a European reactor offer.

A ‘European preference’ for critical sectors

Speaking of recent successes of EU initiatives to boost industry, Macron praised the EU’s recently adopted Chips Act and Raw Materials Act, which aim to return semiconductor production to the bloc and secure certain supply chains for critical materials, respectively, calling for the method to be “extended” to other strategic sectors.

Macron also wants to invest in computing capacity, a prerequisite for developing artificial intelligence in Europe, and increase the continent’s computing capacity. He also wants to consolidate the Ariane 6 project, “a prerequisite for European access to space”.

Referring to the Buy American Act, which introduced a national preference for US public procurement, Macron called for a “European preference” in critical sectors, including energy, space, and artificial intelligence.

Macron said he wants to “simplify and broaden (technological and industrials projects)” the scope of the “the Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI)” which are too slow to produce results and unable to compete with the Americans and Chinese.

Simplification, simplification, simplification

According to Macron, the European bloc must “stop over-regulation, increase our investments, change our rules and better protect our interests.”

In other words, he advocates a review of accounting and administrative thresholds and obligations for very small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe—a proposal taken up by Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire.

Macron also wants to devote 3% of Europe’s GDP to research and strengthen the Horizon Europe research funding programme.

Echoing the Versailles agenda

However, Macron’s “Made in Europe” push is simply the continuation of a strategy laid out in Versailles during the French EU Council presidency in March 2022, Macron added.

In Versailles, Macron announced that EU member states had “agreed to encourage the creation of new industrial alliances”, such as those between industry and the Commission, created that year for solar energy, hydrogen and nuclear.

In addition, the EU has already made progress in certain areas and recently adopted the Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA), which aims to stimulate European industry to meet the continent’s demand for clean technologies.

On the topic of the European Industrial Deal, as called for and supported by a number of leading industrialists and politicians in the Antwerp Declaration presented in May 2023, Macron did not identify a legislative instrument that would encompass his ambitions.

“Nobody is really clear on this issue at the moment,” the office of French Industry Minister Roland Lescure told the European press on Tuesday (23 April).

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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