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Wanting to Reshape Europe, Macron Heads East
International

Wanting to Reshape Europe, Macron Heads East

While Britain toils over its messy divorce with the European Union, France’s president Emmanuel Macron is embarking on a drive to deepen the economic integration of a bloc he says needs to be more protective of its citizens.
The French leader will embark this week on a three-day tour of central and eastern Europe, where he will seek backers for his push to tighten labor rules over ‘posted’ workers, a sensitive issue that has exacerbated an east-west rift, Reuters reported.
Days later, euro zone reforms, defense cooperation and immigration will be in focus when Macron hosts the leaders of Germany, Spain and Italy for talks, as he tries to enhance France’s leadership in Europe.
Paris has long complained that central and eastern Europe gains an unfair advantage from the “social dumping” of cheap labor, arguing the posting of low-paid workers hurts local jobs and erodes labor protections in higher-wage member states.
Although posted workers make up less than 1% of the EU workforce, with many employed in the haulage and construction sectors, the issue has deepened a divide between the poor east and rich west.
Macron will visit Romania, Bulgaria and Austria, where he will also meet the leaders of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but is skipping Hungary and Poland, whose right-wing governments he has accused of spurning the bloc’s values.
An Elysee Palace source said Macron was visiting countries that were “the most attached to their European anchoring”.
A senior French diplomat said the president was deliberately snubbing Poland and Hungary “to send a message to Warsaw and Budapest”.
Macron’s election win has re-energized the EU’s Franco-German axis but in central and eastern Europe it has fanned fears of a “multi-speed” Europe that could mean reduced influence, financial support and economic competitiveness.
The diplomat said Macron wanted to reassure the leaders he meets that the future of their countries would remain at the heart of the European project if they fall in line with the broad reform agenda led by Paris and Berlin.

 

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