Macron Advocates For A ‘Sovereign’ Europe, Stresses Defence And Clean Energy Cooperation

Europe must transition towards greater sovereignty in defence, clean energy generation and essential technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), quantum and semiconductors, announced President Emmanuel Macron of France in his address to global business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024. 

It is vital that Europe creates more well-paid jobs to help people embrace the future transition with hope, he said. To achieve this, European countries must focus more on investment and less on regulation, with an economic agenda based on innovation and industrialization. “This is absolutely critical if we want to avoid a big crisis,” said Macron, adding that “it will take a decade to do so.”

The president emphasized that his vision of a more sovereign Europe is one of “balanced equilibrium”. This does not mean ending partnerships, but rather “not to be over-dependent in critical areas of your value chains and on some geographies.” 

Europe is lagging behind on competitiveness compared to the US and China, both of which are investing heavily in new technologies, Macron said. He highlighted the challenge Europe faces in light of US President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, a move which “does not quite comply with world trade rules,” he said. Nevertheless, Europe must respond by investing much more in clean technologies. 

He also said France will lead the way on competitiveness by carrying out further labour market reforms to make unemployment benefit rules tougher and simplifying hiring, as well as streamlining permits for renewable energy. The president said he would advocate for a deeper union of Europe’s capital markets to enable the continent’s extensive savings to be more effectively allocated.

Macron’s vision of a more sovereign Europe is informed by recent crises, including COVID-19, Russia’s war with Ukraine, and tensions between the US and China, which exposed the continent’s dependence on other countries for energy, defence support and technology. “We are now reaching a watershed moment,” he said, adding that “2024 will be the year when European countries and the EU will be in a position to decide if we want to be sovereign or not.”

On defence, the president hailed the beginnings of a common programme between France and Germany in response to the war in Ukraine. “We were able to build the foundations of a Europe defence strategy that was unthinkable six or seven years ago,” he said. 

On energy, Macron said France already has one of Europe’s cheapest, most stable and low-carbon grids, with around 70% of electricity coming from nuclear power. The president announced the construction of 14 new nuclear reactors as part of France’s push to net zero. “By 2027, we will get rid of coal,” he highlighted.