French President Emmanuel Macron Back With Calls For EU 'Renaissance' Ahead Of May Vote

French President Emmanuel Macron Back With Calls for EU 'Renaissance' Ahead of May Vote

French President Emmanuel Macron was back this week with more plans of EU "renaissance" after months of grassroots yellow vest protests kept him focused on matters at hand

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 08th March, 2019) French President Emmanuel Macron was back this week with more plans of EU "renaissance" after months of grassroots yellow vest protests kept him focused on matters at hand.

But with 77 days left until the European Parliament election, Macron renewed his calls for EU unity in defiance of what the experts called a "Brexit-Trumpian discourse" of the EU project's failure.

The European vote in May is largely regarded as a test for that unity, with pro-EU politicians fearing the rise of right-wing parties, whose surging popularity might redefine the whole of the European politics.

In his opinion piece, published in various media outlets across Europe, Macron outlined a range of reforms to secure the future of the European Union, including stronger EU border controls, a European climate bank, an agency to protect the bloc from cyberattacks, and a ban on foreign powers funding political parties.

Paul Smith, associate professor in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Nottingham, believes that the upcoming election will have a very personal touch for Macron, who is trying to rebuild his image at home by being on the forefront of the pro-EU battle on the most sensitive issues, such as migration, climate and security.

"The gilets jaunes [yellow vest] movement has also made it very personal and the campaign will run in parallel with the final weeks of the grand debate and the outcome of that. In France, at least, I think we are expecting this European election to have a very strong domestic flavor. Macron is fighting, as you know, against a Brexit-Trumpian discourse of the failure of the EU and amidst all the noise it's difficult to hear a different view," Smith said.

The scholar explained that in his article Macron tried to appease both those who fear immigration and those who yearn for a more just Europe.

"Macron's letter speaks of the achievements of the EU but also the way ahead in institutional terms, on the one hand trying to assuage the fears of the Schengen-sceptics and on the other talking of Europe as a bloc against tax evasion, social exploitation, defense and so forth," he said.

The issue of cyberattacks became widely used in politics recently, with different sides trying to pile the blame on each other, often being unable to provide any proof.

With attribution being difficult, alleged cyberattacks can become a dangerous tool in geopolitics, believes Kevin Curran, professor of cybersecurity at Ulster University's Faculty of Computing, Engineering & Built Environment.

"Attribution is always difficult. Any country can make a cyber-attack look like it originated from another geographical region. Of course, with enough resources, any country should be able to ascertain the true origin, but very few countries have the resource to do so for all attacks," Curran explained.

At the same time he dismissed far-fetched concerns that media campaigns and manipulations involving information, including data obtained by hackers, can undermine democracy.

"I firmly believe the influence on elections by nation states is truly exaggerated. If it was so easy, then the fools who were manipulated deserved to be. Also, by default, there might be other countries equally conducting influence campaigns so that the two 'dumb sides' would cancel each other," he said.

Furthermore, hacking any government will mostly give you mundane messages, Curran argued. In case of the European Union, a lot of its communication is subject to open disclosure anyway. The exception is the military as there is always useful intelligence to be gathered from infiltration in that area, he added.

"I fail to see how targeting politicians gains any country much leverage ... Yes, there can be serious information gained by such attacks but there are much more attractive avenues within state espionage than simply targeting politicians or government departments," he said.

He added that the idea behind a body proposed by Macron is ultimate information sharing between the member states if the countries trust each other enough to do so.

"Ultimately, they share information with each other. They can also diversify so that each country specializes in certain areas. This does avoid redundancy so efficiencies can be achieved. In fact, this should be the main motivation to establish such a force... provided of course each member of the alliance trusts each other," Curran said.

Macron also called to ban foreign powers from financing political parties in Europe. Smith believes that would be difficult to implement given the legislation differs between the countries.

"The ban on funding of political parties is a tricky issue, given that different states have very different rules about party funding and different institutions. And even when a given political system has really tough measure in place and institutions to defend them (as France does) the same is not true everywhere," he said.

Smith interpreted Macron's proposal as a "strong warning" for outside powers wanting to intervene in EU domestic politics through political parties.

"One can see an argument for a European agency being established to handle this because the problem is clearly now right across the board in the EU ... I don't think Macron wants the whole of Europe to roll out a French-style funding model for parties, but tighter oversight and co-ordination of checking up would help," he said.

"One problem I see with this is that while one can accuse the gilets jaunes of seeing conspiracies everywhere, the same might be true of seeing foreign money behind every political party," Smith added.

Russia has been frequently referred to whenever foreign intervention in EU politics has been brought up by the European Commission and separate EU leaders. Moscow has denied these claims. The Russian envoy to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, has accused the bloc of blaming Russia for meddling in the May polls before they even began.