Macron humiliated as Frexit calls grow – survey finds just a fifth support EU institution

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The latest Eurobarometer survey issued by the EU Commission and the European Parliament revealed only 36 percent of respondents in the bloc view the institution of the European Parliament as a positive asset to them.

The biggest blow to Strasbourg was, however, delivered by France, where only 22 percent of the people surveyed backed the EU Parliament.

It comes at a time French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing for an ever more integrated EU while his county holds the rotating presidency of the council.

The French leader is pushing for a number of reforms aimed at increasing a united approach in the bloc on defence and security matters.

Last week, Mr Macron said the European Union’s border-free Schengen area should be managed by regular ministerial meetings, just like the eurozone.

He added that the plan could start as soon as next month, as he powers through France’s agenda for the rotating EU presidency.

National security concerns, waves of migration and, most recently, the coronavirus pandemic have led to the re-emergence of border controls in the Schengen area and much criticism of how it functions, eroding what had been hailed as a milestone achievement in Europe’s post-World War Two integration.

Speaking to EU justice and interior ministers, President Macron said what he dubbed the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the border-free area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

He said: “This Council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny.”

The French President said its inaugural meeting could take place when the EU’s justice and home affairs ministers next gather, on March 3.

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Such a proposal would need the support of other member states in the 27-nation bloc to take effect, though French officials say it would not require any change to EU treaties.

The EU has been deeply divided for years in its response to immigration and on how to police Schengen’s common external borders, and it remains to be seen how much France can achieve during its six-month presidency of the EU Council of Ministers – which mostly involves setting the agenda for meetings.

But Mr Macron, who is all but certain to seek re-election as French president in April in a campaign largely dominated by security and identity issues, said he hoped that a step-by-step approach could win over a number of reluctant EU countries.

He said: “We must reform Schengen. There can be no freedom of movement if we do not control our external borders.”

Speaking to Playbook, EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said President Macron’s speech was “encouraging”.

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She said: “Macron’s speech was very encouraging and very inspiring.

“I think France, and Macron personally, is showing great leadership when it comes to Schengen and when it comes to migration.”

She added: “We have millions and millions of people arriving in the Schengen area. Frontex estimated that 39 million arrivals were not checked in the Schengen Information System.

“We really need to strengthen the security of Schengen.”

France has also proposed an emergency response mechanism that could be triggered when the bloc’s external borders are under threat.

Speaking in December, President Macron said: “A sovereign Europe is for me above all a Europe capable of controlling its borders. Often we are too slow to react.”

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