EU Slams Concessions to Yellow Vests, Demands Macron Deliver Progressive Agenda

EU Commissioner of Digital Economy & Society Gunther Oettinger gives a joint press with the EU Commission president after a college meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels on February 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
VIRGINIA HALE

Emmanuel Macron has “lost authority” after offering concessions to protesters, the European Commission has complained, urging the French president to plough ahead with “crucial” neoliberal reforms.

Brussels will allow France to exceed the bloc’s 3 per cent deficit limit with its budget as a one-off this year, EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger told the German press on Thursday.

Asked whether Macron would remain a beacon of hope for European federalists while “his own people rise against him”, Oettinger lamented that the globalist French leader had “lost authority with his budget for 2019”, before stressing: “But he remains a strong supporter of the European Union.”

Earlier this month, Macron introduced a number measures including the rolling back of punishing ‘green’ levies and easing the tax burden of struggling retirees following weeks of protest by the Yellow Vests over the rising cost of living, and in the face of plummeting approval ratings.

While acknowledging that the concessions, which put the French budget deficit on course to hit 3.5 per cent this year, are against EU rules, Oettinger said Brussels would “tolerate” the 2019 budget “as a one-time exception”, adding: “It is crucial Macron continues his reform agenda, especially in the labor market, and that France continues on the path of growth.”

The Commissioner also commented that the chance of Britain remaining within the European Union had “somewhat increased” in recent months, telling the Funke media group that — under a no-deal Brexit — the UK would become “a third country like Morocco or Azerbaijan”.

Oettinger’s greenlighting of the French budget despite its failure to stick within the bloc’s deficit ceiling is likely to anger the Italian government, whose plans to run a budget with a 2.4 per cent deficit to GDP ratio were rejected by Brussels.

Furthermore a minister within the populist government, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Italian media last month that Macron was the driving force behind EU pressure to punish the Eurosceptic nation.

The European Commission has taken a particularly hard line on Italy and its budget in recent months, with Oettinger having claimed in September that politicians in the southern EU state were wanting to “destroy” the bloc.

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