Published: Wed, August 29, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

France's Macron urges Europe to take charge of own defence

France's Macron urges Europe to take charge of own defence

Though the French president did not make environmental issues a major part of his election manifesto past year, he subsequently attempted to push environmental issues to the forefront as a symbol of progressive politics and to counter Donald Trump's decision to take the United States out of the Paris climate accord.

Macron's visit coincided with political turbulence at home, as France's well-known environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, unexpectedly announced his resignation, citing frustration with a lack of action from European and global leaders.

"This may not be the right protocol, but if I had warned them they might have talked me out of it yet again", Hulot said.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday (27 August) called for Europe to stop relying on the United States for its military defence as he pushed for fresh European Union integration in the face of rising nationalism around the continent.

Hulot spoke highly of President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe: "The Prime Minister, the President of the Republic were always affectionate and loyal to me over the last 14 months".

But the centrist president has watered down a series of campaign pledges on the environment, including a commitment to cut the share of nuclear power in French electricity to 50% by 2025 and boost renewable energy.

Nicolas Hulot, one of the most respected members of the cabinet among the French public, took even his interviewers by surprise on the France Inter radio station when announcing his move.

Hulot, a TV celebrity and veteran environmental activist, joined Macron's government in May previous year and has since struggled to fit in with other members of the cabinet and its general policies. He acknowledged in his interview that "France is doing more than a lot of other countries", as translated by The Associated Press.

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At the diplomatic level, Macron is struggling to convince his European partners of the need for a more integrated EU and his efforts to build a relationship with US President Donald Trump have yielded few concrete results.

"I don't understand why he is stepping down when we had many successes in the first year that are to his credit", spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told BFM Television.

Macron's latest comments during a major foreign policy address to French ambassadors appeared to be a rebuke to Putin, who is Assad's biggest backer.

The TV star was left disappointed when the government backtracked on a target to cut back on nuclear power, while European Union negotiations on pesticides were another source of frustration.

He was widely reported to be close to quitting in February after media reports that he had been accused in the 1990s of rape, which he denied. Hulot said lobbies had too much power over the French government.

Macron's record on the environment is mixed.

He had also sought a legal ban on the controversial weedkiller glyphosate but was overruled by the agriculture ministry, which preferred negotiating directly with farmers and industry.

Hulot was apparently frustrated with the "small steps" being made on climate change, adding that he had been told to be patient; "but we have been patient for 30 years".

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