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France's Macron urges defence of democracy in EU

President Macron in European Parliament, Strasbourg, 17 Apr 18Image copyright EPA
Image caption President Macron triumphed in France on a strongly pro-EU platform

French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Europeans to resist rising authoritarianism and renew their commitment to democracy.

"I don't want to belong to a generation of sleepwalkers that has forgotten its own past," he told the European Parliament, in a passionate speech.

"I want to belong to a generation that chose to defend its democracy."

In Strasbourg he is launching a series of debates with voters, aimed at re-engaging them with the European Union.

He warned that "there seems to be a European civil war, where nationalism and egotism takes precedence over what brings us together". He condemned what he called "a fascination with the illiberal".

  • Macron's meteoric rise – in depth
  • What are French President Macron's policies?

Last year Mr Macron and his new liberal party, La République en Marche (LREM), triumphed in French elections with a strongly pro-EU platform.

His second-round rival in the presidential election was National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen, a nationalist and fierce critic of the EU.

What challenges does the EU face?

Mr Macron's set-piece speech in Strasbourg set out his vision for democratic renewal in the EU, at a time of growing nationalism in the 28-nation bloc.

This month Hungary's right-wing leader Viktor Orban, another arch-critic of EU policies, won a new two-thirds majority in parliament.

There is much nervousness in the EU about Russian influence on European voters, with many examples of fake news spreading in social media – often blamed on supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

MEPs applauded Mr Macron when he said democracy "is a word with meaning, which emerged from the battles of the past".

He faces a big challenge ahead of the 2019 European elections as his LREM party does not belong to any of the main groups in the European Parliament.

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