After so many blows to the EU, the French president is seeking to reinvigorate the spirit that once brought the continent together

The speech Emmanuel Macron delivered on Tuesday about the future of Europe could easily have been anticipated as an exercise in wishful thinking, or just another attempt to boost EU morale. Speaking only two days after the German election had rattled nerves with a far-right surge, the French president was well aware that his words – and especially the way he would lay out his plans for deeper eurozone integration – would be scrutinised, at a time when Angela Merkel’s prospective coalition partners wouldn’t all necessarily be keen to endorse them.

For all its potential pitfalls, this was a welcome, forward-looking speech for the continent. The Brexit vote, Donald Trump, migration and the rise of populism have delivered blows to the EU. Even if the club’s economic prospects seem to be improving, its fragility remains real. Europe’s neighbourhood, conflicts in the Middle East, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey are all sources of concern.

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