A New Expression Emerges — ‘To Do a Macron’ — and Here’s What It Means

The ends toward which the French president’s industriousness is aimed are not yet clear.

Gonzalo Fuentes; pool via AP
President Macron on April 24, 2022. Gonzalo Fuentes; pool via AP

The Kremlin’s political talking heads have a new term — макронить, roughly translated, “to do a Macron,” or “to telephone constantly for no reason.” “What is there to talk about?” asked the pro-Kremlin pundit, Vladimir Solovyov, during his prime time broadcast this week.

The Ukrainians have also appropriated President Emmanuel Macron’s name to coin the verb “macronete” in Ukrainian, “macroner” in French. The neologism broadly implies, “to be worried about a situation, but to do nothing.” 

Since Vladimir Putin rolled his tanks into Ukraine, Mr. Macron has yet to set foot in Kyiv. He has said that he would do so “when it serves a purpose.” Solidarity with a fellow European state at war with an unruly aggressor is, evidently, insufficient purpose for the Frenchman.

For now, Mr. Macron seems content to stage photo-ops with his German counterpart, Chancellor Scholz. On May 9, the two posed in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, illuminated in Ukraine’s national colors. Quelle solidarité.

Not to suggest that Mr. Macron has done nothing. That is not entirely correct — he has been quite busy. Yet the ends toward which his industriousness is aimed are not yet clear.

In the early days of the war, Mr. Macron embarked on a round of telephone diplomacy with President Putin. The French president has a storied history of engaging with political strongmen. He also believes that a “new Europe” should be forged “not against or without, but with Russia.”

In his closing speech at the Conference on the Future of Europe this week, Mr. Macron warned European leaders against humiliating Mr. Putin. In the very speech, Mr. Macron also proposed a new, “multi-speed Europe,” which would institutionalize varying degrees of integration between European countries.

The most tightly integrated member states would work together, separate from the others, while countries not part of the central bloc would join a looser, “political community.” The French president also suggested that the European Union’s procedures, including the requirement of unanimity among its 27 member states, are hindrances to reform.

“We know that we may not always agree. But we should not fear differentiation … these avant-garde circles do not exclude others, but rather allow those who want to progress a little further to inspire others,” Mr. Macron said.

The next day, he embarked on his first official trip since his re-election –– to Berlin, to meet with Herr Scholz. He later had a telephone exchange with Xi Jinping, with whom Mr. Scholz had spoken a day earlier.

President Macron’s suggestion of a multi-speed Europe is not new. To an extent, a version of it already exists as coalitions of the willing have at times been used to deepen European integration when the EU as a whole had failed to find agreement. The Schengen Agreement, say, was signed in 1985 between five states of what was then the European Community: France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

The notion of a Europe organized in concentric circles is also not novel. The idea was first floated in 1994 by the chairman of Germany’s Christian Democrats, Wolfgang Schäuble, and his party colleague, Karl Lamers. The Schäuble-Lamers Report, as the proposal came to be known, saw the European project at risk of being undermined by “regressive nationalism” from its member states –– particularly those in the east. A “core Europe” –– with France and Germany –– was needed to hasten the integration agenda.

It is also in the Schäuble-Lamers Report that the idea of European sovereignty –– a term frequently used by Mr. Macron in his speeches –– appeared. Messrs. Schäuble and Lamers contended that Europe’s nation-states could only be sovereign through the EU. “They can only obtain sovereignty through the community,” they wrote.

Mr. Macron recited this very line in a speech he gave at Humboldt University in 2017, shortly before his electoral victory. He then also apologized for his predecessor’s unwillingness to take up the Schäuble-Lamers initiative, vowing to work toward its realization when the moment was ripe. That moment, it seems, is now.

“We need to completely rethink the unity of our Europe and even the principles … to which we are all dedicated,” Mr. Macron said in Strasbourg this week. 

The Frenchman’s calls for a “new Europe” dovetail with a proposal put forward last month by Enrico Letta, Italy’s prime minister between 2013 and 2014. Mr. Letta’s suggestion is for a European confederation comprising 36 countries, including Ukraine, that would advance the “European family” and facilitate strategic cooperation on issues such as security and climate. His vision is supported by Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi.

As war rages in Europe, it seems that something is afoot in Europe’s western capitals.

Common to all of these proposals is a revision of the trans-Atlantic partnership and a re-evaluation of the global order –– including a greater push for multilateralism. Mr. Letta made this point apparent in a recent interview with America, a Christian magazine published by America’s Jesuit community. “The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated how important it is to give power to supranational institutions,” he said. Oh, really?

Curiously, greater multilateralism and its distant cousin –– a globally enfeebled America — are also key features of the joint communique issued by Messrs. Putin and Xi. In his exchange with Mr. Macron this week, China’s party boss urged the French president to continue his work toward Europe’s strategic autonomy and sovereignty. Mr. Macron’s official account later tweeted in Mandarin: “We will work together to go further.”

The term “macroner,” or “to do a Macron,” is gaining momentum in some European policy circles. Sometimes its use is tongue-in-cheek, other times less so. Yet as President Macron sets out to redefine Europe and seems willing to align with questionable characters, perhaps another definition should be advanced: “Macroner” — to work toward no good.

The New York Sun

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