June 21, 2017 / 5:19 PM / 7 months ago

France's Macron says EU states infringing rules should pay the consequences

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said European Union states that spend the bloc’s finances but turn their backs on its principles should feel “the full political consequences”.

In an interview with eight European newspapers, Macron said there were tensions between western and eastern Europe because of their geopolitical backgrounds, but no conflict.

Poland’s nationalist-minded government has been embroiled in a dispute with the EU for over a year after a series of reforms which Brussels says weakens the independence of the judiciary and risk undermining democratic checks and balances.

Meanwhile, Hungary’s crackdown on non-government bodies that criticise government and its overtures to Russia have unsettled fellow EU member states and Brussels, with Prime Minister Viktor Orban one of the most eurosceptic leaders in the bloc.

“European countries that do not respect the rules should pay the full political consequences,” Macron said in the interview, a transcript of which Reuters has seen.

Speaking a day ahead of a European Council summit in Brussels, Macron said the EU would be weakened if it allowed members to flout rules.

“There is a double betrayal. They decide to abandon EU principles, turn their back on Europe and have a cynical approach to the Union which gives them money, without respecting its values,” Macron said.

In the interview which touched on Europe, security and the fight against militant Islam, and the war in Syria, Macron called U.S. President Donald Trump’s policymaking “unpredictable” and a source of discomfort for the world.

He expressed hope that the United States could be brought back into the Paris climate accord.

“I hope that Trump changes his mind. Because everything is linked. We cannot fight against terrorism effectively without taking action on climate change,” Macron said.

Europe, Macron said, needed to adopt a genuine common defence and security policy in order to better protect itself. The bloc needed to be better at defending its borders, dealing with migration and handling asylum demands, he said.

He renewed his call for a euro zone budget, saying the single currency area would be weakened without one, and expressed confidence Germany was not wholly opposed to the idea.

France’s youngest leader since Napoleon, Macron wants to turn the Franco-German couple into a force for closer integration in Europe. But years of French economic underperformance and ambivalence about reforms have sapped German confidence in its neighbour.

“If we want to go to the next phase, we need a deeper integration within the euro zone. And that’s why I vigorously defend the idea of a euro zone budget.”

He added: “My feeling is that Germany is not completely opposed to this.”

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she could think about a euro zone budget if it helped tackle structural reforms.

Macron spoke to The Guardian, Le Figaro, El Pais and Le Temps among others.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Andrew Callus

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