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Monday December 9th, 2019 10:14PM

The Latest: Hungarian govt dismisses Macron's EU call

By The Associated Press
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PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the French president's call for a stronger European Union (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

The Hungarian government is dismissing French President Emmanuel Macron's call for voters to reject nationalists in May's European Parliament elections.

In response to a column by Macron published Tuesday across the continent, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government said the French leader was a "pro-immigration politician" attacking those, like Orban, who are opposed to immigration.

The Hungarian government said "Macron ... believes immigration is good. We believe it is bad."

Orban's office also accused Macron of censorship, claiming he called for the banning of "posters of the opponents of immigration."

In recent weeks, the Hungarian government has been waging a media campaign against EU leaders and their supposedly pro-immigration position. Billboards and ads show European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros above the caption "You, too, have the right to know what Brussels is planning to do."

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4:50 p.m.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis says he is not impressed with French President Emmanuel Macron's push to persuade voters they should support parties that will strengthen the European Union.

Babis said after newspapers across Europe published an opinion column by Macron on Tuesday: "I don't like it at all. "I don't think it goes in the right direction. I'm surprised by the call."

In his column, the French leader offered ideas for safeguarding elections, managing migration, and making Europe a leader in combating climate change.

Babis told The Associated Press he thinks the EU should focus on fundamental issues, such as defense and making the bloc's common trading market work better.

He doesn't expect other Czechs to react positively to Macron's views, but "quite the contrary."

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3:45 p.m.

France's European affairs minister says President Emmanuel Macron's column as a "realistic assessment about the state of Europe."

Nathalie Loiseau told BFM TV that "we cannot be in the status quo, in conservatism, and we have never needed Europe as much as now. Many share this view."

She said the Brexit made the U.K. a "distraught country" with a "confused political class."

Macron's column, published in newspapers in the 28 EU member countries, calls for European renewal and alleges that that "lie" and "irresponsibility" led to Britain's scheduled departure from the EU at the end of the month.

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2:30 p.m.

Germany's vice chancellor is welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron's call for reform of the European Union, saying that Europe needs to be strong to avoid being pushed around.

Olaf Scholz, who is also Germany's finance minister, told the Funke newspaper group Tuesday that Macron "has sent a determined signal for cohesion in Europe." He said "it is important that we are sovereign and strong so that we are not pushed around in the world."

Scholz added: "I see us right beside Paris when it comes to reforms for a Europe that is capable of acting and a stable euro."

Germany and France are the traditional motors of European integration, but their cooperation has often been marred by disagreement. Scholz is a senior figure in the center-left Social Democratic Party, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's fractious governing coalition.

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1:40 p.m.

The European Commission is welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron's appeal for a "European renaissance," though it says it has already been working for years on many of the ideas he raised.

Chief spokesman for the EU's executive body, Margaritis Schinas, on Tuesday read a list of ideas the commission and its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, have been developing since their term started in 2014.

They ranged from border guard and asylum agencies to security and food safety proposals or tackling climate change.

Schinas said: "For a European renaissance, France and the Commission are fighting the same fight."

He conceded that any moves requiring changes to the EU's founding treaties can only be decided "among our member states. These are the owners of the treaties."

___

This version corrects that Schinas is male, not female.

___

12:20 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron's plea for a stronger European Union went out to publications "of record" in 28 nations, but didn't always get prime placement.

In Hungary, whose President Viktor Orban has been a frequent target of Macron, it was published online only in the independent business weekly HVG.

In The Guardian in Britain, it disappeared from the international home page by midday and was deep in an inside section in the paper edition.

And in Poland, where the right-wing government is calling for greater autonomy from Brussels' decisions, Macron's column was published by the respected nationwide Rzeczpospolita daily.

The headline was on the front page but the full text was published on page 12, as an opinion column, without any comments.

___

10:40 a.m.

The German government says it's important for pro-European forces to set out their ideas for the future of the European Union but isn't offering any immediate assessment of details of French President Emmanuel Macron's latest reform proposals.

The government said in a brief emailed response Tuesday to a query on Macron's plea to voters to choose a stronger EU: "It is important for the pro-European forces to set out their concepts before the European election. The German government supports active discussion on the direction of the European Union."

Alexander Gauland, the co-leader of the far-right opposition Alternative for Germany party, charged that Macron's "proposals for a 'renewal' of the EU would ultimately lead to yet more rules and bureaucracy and further limit the sovereignty of member states." He said that "that will worsen the crisis of the EU."

Gauland said that "the bigger the problems become in France, the more Macron plays global statesman."

___

9:45 a.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron's plea in the publications of 28 nations for a stronger European Union has gained support from neighboring Belgium and Finland.

In a tweet Tuesday, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila offered support for Macron's call for "security, sustainable growth and ambitious climate policy."

Sipila added that people needed to see "the EU that is capable of making decisions and implementing them."

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said he particularly hoped for "a Europe that protects liberty and democracy," according to the agency Belga.

But in France, where Macron's popularity has dipped since his election, there was skepticism.

Nadine Morano of the opposition Republicans said that "in this column, the word France appears just once. This is Macronism — France has to disappear into this European federalism."

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