Watch live: Macron to kick off French EU presidency with speech to MEPs in Strasbourg

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Emmanuel Macron is outlining his priorities for Europe in a speech to EU lawmakers on Wednesday to launch the French presidency of the bloc.

You can watch his address live in the video player above.

His 20-minute speech will be followed by a long question-and-answer session with MEPs. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen will not be present after being declared a contact case at Covid-19.

More than ever, the French head of state will present himself as a fervent supporter of the European cause, with “European sovereignty as a common thread”, but “will also speak on behalf of the 27 Member States”, the Elysée said.

France’s Europe minister, Clément Beaune added that Macron’s speech will be filled with “concrete” bill proposals on the themes he outlined in an early December speech including the minimum wage, the reform of the Schengen area to better combat irregular migration and climate change.

On the sensitive subject of the carbon tax at the EU’s borders, “we are fighting for it, I think we will manage” to put it in place, Beaune said, assuring that Germany had given its “agreement in principle”.

An advisor also said that the French leader is expected to “take a step back from the programme of these six months” in the speech to emphasise “the singular path of Europe” including its wish to be “a power of stability” in “a turbulent international context”.

Since his election in 2017, which he celebrated to the sound of the EU anthem, the French president has posed as the leader of the pro-Europeans in the face of “nationalists” and “populists”.

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The latter are focusing their criticism on the issue of immigration, accusing Macron and the Commission of “lacking firmness”.

“In the EU, everything remains to be changed”, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party and Macron’s rival in the upcoming presidential election, said. She once again called for the “re-establishment of permanent controls at national borders”.

On the left, critics focus more on the need to review or end the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), a set of fiscal rules designed to prevent countries in the EU from spending beyond their means by constraining states to keep their deficit below 3% of their GDP and national debt below 60%.

Many French MEPs are expected to be among those replying to Macron’s speech, including Yannick Jadot, the Green party’s candidate for the April presidential election, right-wing François-Xavier Bellamy, radical left-wing MEP Manon Aubry and far-right MEP Jordan Bardella.

Aubry said she will ” speak to remind people of his record and to denounce the instrumentalisation of the PFUE (French presidency) for electoral purposes.”

Macron has yet to declare his candidacy for a second term and opponents in France have criticised him for using his office to campaign for his reelection without respecting official rules.

After the debate, Emmanuel Macron will have lunch with the new president of the Parliament, Maltese conservative Roberta Metsola.

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