The far-right poster boy, who wants Brussels to restore powers to nation states and to stop immigration, also slammed the French centrist’s aggressive vision of Europe. “Mr Macron wanted to be the leader of Europe, but he is obviously nothing more than its scarecrow,” Mr Bardella, leader of the hard-right Rassemblement national’s (RN) European Parliament election campaign, told France 2 television. “He’s isolated on the European scene following the arrival to power of sovereignist, eurosceptic parties.
“And so today, what’s the general feeling? Many French people have realised that the European Union is incapable of protecting them,” he continued.
Mr Bardella, a staunch eurosceptic, also called on the French to vote for the far-right RN instead of Mr Macron’s centrist La République en Marche (LREM) party in the parliamentary elections, which are to take place on May 23-26.
He said: “If you want to continue transferring our powers to the European Union, if you want even more immigration … then vote for La République en Marche. If you want a Europe of nations, and therefore a people’s Europe, then you’ll vote for the Rassemblement national.”
Mr Bardella reiterated his comments in an interview with the news channel BFMTV later in the day, saying Mr Macron was “alone on the European scene” with “his project of a federal Europe, at a time when the people of Europe want to take back power and want more national sovereignty”.
The 41-year-old president has a “bellicose vision” of the European situation, Mr Bardella said: “He’s fallen out with the countries of eastern Europe, whose leaders he’s branded crazy spirits, and also with Italy, calling it a nationalist leper”.
Mr Bardella was reacting to a newspaper column published in each of the EU’s 28 member states Monday evening, in which Mr Macron called for a “European renaissance” ahead of the May vote.
Calling the vote decisive and warning of a Europe in danger, his words were intended as a jolt for the bloc as he seeks to push for a deep, ambitious reform of the EU.
“In a few weeks, the European elections will be decisive for the future of our continent. Europe has never been as necessary since World War Two as it is now and yet never has Europe been in such danger,” Mr Macron wrote. “Retreating into nationalism offers nothing; it is rejection without an alternative.”
In a thinly veiled dig aimed at the bloc’s anti-EU, populist leaders, he said: “And this is the trap that threatens the whole of Europe: the anger mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything… We have to stand firm, proud and lucid, in the face of this manipulation and say first of all what Europe is. It is a historic success.”
In an effort to convince European citizens to shun nationalism, Mr Macron acknowledged public disillusionment with Europe.
“We are at a pivotal moment for our continent, a moment when together we need to politically and culturally reinvent the shape of our civilisation in a changing world. Now is the time for a European renaissance.”
The parliamentary elections are shaping up to be the most divisive to date, and could shake up the political landscape if far-right and populist parties win up to a third of the seats as expected.
While pro-EU liberals like Mr Macron are calling for a more united, stronger Europe, nationalists like Mr Bardella are calling for an end to open borders and the restoration of state sovereignty.
French voters, for their part, remain undecided. An Elabe poll of voting intentions for the EU elections published on February 27 put Mrs Le Pen’s RN and Mr Macron’s LREM neck and neck, with 22 per cent of the vote each.