EU civil war as top Brussels official lashes out at Macron’s ‘arrogant’ France

Emmanuel Macron’s France has been branded “very arrogant” by European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova in a stinging attack.

Ms Jourova, who is the European Commissioner for Values and Transparency, also took aim at Viktor Orban’s Hungary as she outlined details of the European Media Freedom Act, being billed by the bloc as an EU media rulebook offering protection for journalists.

Specifically the legislation – which cleared an important hurdle after securing the backing of the European Parliament yesterday – seeks to guarantee media independence against political pressure.

The Czech politician took the opportunity to send a blunt message to Paris following the arrest of journalist Ariane Lavrilleux for reporting on a series of leaked documents.

Speaking in Strasbourg, Ms Hourova told Politico the French case “shows there is a very weak protection” of journalists.

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Emmanuel Macron removes his watch during interview

France had initially argued the proposed media law was “destroying” its “fantastic system”, she pointed out, adding: “I always found this very, very arrogant.”

Speaking more generally, Ms Jourova continued: “The European Media Freedom Act will be a major warning signal for member states.”

In Hungary, Mr Orban’s Fidesz party has effectively taken control of 80 percent of his country’s media as a result of what Reporters without Borders’ latest World Press Freedom index refers to as “political and economic” manoeuvring.

She claimed: “We cannot unscramble the scrambled eggs” in a nation where there was “no public media but state media.

“The difference between supporting a media economically in a transparent way and a corrupted media in a hidden way is big.”

The new rules, which will lay down new transparency and independence obligations, are likely to be a headache for the right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister.

Ms Jourova added: “The whole tendency in Hungary, which leads to monopolisation of information, is something we don’t want to happen everywhere else.

“Over time, we might try to, step by step, dismantle such systems.”

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She also warned Budapest against failing to comply, saying: “They might be high penalties at the end of the day.”

Despite yesterday’s successful vote, “demanding negotiations” lay ahead, Ms Jourova acknowledged.

Also yesterday, the EU announced plans to better protect cutting-edge technologies from foreign snooping which might threaten its economy and security after repeated warnings that the bloc needs to “de-risk” its relations with China.

Even though the European Commission refrained from putting the emphasis on any specific country, the EU itself has repeatedly said that it must be better prepared to develop measures to protect trade and investment that China might exploit for its own security and military purposes.

Ms Jourova said: “China indeed is a big elephant in general terms.

“But in our recommendation, we are country agnostic.”

Meanwhile Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, insisted the measures would reach well beyond Beijing.

He said: “We want to de-risk, but not only with China, with everybody, including sometimes, if it’s needed, with some of our like-minded partners.”

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