France's Macron, Seeking to Re-Shape Europe, Heads East

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While Britain toils over its messy divorce with the European Union, France's president Emmanuel Macron is embarking on a drive to deepen the economic integration of a bloc he says needs to be more protective of its citizens, reported Reuters.

The French leader this week embarks on a three-day tour of central and eastern Europe, where he will seek to win backers for his push to tighten labor rules over 'posted' workers, a sensitive issue that has exacerbated an east-west rift.

Days later, euro zone reforms, defense cooperation and immigration will be in focus when Macron hosts the leaders of Germany, Spain and Italy for talks, as he seeks to enhance France's leadership in Europe.

Paris has long complained that central and eastern Europe gains an unfair advantage from the "social dumping" of cheap labor, arguing the posting of low-paid workers hurts local jobs and erodes labor protections in higher-wage member states.

Although posted workers make up less than 1 percent of the EU workforce, with many employed in the haulage and construction sectors, the issue has deepened a divide between the poor east and rich west.

Macron will visit Romania, Bulgaria and Austria, where he will also meet the leaders of Czech Republic and Slovakia, but is skipping Hungary and Poland, whose right-wing governments he has accused of spurning the bloc's values.

An Elysee Palace source said Macron was visiting countries who were "the most attached to their European anchoring".

The source dismissed suggestions that Macron is seeking to drive a wedge between central and eastern European countries staunchly opposed to reform and those that see scope for compromise.

 "This is not about dividing in order to better rule," the source said in a briefing to reporters earlier this month.
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