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Brussels Brief: Macron receives the Charlemagne prize

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Brussels Brief: Macron receives the Charlemagne prize

Brussels Brief: Macron receives the Charlemagne prize
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Reuters
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What is the Charlemagne prize?

Awarded by the city of Aachen, the first city in western Germany to be liberated during the Second World War, the prize honours work performed in the service of the European community. It has been handed out every year since 1950.

It is named after the emperor Charlemagne, ruler of the Franks, who united large parts of France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium. He was buried at Aachen.

Who has won it before?

The list is long but includes: Current European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, Popes Francis and John Paul II, former European Parliament president Martin Schulz, EU founding father Robert Schuman, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former UK prime minister Winston Churchill, the entire European Commission in 1969 and in 1986 the people of Luxembourg.

Why Emmanuel Macron?

The citation from the prize praises Macron for "his advocacy of cohesion and commonality, and his decisive stance against all forms of nationalism and isolationism". It also points out that he is "not concerned with institutional nitty-gritty".

So why is Macron not popular in France?

Last May, Macron claimed 66 percent of the vote in a runoff against far-right contender Marine Le Pen. An opinion poll published yesterday showed his popularity rating has dropped below 50% for the first time.

Macron's efforts to reform labour laws have put him into direct conflict with France's powerful unions. At the same time, a series of strikes spread over three months has been sparked by his government's move to overhaul the state rail network.

Tougher immigration rules and what is seen as an autocratic approach have alienated some former supporters from the left, where Macron has his roots from his time serving in the previous Socialist Party government.