France's President Emmanuel Macron has urged the European Union to embrace reform to protect its citizens in a world troubled by wars and authoritarian regimes.
The 40-year-old leader, who wants to play a key leadership role in the EU, outlined his vision in a speech at the Strasbourg-based European Parliament.
Mr Macron said democracy is the "best chance" for the EU to fight against rising nationalism on the continent.
"Faced with authoritarianism, the answer is not democratic authoritarianism but the authority of democracy," he said.
Mr Macron called for an energetic campaign for the European Parliament election in May 2019 as the EU also deals with the challenges of Britain's departure.
He told EU politicians that it is important "to have a democratic, critical debate on what Europe is about".
Mr Macron said citizens "want a new project" for the EU which addresses their concerns and fears in a world in which allies such as the US are turning their backs on multilateral trade and climate change pacts.
All EU countries, except Britain and Hungary, have agreed to seek opinions of their citizens on the EU's future through debates and online consultations by summer.
Welcome, President Macron. The future of Europe is now and starts here, in the heart of European democracy. It's time to convert vision into reality together: controlled migration, a strong defence and foreign policy for a secure Europe and a safer Mediterranean and Middle East. pic.twitter.com/KQlkvvgMFs— Antonio Tajani (@EP_President) April 17, 2018
Speaking after Mr Macron, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU is not just a club led by France and Germany.
Mr Juncker said Mr Macron's arrival in power in France has "given new hope" to the world's biggest trading bloc.
But he recalled that "Europe is an ensemble", even with Britain set to leave the EU next year.
.@JunckerEU avec @EmmanuelMacron: «La France est de retour pour défendre l’honneur, les valeurs et l’action de cette Europe; ensemble pour défendre une Union ouverte mais pas offerte; nous sommes une seule Europe sans divisions; gardons les Balkans sur la voie de l’Europe». pic.twitter.com/RxKr5eX3rG— Margaritis Schinas (@MargSchinas) April 17, 2018
Mr Macron will meet with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday, as France and Germany aim to agree on proposals for EU reforms by June.
During Mr Macron's speech, some European politicians raised placards reading Stop The War In Syria and Hands Off Syria to protest against joint airstrikes by US, Britain and France on chemical weapons facilities in Syria on Saturday.
- Digital Desk and Press Association