Saturday, June 10, 2017

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
London killings a
barbaric act
Brutal terrorists, basically cowards who target innocent civilians, have struck again in London and mere condolences and condemnations will not do any longer. Time has come for stronger action against enemies of humanity.
The third attack in three months implies that Britain's counter-terrorism strategy needs to be swiftly strengthened and countries around the world should unify efforts more effectively to tackle the scourge of extremism.
There is also a dire need for international action to combat extremist content online, a message Prime Minister Theresa May took to the G7 leaders summit last week.
May’s announcement that the general election will go ahead as planned on Thursday makes sense because such monstrous violence should never be allowed to disrupt the democratic process, as it would send a wrong message.
London’s distress is palpable.
Eyewitnesses have described harrowing scenes as the attackers' van veered on and off the bridge sidewalk, hitting people along the way. The three evil attackers later ran into an area packed with restaurants, stabbing many indiscriminately.
Saturday's attack has come less than two weeks after a suicide bomber Salman Abedi blew himself up at a concert in Manchester on May 22, killing at least 22.
Britain raised its terror threat to the highest level of "critical" and deployed troops on the streets on May 23, a day after the Manchester suicide attack. The critical level means another attack could be imminent. It was reduced to "severe," which means an attack is highly likely.
On March 22, terrorist Khalid Masood ploughed a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a policeman to death before being shot dead. His attack killed five people.
US President Donald Trump’s accusation against London's mayor Sadiq Khan, blaming him of downplaying the threat of terrorism, is in poor taste. This is not the hour for politics. Terrorism is universal and so are its victims.
Peace-loving UAE has always maintained that terrorism has no place in a sane world, and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has rightly stressed that London’s terrorist attacks reaffirm the urgent need for concerted international efforts to combat terrorism in all forms and manifestations.
As the ministry noted, innocent civilians pay the price of these terrorist crimes. There is a need for joint cooperation to address this serious scourge that threatens the security and stability of countries all over the world.
Terrorism should never ever be allowed to scuttle the solidarity of peace-loving people and nations.
Spiralling insecurity
in Afghanistan
The truck bombing in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter that left a large number of innocent people dead or severely injured is an abhorrent act of barbarism that exposes the terrorists’ horrific mindset and highlights the need for the international community to do more to help Afghanistan.
The impact of the bomb was so strong that a huge hole was ripped into the ground at the site of the explosion, which also tore off the front portion of the German embassy building, shattered windows and blew doors off in houses hundreds of metres away.
Not a month passes without such incidents in the country and the distressing fact is that vulnerable civilians are bearing the brunt of the horrible attacks.
The victims of the latest explosion were mainly Afghan civilians on their way to work or school, as well as office workers whose nearby buildings did not have the protection of the blast walls.
The fact that the powerful blast from a truck stuffed with more than 1,500 kilogrammes of explosives came just days into the Holy Fasting Month of Ramadan signifies the terrorists’ total disregard for human lives and values.
The endless suffering of Afghan children raises questions about the future of an entire generation.
The first four months of 2017 alone witnessed the highest recorded number of child civilian casualties resulting from conflict-related incidents in Afghanistan, including the highest number of children killed, for the same comparable period since the he UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) began documenting cases.
Between Jan.1 and April 30, 2017, Unama preliminarily recorded 283 child deaths, a 21 per cent increase compared with the same period in 2016. Children are killed by explosive remnants of war in civilian-populated areas and in ground fighting.
US President Donald Trump is due to decide on a recommendation to send nearly 5,000 more troops to bolster the small NATO training force and US counter-terrorism mission now totalling over 10,000.
The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told a Congressional hearing that he needed several thousand more troops to help Afghan forces break a "stalemate" with the Taliban.
While Trump brags about his use of an 11-tonne bomb on a Daesh tunnel network in Afghanistan, there has been no evidence on the ground that the terrorists have been contained.
The conflict in Afghanistan is dangerously widening and the international community needs to act. The perpetrators of the horrendous crime should be forced to face justice at the earliest.
Ensure safety of
civilians in Raqa
Even as the US-backed campaign to capture Raqa in Syria is all set to accelerate, the safety and protection of thousands of civilians there remains a prime concern.
Civilians trapped in Raqa face a dire situation — they risk being killed by Daesh snipers or mines if they try to flee but could also be used by the terrorists as human shields if they decide to remain.
According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), there has been a drop in the number of people escaping Raqa over the past week, which is an indication that Daesh may use the 200,000 people still trapped in the city as human shields.
Raqa has been the scene of some of the Daesh’s worst atrocities, including gruesome executions, public display of bodies and the trafficking of women.
Compounding the problems, civilians have been increasingly facing food, water, health care and electricity shortages in recent months, even as humanitarian programmes supporting Syrian refugees and their host communities are quickly running out of resources.
Top UN officials have rightly called for unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to those affected by the fighting in Raqa, and more broadly to the 4.5 million who are still in hard-to-reach areas across the war-torn country.
More than 160,000 people have been displaced since May 1 with the situation on the ground remaining fluid.
As per UN officials, there are some 87,200 in the Ar-Raqa governorate, nearly 37,000 in Aleppo, over 33,400 in Idlib and smaller numbers in Hama, Deir-ez-Zor and Homs.
More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.
The war has also extracted the worst toll on the country’s children. Tens of thousands have been killed and many have been forcibly detained, tortured, subjected to sexual violence, forcibly recruited and in some cases executed.
Reports reveal a grim scenario where nearly seven million children are living in poverty and some 1.75 million are out of schools with another 1.35 million at the risk of dropping out.
Almost one in three schools have been damaged, destroyed, or otherwise made inaccessible.
It should not be forgotten that the Raqa campaign has already resulted in massive civilian casualties, displacement and serious infrastructure destruction.
The fears of the UN human rights office about increasing reports of civilian deaths as air strikes escalate are legitimate and need to be addressed.
Challenges lined up
for bruised May
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s political gamble has backfired stunningly.
She was cruising along well with a solid majority in Parliament and several years to run on her party's mandate.
Temptation played a villain.
With opinion polls predicting she would romp home with as high as a triple-digit majority, May called the election.
Now, she has not only lost her Conservative majority, but her authority has also been weakened substantially.
The election outcome has pushed Britain again into a period of uncertainty less than a year after the country's decision to leave the European Union, which had already led the pound to collapse about 15 per cent against the dollar between June and October 2016.
The pound hit an eight-week low against the dollar and its lowest levels in seven months versus the euro before recovering slightly on news May would form a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)-backed government.
The centre-right, pro-Brexit DUP’s 10 seats are enough to give May's Conservatives a fragile but workable partnership.
The biggest winner seems to be Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Labour's increase in seats from 229 to almost 261 has confounded expectations that his intense left-wing views would cost him dear.
Initially written off by many pollsters, Labour surged in the final weeks of the campaign, drawing huge support from young people, who appeared to have turned out to vote in bigger-than-expected numbers, lured by the promise of the elimination of tuition fees, the hope of better jobs and a chance to own property.
The poll bruising is not for May alone.
In a blow to its hopes for another referendum on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom, the pro-independence Scottish National Party lost about 21 of its 54 seats.
Its casualties included Alex Salmond, one of the party's highest-profile lawmakers.
May had initially earned a reputation as a no-nonsense minister when leading the interior ministry, one of the toughest jobs in politics, and was viewed as a shrewd political operator.
A lackluster campaigning style and a plan to force elderly people to pay more for their care, a proposal her opponents dubbed the "dementia tax," have all been factors that cost May some valuable seats.
The election has proved that Britain remains a nation divided.
The present situation will make the already complex EU negotiations even more complicated. The challenge before May is to tactfully negotiate Brexit, even while addressing several domestic challenges like economy and terrorism.
An arduous task, indeed.
Turn up the heat
on Pyongyang
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has once again ignited fresh tension in the region by test-firing a Scud-type missile that fell close to its neighbour, Japan, and the world community cannot afford to remain silent in the face of such irresponsible and continuing provocation.
It was the North’s third ballistic missile test in as many weeks and the 12th this year, carried out in absolute defiance of United Nations sanctions warnings.
After almost every such test, the UN Security Council vows to “fully and comprehensively implement all measures” imposed on the country, but it is abundantly clear that Pyongyang is just not bothered.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s anger is justified especially because North Korea has developed a Scud variant, called Scud-ER (extended range), capable of travelling as far as 1,000km, which means that Japan is within its range.
Monday’s test also marked the second time this year that a North Korean missile fell provocatively close to Japan.
Washington too has its share of worries, as indications are that the North has been stepping up efforts towards its ultimate goal of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental US.
President Donald Trump Trump has portrayed the missile test as an affront to China in a morning post on Twitter. "North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile...but China is trying hard!" he wrote.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis’ argument that war is not an answer makes sense as the consequences could be disastrous for the world. The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on earth, which is the capital of South Korea.
While Washington has opted for sanctions and diplomatic pressure, China, the North's closest ally, can do much more by stepping up economic pressure.
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-In, is a moderate leader who advocates dialogue with the North in a break from his conservative predecessors. Shockingly, even his reasonable approach does not seem to have had any positive effect on Pyongyang.
The DPRK should cooperate with UN officials in implementing the Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards and resolve any outstanding issues through dialogue.
It should desist from conducting any further nuclear/ballistic missile test and return to the path of denuclearisation. A peaceful, diplomatic and political solution is the only way forward.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Manchester attack
a monstrous act
The brutal attack that took place outside England’s Manchester Arena killing and wounding several people, especially children, has again bared the ugly face of terrorists who are filled with nothing but venom and despise for human values.
These enemies of humanity do not represent any cause and are merely hate-filled monsters with depraved mindsets.
Children are adored and nurtured by any society. The fact that nearly a dozen children under the age of 16 were among those injured in the suicide bombing exposes the senseless brutality of the terrorist involved in the attack.
Surreptitiously killing innocent people, especially kids enjoying a music concert, is nothing but an act of cowardice. Such actions are rejected by all religions, moral values and humanitarian norms.
The killings have also exposed the vulnerability of public events, which means that event organisers need to be extra vigilant in future.
The use of an explosive device marks an escalation from recent attacks in Britain, which have used unsophisticated weapons such as knives and vehicles, with firearms less of a threat given the country's strict laws on gun ownership.
Witnesses at the arena have described seeing metal nuts and bolts among the debris of bomb. It may have contained shrapnel intended to maximise injuries and deaths. The implication is that the security may not have been as tight as it should have been.
Monday's attack is the deadliest in Britain since four terrorists killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London's transport system in 2005.
Terrorism can never ever wipe out the power of compassion. The loving spirit of Manchester residents remained intact. There were many who went out of their way to help those caught up in the incident.
Social media users began helping the desperate hunt for people missing by circulating names and photos with the MissingInmanchester hashtag.
Some taxi drivers turned off their meters to get people away from the spot and to safety. Many local residents opened up their homes to help those stranded.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has rightly called for intensified and concerted efforts by the international community to ensure the eradication of the serious scourge of terrorism.
Going by the magnitude of the Manchester attack, it is clear that it was meticulously planned and likely involves more than one individual. It is, hence, imperative that the security agencies dig deep into the matter and swiftly bring to justice those responsible for the heinous crime.

Keep plastics
out of oceans
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has cautioned that there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050 unless people stop using single-use plastic items such as plastic bags and plastic bottles.
That’s not all.
According to some estimates, at the rate people are dumping items such as plastic bottles, bags and cups after a single use, by 2050 oceans will carry more plastic than fish and an estimated 99 per cent of seabirds will have ingested plastic.
The warning should be taken seriously as the subject could have a major negative impact on every human being.
As per UN estimates, in 1950, the world’s population of 2.5 billion produced 1.5 million tonnes of plastic; in 2016, a global population of more than 7 billion people produced over 300 million tonnes of plastic – with severe consequences for marine plants and animals.
Such figures are starling and should be seen as a wake-up call for remedial action.
It may be recalled that in February the UN Environment organisation launched an unprecedented global campaign to eliminate major sources of marine litter: microplastics in cosmetics and the excessive, wasteful usage of single-use plastic by the year 2022.
Launched at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, the #CleanSeas campaign urges governments to pass plastic reduction policies, target industry to minimise plastic packaging and redesign products and calls on consumers to change their throwaway habits before irreversible damage is done to our seas.
As part of the campaign, Indonesia has committed to slash its marine litter by 70 per cent by 2025; Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags this year and Kenya has agreed to eliminate them entirely.
Though the Clean Seas campaign has achieved some important wins for the oceans, Petter Malvik, UN Environment Programme’s Communications Officer, points out that the job is far from done.
The idea is to achieve a global ban by 2022 on microbeads in personal care and cosmetic products and a drastic reduction in the use of single-use plastic.
In 2013, scientists were surprised to find the seas east of Greenland and north of Scandinavia are a dead-end for plastics. Some seas in that region are said to be heavily polluted with plastic because of an Atlantic ocean current which dumps debris there.
The reckless dumping of plastic in the oceans should stop as it wreaks havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism and the damage to marine ecosystems is immense.

Give peace a chance
in South Sudan
At a time when bitter conflict and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in South Sudan are driving people away from their homes in record numbers, President Salva Kiir’s decision to declare a unilateral ceasefire comes as a big relief.
UN officials have repeatedly cautioned that the situation in South Sudan continues to worsen, with a combination of conflict, drought and famine leading to further displacement and a rapid exodus of people fleeing one of the world's most severe crises.
In fact, South Sudan has now become the world's fastest growing refugee crisis with more than 1.8 million refugees, including one million children, having sought safety in Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.
The tragedy is confounded by the fact that thousands have been dying from hunger and disease while volunteers are unable to reach the vulnerable population.
There have also been attacks on peacekeepers and relief personnel, which have severely constricted the humanitarian operations.
South Sudan has been mired in a civil war since 2013, when Kiir fired his deputy, Riek Machar. The conflict, fanned by ethnic rivalries, has sparked Africa's worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide and plunged part of the country into famine.
It is true that scepticism reigns on whether Kiir's truce announcement would lead to long-lasting peace. Kiir had declared such ceasefires earlier too. However, considering the present volatile situation in the country, any step towards peace should be welcomed with open arms.
In April 2016, the United States and other Western nations backed a peace accord that saw Machar return to the capital and again share power with Kiir. Unfortunately, the deal fell apart less than three months later and Machar and his supporters fled the capital, pursued by helicopter gunships.
Since then, the conflict has intensified with a mix of ethnic militias fighting in different parts of the oil-producing country.
According to UN officials, the number of people fleeing to Sudan in March surpassed the expected figure for the entire year. Uganda is also seeing higher than expected arrivals and at this rate is likely to soon host over one million South Sudanese refugees.
Increased displacement worsens humanitarian suffering. Violence cannot achieve any goal and only leads to senseless destruction of precious lives and property. All parties involved in the conflict should realise that constructive dialogue is the only way forward.

Migrant kids face
endless trauma
The number of migrant children traveling alone has increased five–fold since 2010, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the trend is especially frightening because the youngsters are taking highly dangerous routes, often at the mercy of traffickers, who abuse and exploit them.
According to the new Unicef report, A Child is a Child: Protecting children on the move from violence, abuse and exploitation, at least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in the combined years of 2015 and 2016, up from 66,000 in 2010 and 2011.
The report indicates that children account for approximately 28 per cent of trafficking victims globally.
Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America and the Caribbean have the highest share of children among detected trafficking victims at 64 and 62 per cent, respectively. Further, as much as 20 per cent of smugglers have links to human trafficking networks.
Unicef Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth has highlighted the grim reality that ruthless smugglers and traffickers are exploiting their vulnerability for personal gain, helping children to cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution.
In Serbia alone, for example, the number of refugee children has grown, with 7,000 refugees and migrants stranded, unable to cross the heavily guarded borders of neighbouring European Union countries Hungary and Croatia.
Incidentally, around 3,200, or 46 per cent, of all refugees and migrants in Serbia are children, while every third child is unaccompanied.
Unicef’s call on governments to adopt a six-point agenda for action deserves to be given top-most attention.
As per the plan:
*Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence
*End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, by introducing a range of practical alternatives
*Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status
*Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services
*Press for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants
*Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalisation in countries of transit and destination.
It is a moral and legal responsibility on the part of any society to protect children. Going by the trend, it is clear that much more needs to be done by the international community to protect migrant children from the predators.
Leaving the helpless children to fend for themselves would only lead to a future society that is scared and scarred.

Time to heal wounds
of Mosul civilians
Iraqi forces are said to have recaptured nearly 90 per cent of West Mosul from Daesh and indications are that all of Mosul would be liberated from the dreaded militants soon. That, indeed, is comforting news.
What is not comforting, though, is the continuing plight of civilians, who have been enduring untold misery for quite a long time.
Half a million people have been currently displaced as a result of the battle for Mosul, and some 250,000 civilians are estimated to be still trapped inside the city's west.
The number of those fleeing has also been on the rise, with Thursday alone witnessing around 20,000 people fleeing West Mosul, as per the Norwegian Refugee Council. This, by the way, is the biggest single-day displacement since the start of the operation.
It is true that coalition air strikes have aided the advance of Iraqi forces, but it should not be forgotten that they have also caused hundreds of civilian casualties in the city. The implication is that more care needs to be taken on this front so as to protect civilians better.
Vastly outnumbered militants are increasingly using innocent civilians as human shields. With a view to deter civilians from escaping the city, they also injure or kill people who seek to flee. Such monstrous tactics should not be allowed to succeed.
Hunger is another major threat that trapped civilians are facing. UN officials say that people have spoken of conditions that are desperate and worsening. There are no basic services in the city, no food, no water and no fuel.
Some families have informed UN officials that they have been living on one meal a day; often just bread, or flour and water, sometimes supplemented with tomato paste.
The UN refugee agency has noted that its current humanitarian efforts to shelter and assist displaced Iraqi families and refugees who fled to Iraq are seriously challenged by waning funding support. Volunteers’ ability to effectively respond to the immediate and mounting humanitarian needs in Iraq should not be impeded by fund paucity.
Western Mosul has undergone extensive destruction, far greater than in the East. Hundreds of housing sites have been destroyed across the city.
Six months into the Iraqi offensive to oust terrorists from Mosul, the continuing massive displacement is a matter of serious concern. With the number of people fleeing West Mosul showing no sign of slowing down, the international community needs to do more to help the civilians.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Beauty of compassion

There are so many amazing people out there whose compassionate actions are lost in the din of negativity encompassing most of our society.
It was around 9am that I noticed an acquaintance, a vendor selling newspapers on the roadside. He had been on the job late after midnight and looked exhausted.
We started a conversation and he mentioned about how today’s youth are technology-driven, but quality newspapers are cherished by elderly Arabs.
He then stated that his sugar level had shot up to 400 and that he was on medication.
He had pain on one of his legs and could not stand for long hours.
Before I could reply, a taxi screeched to a halt nearby. The cabbie stretched out his hand and told the vendor: “I got a sandwich for you.”
When the latter hesitated, the driver insisted: “Take it. I am seeing you here daily. You are like my brother.”
“Do you know him?” I asked the vendor after he grabbed the grub.
“Not really, but this is common. I come across quite a few good people like him.”
I returned home contemplating about the caring taxi driver, when a friend called up and shared an incident.
He had found Dhs800 on a footpath. Unlike many who would have been thrilled, he felt distressed. He was worried some poor person in a hurry must have lost the money. He returned to the spot three to four times that day, but could not trace anyone he could trust as genuine.
He donated the entire amount to his watchman, who was earning a very meagre salary and had health issues.
I saluted him. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Recent editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records): 
Generous UAE
wins hearts again
Nothing can match the joy of giving. The UAE knows this best and has always led in the field of charity, aid and voluntary initiatives globally.
The country is blessed with a benevolent leadership that relentlessly strives for the happiness of not only its citizens and residents, but beyond too, breaking borders to reach aid to the needy, without any discrimination.
Proving that it never gives up when it comes to giving, the UAE has maintained its position for the fourth consecutive year as one of the largest international donors in the field of official development assistance compared to its gross national income (GNI), occupying first place globally in 2016 for the third time, after occupying the first place in 2013 and 2014.
The Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has declared that according to preliminary data for countries that provided official development assistance during 2016, the UAE has been a top donor country in comparison with its GNI.
Incidentally, the UAE's level of official development assistance during 2016 was about Dhs15.23 billion, representing 1.12 per cent of GNI while more than 54 per cent of this aid was offered in the form of grants.
It should be noted that the UAE is the only Arab country among the top 10 donor countries in the world.
What is gratifying is the fact that the UAE does not provide conditional assistance and neither does for the sake of reciprocal interests. It does so only for the good and stability of all peoples, as Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has aptly pointed out.
The announcement of the UAE being ranked first development assistance donor in 2016 could not have come at a better time as the nation is marking the Year of Giving and various charitable initiatives are already underway.
President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s designating 2017 as the Year of Giving has, in fact, taken generosity to an unparalleled level.
With continued support for the underprivileged everywhere, the UAE foreign aid surely represents a global model to follow in terms of humanitarian and development work.
“Giving” is a value the nation cherishes and saw personified in the UAE’s Founding Father Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
It is a matter of great pride that the young nation stands tall as the most generous in the world.
France votes for hope
but all’s not over yet
The French election is being keenly watched the world over especially because it is seen as a political war between liberal values and bigotry of the extreme right.
The Brexit vote in the UK, the election of US President Donald Trump who challenged liberal values, and the rise of far right, anti-European Union (EU) Marine Le Pen had all raised serious questions about the path France would choose.The first round, fortunately, has clearly gone in favour of hope and liberal democracy.
The voters have dealt a knock-out blow to established political parties and signaled a thumbs up for centrist Emmanuel Macron as clear favourite to become France’s youngest-ever president.
The result has paved the way for a straight two-way fight between Macron and Le Pen in a run-off on May 7, with opinion polls indicating Macron as  the favourite.
France's political mainstream has united to call on voters to back Macron.
President Francois Hollande too has endorsed Macron citing "the risk for our country" in the event of Le Pen winning power.
Jittery EU now has reasons to feel relieved.
So much so that Brussels officials broke with protocol on not intervening in national elections and swiftly congratulated Macron despite the fact he still has to beat Le Pen in the run-off.
But worryingly for Brussels, the anti-EU vote in France still adds up to around 46 per cent, with far leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon coming in a close fourth with 19.2 per cent of the tally.
Macron, a former banker and French economy minister, wants to accelerate EU integration, including by giving the eurozone a central parliament, finance minister and budget.
This is in stark contrast to Le Pen who backs an exit from the European single currency and a Brexit-style referendum to pave the way for a French exit from the bloc.
She has gone to the extent of predicting the EU "will die."
Le Pen has pledged to reduce net immigration to just 10,000 and has vowed a "moratorium" on legal immigration. She would also ban the wearing of head scarves and veils in public.
Macron, however, has said he would not look to prohibit head scarves, and has pledged to speed up the review process for asylum requests to a maximum of six months, including appeals.
The final verdict is not out yet. Le Pen could still pull off a surprise victory. If that happens, France would lose its “liberal” tag.

Diplomacy, not war,
best option on N.Korea
The persistent war of words between Pyongyang and Washington is only adding fuel to the fire in the Korean Peninsula instead of dousing tensions.
North Korea's nuclear and missile tests and the deployment of a US aircraft carrier group have spiked worries about which direction the crisis is heading to.
For sure, the last thing anyone wants is to see war break out in the region.
Pyongyang on Tuesday marked a military anniversary with a massive conventional firing drill, which South Korea’s Yonhap news agency stated as the "largest ever," presumed to have been overseen by leader Kim Jong-Un.
The North's Rodong Sinmun — the official mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea — has warned of dire consequences in the event of a US-led pre-emptive strike.
It promised "the most brutal punishment... in the sky and land as well as at sea and from underwater without any warning or prior notice."
Two missile tests by North Korea this month prompted US President Donald Trump to warn that "all options are on the table" against Pyongyang, including military action.
Trump has already urged UN Security Council ambassadors to consider stronger sanctions against Pyongyang.
The US has long pushed for China to intensify efforts to curb Pyongyang's behaviour. But Beijing has resisted, concerned that a regime collapse could trigger a flood of refugees across the border and leave the US military on its doorstep.
Nevertheless, it has become increasingly concerned as the possibility of a sixth nuclear test by the North looms.
China banned all imports of North Korean coal for the rest of the year from Feb.26, cutting off its most important export. The exact impact of that economic pressure is yet to be ascertained.
Chinese media has even raised the possibility of cutting oil shipments to North Korea, if it conducted another nuclear test.
Incidentally, since taking power in 2011, Kim Jong Un has rarely met with Chinese officials and has yet to visit the country that provides his regime with most of its foreign trade and economic assistance.
It is distressing that North Korea is diverting resources to the pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons while most of its citizens have several unmet needs.
The importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula should never be underestimated. A peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue is the only best option. Aggravating the situation would prove disastrous not only for the region, but the entire world.
US should not pour cold
water on climate action
It is deeply disappointing that Group of Seven (G7) energy ministers could not reach an agreement on a joint statement on climate change as the United States expressed reservations.
Washington "reserved its position" on the text about commitments made by G7 countries under the 2015 Paris climate accord, according to Carlo Calenda, the Italian minister for economic development, who chaired the meeting in Rome.
Lack of unanimity ostensibly prompted Italy, which currently presides over the group, to drop its decision on proposing the joint statement.
What the US forgets is that the Paris Agreement on climate change adopted in December 2015 is unique in its universality, with every single government having signed it.
The pact entered force in less than a year. To date more than 130 parties have ratified it, and the numbers are growing.
As top UN officials emphasise, all nations recognise that implementing the 2030 Agenda goes hand-in-glove with limiting global temperature rise and increasing climate resilience.
The Paris Agreement has a noble aim to cap global warming to "well below" two degrees Celsius compared to late 19th-century levels — an effort that scientists say will require massive cuts in carbon emissions from coal and other fossil fuels.
It also pledges to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in aid for poor countries badly exposed to drought, flood, rising seas and other climate impacts.
Sadly, in March, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order rolling back some of the previous Democratic administration's policies on carbon emissions and climate change.
Trump has also made it clear that he did not intend to honour promises made by the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama, to provide financial aid under the Paris accord.
Nevertheless, the heartening factor is that almost all European Union countries remain strongly committed to the Paris accord to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change is indisputably a growing and potent threat. The indications are crystal clear. Last year was once again the hottest on record. Sea ice is at a historic low and sea levels are at a historic high.
UN officials insist that the consequences of climate change include food insecurity, water scarcity, poverty and displacement.
Limiting global temperature rise and increasing climate resilience is the need of the hour. As experts repeatedly point out, addressing climate change is a massive opportunity that humanity cannot afford to miss.
One only hopes that Washington does not play spoilsport in this well-meaning global endeavour.
Egypt church attacks
an abhorrent crime
Sunday’s terrorist attacks in Egypt that targeted the Mar Girgis church in the city of Tanta north of Cairo and Saint Mark's Church in the coastal city of Alexandria are abhorrent, inhuman acts that contravene all humanitarian and religious values and principles.
Such cowardly actions by militants with depraved mindsets pose a threat not only to Egyptians but also to the entire world and hence underline the need for international unity to erase the scourge of terrorism.
The aim of the perpetrators of the heinous crimes that claimed several innocent lives is to drive a wedge between people of different faiths who have been living peacefully together for generations.
The criminals chose a time when the crowds were heavy, as the worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday.
Incidentally, Pope Francis is due to visit Cairo on April 28-29.
Copts, who make up about one tenth of Egypt’s population of more than 92 million and who celebrate Easter next weekend, had been targeted earlier too by militants.
Previously, the deadliest attack against Egypt's Christians was a New Year's Day bombing in 2011 in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, for centuries the seat of the Orthodox Coptic church. At least 21 were killed in that attack.
In December, a suicide bombing claimed by Daesh killed 29 worshippers during Sunday mass in Cairo. The group later released a video threatening Egypt’s Christians with more attacks.
The bombing of the church took place within a compound that also held the seat of the Coptic papacy.
A spate of militant attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, including the murder of a Copt in the city of El Arish whose house was also burned, have led Coptic families to flee their homes.
Peace-loving UAE has always supported Egypt in its efforts to stem terrorism and preserve its security and stability.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has rightly affirmed the solidarity of the UAE and Egypt, standing by the side of the brotherly nation in confronting this criminal and malicious act.
The extremists should be made to understand that the Egyptian spirit is much stronger and cannot be cowed down by guns.
The solidarity of the Egyptian people and the country’s ability to uphold its national unity will surely help defeat abhorrent terrorism.
The perpetrators of the heinous crimes need to be brought to justice at the earliest.