Macron wants EU nations to hold debates on reforms to the bloc

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a special congress gathering both houses of parliament (National Assembly and Senate) at the Versailles Palace, near Paris, France, July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Feferberg/Pool

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that after a “cruel decade” of crisis-management, European Union leaders needed to reform the bloc to fight euroskepticism among the public.

“I firmly believe in Europe, but I don’t find this scepticism unjustified,” Macron told French lawmakers in a rare joint session of parliament in Versailles.

The 39-year-old president, who defeated anti-euro far-right leader Marine Le Pen last May, reiterated in his speech a campaign proposal to launch “democratic conventions” - or public debates - in European countries to discuss the future of the European Union.

“France must take the initiative. I want to do it thanks to the close cooperation I have already started with the German Chancellor,” Macron said.

“By the end of this year, and on this basis, we will launch democratic conventions all across Europe. It will be up to each one of us to sign up to it or not.”

Germany’s Merkel and Macron agreed in May to draw up a roadmap to deeper European Union integration and opened the door to changing the bloc’s treaties to facilitate ambitious reform.

Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by Richard Lough