Paris (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande called Monday for the European Union to reduce its role "where it is not necessary" after Eurosceptic parties made sweeping electoral gains across the bloc.
Reacting to the spectacular success of parties like France's own National Front and the UK Independence Party in Sunday's European elections, Hollande acknowledged that the EU had become "remote and incomprehensible" for many of its citizens.
"This cannot continue. Europe has to be simple, clear, to be effective where it is needed and to withdraw from where it is not necessary," he said in a televised address to the nation.
Hollande's comments will be greeted with delight by Eurosceptics who accuse Brussels of meddling in national affairs, and also by the likes of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who also advocates a scaling back of the powers currently vested in the European institutions.
But the signal that France would consider a reversal of powers to national governments will cause concern among those, particularly in Germany, who believe European integration still has further to run.
Hollande's Socialist Party suffered a humiliating setback in Sunday's elections for a new European Parliament, registering a record low vote of just under 14 percent while the FN topped the polls with nearly 25 percent.
The French leader stressed that France remained committed to playing a leading role in Europe, but also acknowledged that the economic austerity of recent years had damaged the cause of integration.
"I am a European, my duty is to reform France and to change the direction of Europe.
"Europe, in the last two years, has overcome the euro crisis but at what price? - An austerity that has ended up disheartening the people."