Elections in France: Brussels sees Macron's victory as support for European integration | International
The re-election of Emmanuel Macron as president of the French republic gives a breath of fresh air to supporters of further progress in European integration and will make it easier for the EU to maintain its unity in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine. Brussels, however, will wait until the French legislative elections in June to gauge the political momentum it can expect from Paris. The fragmentation of the electorate in the first round of the French presidential elections, with more than 50% of the electorate supporting options that question the EU model, and the rise of the Eurosceptic leader Marine Le Pen to the best result of the extreme right in the second On the other hand, it raises fears that Macron will have less room to carry out his pro-European agenda in his second term.
Brussels has followed the two rounds of voting (on April 10 and April 24) without the anguish it experienced in 2017, when the French elections coincided with a populist wave that prevailed in the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and in the US presidential elections with the victory of Donald Trump. Macron then emerged from nowhere with an openly pro-European movement and discourse and managed to sweep away 66% of the votes against Le Pen, who received less than half the votes than his rival.
On this occasion, neither the European markets (more aware of inflation and rate hikes) nor the community institutions have shown the slightest nervousness in the hours prior to the elections, given that all polls pointed to a clear victory for the president outgoing.
Still, Macron's victory has been greeted by pro-European forces with enthusiasm and relief, not least because Le Pen is seen as a potential ally of Putin. The candidate herself had indicated her intention to forge a new alliance with Moscow when the war in Ukraine ends. And with breaking all defense ties with Germany to turn to a military entente with the United Kingdom, a country that left the EU after the Brexit victory.
“A warm bravo for Macron”, has proclaimed the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, from the same liberal family as the French president. Michel celebrated: "We can count on France for another five years". And he has underlined, echoing the most frequent term in Macron's European discourse, strategic sovereignty: "In this stormy period, we need a solid Europe and a France fully committed to a more sovereign and more strategic European Union".
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The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was also quick to congratulate Macron as soon as French television estimates gave him 58.8% of the vote as soon as the polling stations closed at 8:00 p.m. “I am glad that we can continue our excellent cooperation,” said von der Leyen. "Together we will move France and Europe forward," she continued.
Both the liberal Michel and the popular Von der Leyen or the president of the ECB, Christine Lagarde, reached their positions in 2019 thanks, in large part, to the support and negotiating skills of Macron. The understanding of the French with the then German chancellor, Angela Merkel, paved numerous agreements in Brussels, from the aforementioned appointments to the approval in 2020 of the recovery fund for the pandemic, a milestone in the history of budgetary and fiscal integration of the EU.
Macron has been during the five years of his first term one of the driving forces of the community club, although in European summits, some delegations have accused him of defending French interests camouflaged under the European flag. The Frenchman has lost in the Elysee the Europeanist lyricism of his first speeches, when he advocated catapulting community integration forward. Along the way there were also his projects to complete the banking union, blocked by Berlin, or to launch a budget of its own for the euro zone.
But his pragmatism has established him as an essential supporter of von der Leyen's European Commission agenda, a useful ally for Merkel and her successor, the socialist Olaf Scholz, and an essential representative of Europe on the global stage.
Macron's European agenda during his second term seems to be marked by the outcome of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. France, the largest military power in the EU and the only EU partner with nuclear weapons and the right of veto in the UN Security Council, will be key to establishing a new security framework in the Old Continent, after Putin has made shatter the previous one.
Macron will also attempt a transformation of the economic framework of the EU and, in particular, of the euro zone, to adapt it to the reality left by the pandemic, with public debt skyrocketing in almost all partners, and Putin's war, with an energy crisis that forces us to look for alternatives to Russian oil and gas. Macron's presence at the Elysee will also reinforce the countries in favor of prolonging or expanding the pandemic recovery fund (endowed with 800,000 million euros) to face the new economic shocks.
The French president tried in the final stretch of his first term to promote the reform of the Stability Pact, to make its application more flexible and give more space to public investment. But the lack of harmony in that area with Berlin forced the project to be postponed and, predictably, it will not be resumed until France completes its electoral cycle in June (with two legislative rounds) and the support that the Europeanist option of Macron has in the National Assembly.
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