After a long and intense campaign that offered very different trajectories for France, Emmanuel Macron, a pro-European and relative political newcomer, has been elected as the country’s next president. Carnegie Europe experts are available to discuss the outcome of this landmark vote and its implications for the EU.
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“France woke up this morning with a new president—and with a more complex political situation than ever. A clear majority of voters backed Emmanuel Macron but without much enthusiasm, as illustrated by the unusually low turnout in this crucial second round. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, even though defeated, has built up an unprecedented amount of support. At the end of a very long campaign, France remains a deeply fragmented nation in desperate need of unity. Confronted with formidable political and economic challenges, Macron now needs to convince the French electorate to consolidate his success and give his newly founded En Marche ! (On the Move!) party a majority in the parliamentary election on June 11 and 18. This is the first but indispensable step in the long process of transforming an angry and divided France into a more self-confident and united country.”
—Pierre Vimont, senior fellow, Carnegie Europe
“Emmanuel Macron’s comfortable victory illustrates the clear rejection of his opponent’s ultranationalist narrative and divisive political style. This is good news, despite the fact that the far-right National Front has achieved its highest levels of support ever. The election of a pro-European political newcomer who pledged to bridge the Left and Right also highlights the strong popular will for a deep renovation of French politics—and the hope for a genuine revitalization of EU dynamics. On the global stage, the legitimacy that Macron derives from his large win will help reinforce the strength of his position at the May 25 NATO summit and July 7–8 G20 summit in front of leaders such as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who have all voiced their hostility to the EU in recent months.”
—Marc Pierini, visiting scholar, Carnegie Europe
“After far-right leader Geert Wilders’s poor showing in the March 15 Dutch election and Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France on May 7, many people will believe that the populist beast in Europe has been slain. This would be shortsighted. More than 40 percent of French voters opted for anti-European populist parties in the first round. If Macron’s presidency disappoints, he will prepare the ground for a National Front victory in five years. The greatest immediate populist threat is now in Italy, where the Five Star Movement and Northern League could easily win the general election expected to be held in February 2018. And then there are the existing populist governments in Hungary and Poland, which constantly put the values on which the EU is based into question. No, the populist threat remains alive and has to be taken seriously.”
—Stefan Lehne, visiting scholar, Carnegie Europe
“Emmanuel Macron has a chance to revive the Franco-German relationship. This axis is the key to Europe’s future. Berlin has been waiting for this moment. After Macron made Europe central to his campaign, France and Germany can start defining Europe’s direction. New views on economic and political integration are long overdue. Macron will also be hugely important for pushing Europe’s foreign, security, and defense policies. Yet it’s hard to see Macron jolting the EU out of its current paralysis on his own, which is why reaching out to Berlin and other member states could be the way to kick-start the union. Just as Angela Merkel’s Germany didn’t or couldn’t do it alone when it came to shaping Europe’s future, Macron can’t either.”
—Judy Dempsey, nonresident senior fellow and editor in chief of Strategic Europe, Carnegie Europe
“Emmanuel Macron’s defense policy is similar to that of Jean-Yves Le Drian, the present defense minister, who may be asked to stay in his job. Continuity is a good thing. France is on track to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense, which is sensible given the twin challenges of the self-proclaimed Islamic State and Russia that the country faces. Unlike Marine Le Pen, Macron says he wants to keep France in NATO. He has spoken openly about the unpredictability of U.S. President Donald Trump but concludes, rightly, that for all its faults, the transatlantic alliance serves France’s security needs well. Macron plans to reintroduce mandatory military service, but this needs to be seen mainly as a tool to build national pride among young French; the military utility of such a step would be limited.”
—Tomáš Valášek, director, Carnegie Europe
“Emmanuel Macron has previously spoken strongly in favor of working closely with the United States. He is expected to continue pursuing an active French foreign policy. Over the past decade, France has emerged as one of Washington’s closest NATO allies—especially on military operations in the Middle East and North Africa. France and the United States share the objective of defeating the Islamic State in Syria and combating terrorism more broadly, something Macron has said he is serious about. Macron’s pledge to increase French defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2025 will also be well received in Washington. Macron is generally pro–free trade and may be open to reviving transatlantic trade talks. However, the French president-elect has proved he is not afraid to speak up against the United States when he disagrees on policy—including over climate change. He also wants stronger EU defense cooperation to have more independence from the United States. In Macron, Washington will have a willing partner. The more relevant question is what foreign policy partnership the Trump administration will be looking for.”
—Erik Brattberg, director of the Europe Program and fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace