The second round of elections in France next Sunday will also be the fateful election for Europe. On one side a pro-European outgoing president, on the other a radical right-wing nationalist. Only problem, many French people do not see the crucial question “What do you think of the EU?” as decisive in this duel between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.
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What’s more, the anti-German theses of Le Pen and left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon are all the rage with a shocking number of French people. Both reject close cooperation with Berlin for different reasons.
Both the voters of Le Pen and the supporters of Mélenchon, who was eliminated in the first round and perhaps decisive in the elections, are skeptical or even hostile to the EU. Moreover, the distorted image of an ultra-liberal German economic model haunts the left camp.
On the far right, by contrast, Germany is seen as the country that will defeat France’s quest for sovereign greatness. Le Pen wants to end the Aachen friendship treaty between Berlin and Paris and end joint armament projects such as the FCAS air combat system.
A radical break with Germany is not taboo
Basically, we can predict that about half of those who can bring themselves to vote next Sunday have nothing against a radical break with Germany. Nonetheless, in the event of re-election, Macron would be well advised to ignore those voices and stick to his current course with Germany.
Because populist vote-hunting based solely on anti-German resentment does not yet replace practical politics. And Macron doesn’t have to be accused in France of neglecting his nation’s interests in the EU – see nuclear power and common European debt for the Corona aid fund.
Macron must learn a lesson from this campaign for the presidential election, which is also his last: unlike 2017, there is no longer excessive timidity among his compatriots to promote an anti-European at the Elysée.
The latest allegations of embezzlement of European funds have not changed the determination of many French people to try their luck at the Le Pen presidency. So before the second round of elections, Macron must now focus on the concerns that concern most people the most. These include inflation fears (in Germany, by the way, given the available data, there is much more basis for this than in France) and concerns about low wages.
Le Pen wants close cooperation between NATO and Russia
However, the Russian attack on Ukraine in the decisive phase of the election campaign is not completely meaningless. Macron would do well to put his challenger on the matter in Wednesday’s televised debate.
Despite the lessons learned from the war of Russian aggression, Le Pen proposes close cooperation between NATO and Russia. If elected president, she would strive not only to weaken NATO, in Putin’s mind, but also the EU. If Macron were to lose his presidency, the previous cohesion of Europeans towards Putin would be history.