It will soon be decided who will govern France in the future: the right-wing populist Le Pen or the liberal Macron? A Le Pen victory could have massive repercussions, especially for Europe.
The specter of a “Frexit” is haunting Europe: Ahead of the second round of the French presidential election in just over a week, fears are mounting in Europe that right-wing populist Marine Le Pen could win the election against incumbent Emmanuel Macron.
The 53-year-old denies that she wants to take France out of the European Union. But their plans read like a blueprint for it. The Franco-German partnership would also face a crucial test with Le Pen.
Asselborn: France in “political civil war”
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, at 72 years old by far the longest-serving chief diplomat in the EU, doesn’t mince his words. He sees France in a “kind of political civil war”.
Le Pen has declared the runoff to be a “referendum against Macron” and his pro-European ideas. Macron’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune, on the other hand, calls the vote a “referendum on Europe”.
Contrary program to Europe
The two candidates and their programs could not be more contradictory: on the one hand, Macron, who is often praised as a European “visionary”, who presented an ambitious EU reform program shortly after his election victory in 2017 – but some of which came to nothing due to a lack of German support; on the other hand, the eldest daughter of French right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen, who wants to “put the European Union in its place”. It branded the EU an “illegitimate supranational structure” and threatened billions in funding cuts.
Asselborn: Le Pen’s victory would hit the EU hard
Officially, Le Pen is not aiming for “Frexit”. She also dropped her call for France to leave the euro after her clear defeat by Macron in 2017. According to polls in France, there is no majority for either.
However, Asselborn believes it is a given that President Le Pen would mean a “change in Europe as a project of values and peace” and that the “essence” of the European Union would be hit hard. The Brexit and the long-standing rule of law controversies with Poland and Hungary have already put the EU on a list.
Le Pen promises a constitutional referendum in the event of a triumph against Macron. According to her, “all European texts that go against our supreme law should no longer be applied in France”. Poland, which is governed by national conservatives, is a role model: In October, the constitutional court questioned the primacy of European law over national law in a historic judgment.
The federal government is also looking to Paris with concern: Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), alluding to the Ukraine war, said it was important “that we Europeans stand together strongly, especially in these times”.
Le Pen promotes strategic rapprochement with Russia
Le Pen’s election victory would not bode well for the Franco-German “motor” of the EU. She accuses Germany of standing for “the absolute negation of French strategic identity”. As soon as the Ukraine war is over, Le Pen says she wants to promote a “strategic rapprochement” between Russia and NATO.
After the Russian attack on Ukraine, Le Pen had election brochures stamped in which she was seen alongside President Vladimir Putin. But for a long time she courted Putin and, according to media reports, received millions in loans from Russian banks.
Le Pen’s prospects have been met with enthusiasm by the AfD and the extreme right-wing Lega party in Italy, which sits in a parliamentary group with Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Collective Movement). AfD MEP Gunnar Beck tweeted after the first round of the election that “the whole of sensible Europe” is now supporting Le Pen in the run-off election.