Spotlight: Macron wins French Election

After a disastrous 2016 in which the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU was followed closely by the even more shocking election of Donald Trump in the United States, the EU was looking increasingly vulnerable heading into 2017. There appeared to be a number of crucial European national elections poised to put Eurosceptic populists in power. But with Emmanuel Macron’s victory over Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election capping off a string of victories for pro-EU parties in Austria and the Netherlands, the prospects for stabilizing and possibly deepening European integration are looking better. Reacting to Macron’s victory as well as speculating on the future of the European project, Jennifer Rankin’s May 9th article for The Guardian argues that while the EU still faces daunting external and internal challenges, there is real justification for the optimism being felt by proponents of a united Europe in the wake of these electoral victories.

First, Rankin describes the reaction to the French election amongst Europe’s leaders. From Italy’s Europe minster Sandro Gozi to the chief of staff to the European commission president Martin Selmayr, pro-EU political figures were celebrating the victory of Macron. The victorious Macron platform was dedicated to “…the dream of the European Union, although was not naïve when it came to its mistakes.”, in contrast to the defeated Le Pen platform which called for a referendum on French EU membership and predicted the organization’s demise.

Continuing on, a particularly interesting conclusion is advanced by Rankin that Brexit and Trump have actually reinforced support for the EU and politicians like Macron, rather than detracted from it. European University Institute professor Brigid Laffan is quoted within the article as stating: “One of the paradoxes of Trump and Brexit is that it has brought it home to individual Europeans…that Europe has to be fought for and protected. People don’t like what they see and that temptation is being contained.” While populists have gained a certain level of support through opposition to the status quo, they have not convinced enough voters that they can provide a realistic alternative once in power. Ultimately, EU support across Europe (including the UK) has been steadily increasing, causing Laffan to envision “a political window” during the next few years in which a reset of the European project can be attempted.

While pro-EU political victories and increased Eurozone economic growth have bolstered some, it has also left others questioning what a strengthened EU means for their countries’ positions within European politics. The United Kingdom faces an uphill negotiation as it looks to sever ties, and Eastern European countries, some exhibiting illiberal tendencies, must once again fear being ostracized within the EU by the hegemony of a strong German-French alliance.

Jennifer Rankin concludes by arguing that the EU still faces Greek economic uncertainty and Italian populism, and France’s Macron still has to deliver on his campaign promises to avoid the return of French populism. Despite all these possible bad turns, recent political and economic events have created real cause for optimism among those who support the EUand those who dream of a future united Europe.

Rankin, Jennifer. “Macron Victory Gives Brussels Confidence Boost over EU’s Future.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 09 May 2017. Web. 13 May 2017.


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