The idea of a far-right leader heading the EU would be abhorrent to most members of the 27-nation bloc. But if Emmanuel Macron fails in the French presidential elections on April 24, it may be in two weeks.
According to experts, a victory for the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen would have immense repercussions on the functioning of the EU.
Not only would his coming to power harm the democratic values and trade rules of the 27-nation bloc, but it would also threaten the EU common front and the sanctions that have been put in place in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. .
Macron, the incumbent president with strong pro-EU views, and Le Pen, an anti-immigration nationalist, couldn’t have more starkly opposed views of the EU.
“The debate we will have in the coming days is crucial for our country and for Europe,” Macron said after the results were announced. On Tuesday, he goes to Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament, to talk about the role of France in Europe. All polls show Macron to be the favorite to vote, but Le Pen has narrowed the gap considerably since the last presidential election five years ago.
France has always been at the heart of the EU – a founding member that joined forces with neighboring and historic rival Germany to make the bloc an economic giant and an icon of Western values. Giving that much-vaunted perch to a far-right politician would be bad enough. But, coincidentally, France also holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU this spring, which also allows it to speak with the power of 27.
It is a pedestal that few want to offer Le Pen. The leader of the National Rally wants to establish national border controls on imports and people, reduce the French contribution to the EU budget and stop recognizing the primacy of European law over national law.
She has proposed scrapping taxes on hundreds of essential goods and wants to cut fuel taxes, which would run counter to EU free-market rules.
Jean-Claude Piris, who has been a legal adviser to the European Council and an expert on European institutions, said that a victory for Le Pen would have the effect of an “earthquake”, since the measures she is defending would be equivalent in practical to a withdrawal from the 27-nation bloc.
“She is in favor of a form of economic patriotism with state aid, which is contrary to the rules of the single market,” Piris said in an interview with The Associated Press. “France would no longer participate in common free market and trade policies.”
“She wants to modify the French constitution by giving preference to the French, by removing the jus soli, the right to asylum”, which would be “totally incompatible with the values of the European treaties”, added Piris.
Piris said Le Pen’s arrival would also threaten the 27’s unanimity on the sanctions they have adopted so far against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. It could prevent the adoption of new measures. The bloc is currently considering whether to add new restrictions on oil imports from Russia.
Le Pen has forged close ties with the Kremlin over the years. During her previous bid for the French presidency in 2017, she called for strong security ties with Moscow to jointly fight radical Islamic groups. She also pledged to recognize Crimea – the peninsula annexed to Ukraine in 2014 – as part of Russia.
Le Pen acknowledged that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “partially” changed his views on Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he was “wrong” and expressing support for the Ukrainian people and refugees.
Piris believes that while Le Pen might find allies in a few right-wing governments currently in power in Eastern Europe, she would face backlash from most other EU members.
Louis Alliot, vice-president of Le Pen’s National Rally, told the France Info news channel on Monday that France’s allies would include Hungary and Poland.
A report by the Center for European Reform published on Monday highlighted how Le Pen could very well take the same route as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki in setting up roadblocks for Brussels wherever she can in order to slow down further. the already cumbersome EU process. decision making.
“The difference is that France (…) is indispensable to the EU”, underlines the report, affirming that the consequences would be a “political chaos”.
CER experts also believe Le Pen’s policies would conflict with the bloc’s climate goals. Le Pen is in favor of nuclear expansion and several non-governmental groups have warned it will slow the transition to renewables.
Moreover, the traditional Franco-German tandem would be undermined, with German Socialist Chancellor Olaf Scholz unlikely to reach a compromise with Le Pen.
The long-serving foreign minister of neighboring Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, described the situation as “very, very worrying”.
Le Pen as French president “would not just be a shake-up of Europe as a project of values, a project of peace; it would put us on a totally different path in the essence of the European Union”, said said Asselborn. “The French must prevent that.”