1202 GMT January 21, 2018
Following the defeat of far-right and far-left parties in Austria, Italy and the Netherlands, European leaders who support convergence in Europe, focused their full attention on the 2017 French presidential election.
European countries, particularly Germany, were aware that the victory of France’s far-right political party in the presidential race would have been tantamount to losing one of the two main pillars of the EU, which could ultimately lead to the collapse of the bloc.
The European Union finally breathed a sigh of relief after Emmanuel Macron won the election.
Presently, the European Union considers his victory the defeat of skepticism in the bloc, which began following the global economic crisis over a decade ago.
Undoubtedly, Macron’s victory will have five positive results which will strengthen the weakening status of the European Union.
1. Weakening of skepticism
Skepticism has been integrated with the European Union since it was established, reaching a climax following the global economic and financial crisis, immigration problems, as well as the reinvigoration of the far-right discourse – the most important of which pertained to Brexit.
The UK’s decision to leave the European Union pushed far-right parties in other EU countries to discuss ways of splitting from the bloc.
Nonetheless, Macron’s victory has weakened such skepticism and will push France and Germany to adopt new approaches to boost the status of the EU. Such approaches will promote convergence in the EU and place institutional reforms on the agenda. Macron had said that unless the EU underwent reforms, Frexit could be proposed by Paris. However, his remarks about Frexit were mainly aimed at appeasing far-right voters. Macron’s political career indicates that he will propose plans to reform the EU.
2. Improving Germany-France relations
The European Union’s trade surplus was $296 billion last year, $280 billion of which pertained to Germany. Hence, Berlin spares no effort in supporting the EU and candidates who back the bloc. Germany supported Macron in France’s presidential election against Marine Le Pen and undertook to pay for parts of his presidential campaign.
Economic benefits of the EU is one of Germany’s strong motives to promote the bloc. This would not be possible without France’s membership.
Irrespective of economic advantages, Germany would not be able to follow up the plan to create Europe’s independent military without France’s collaboration – which has turned into the bloc’s most important security issue following Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.
Besides, pursing EU’s joint policies such as trade as well as monetary and financial policies would not be possible without France’s collaboration.
Macron can pave the way for convergence and benefiting from such issues.
3. Fall of extremist nationalism in Europe
The defeat of the far-right French National Front is the most important victory for the European Union achieved during its lifetime.
It is also the biggest setback for the party, which will lead to its isolation for a period of time. The success of a French government which supports the EU will determine the fate of far-right parties.
However, such parties will not be eliminated from France’s political system. They will maintain their status as the opposition and take part in parliamentary and local elections.
France’s far-right party will also adopt comprehensive plans with its counterparts in Europe to increase their parliamentary seats in the European Parliament.
On the whole, Macron’s victory, with 65 percent of the vote, indicates that the French public fears far-right parties.
We could perhaps say that his election indicates that Europe has averted collapse, but the new president’s approach will decide the future of far-right parties.
4. Promoting EU’s defense mechanisms
Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have made the EU more decisive in following up a plan for establishing an independent army.
The plan, which is being carried out through the leadership of France and Germany, will gain momentum as a result of Britain’s exit from the EU, because the UK was opposed to the plan.
Based on NATO’s planning, Macron has promised to increase France’s defense budget over the next two years. It appears that his election will also contribute to closer cooperation with Germany to organize the plan for EU’s independent army.
5. More determined to continue Brexit talks
European leaders who have been in a vulnerable position in Brexit talks – for a number of reasons such as the threats of far-right parties and Trump’s election – will continue the negotiations with more determination.
The bloc has approved a schedule which outlines priorities and mechanisms in the process of Brexit talks until 2019.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the UK cannot take advantage of the EU without accepting commitments. France along with Germany will try to remind the UK about the costs of leaving the European Union.
To sum up, Macron’s victory was the most essential measure to prevent EU’s collapse. His reformist approach, along with Germany’s unwavering support, can end the structural deadlock in the EU.
*Bahram Qassemi is Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman.