During her campaign, Marine Le Pen presented herself as a moderate, and it paid off as polls now show the French far-right leader has never been closer to becoming France’s next president; on April 24, voters will have to decide between her and outgoing President Emmanuel Macron. But what are her plans for Europe and what would be the consequences if she were elected?
The first round of the French presidential election is now over, with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National) and incumbent president and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron (La République en Marche) advancing to the second round . With 27.8%, Macron recorded a significantly higher percentage of votes than his first-round result of 24.01%.
However, Marine Le Pen, MP for Pas-de-Calais, also rose, with 23.15% – a new record for the far right which beat the 2017 score of 21.3%. If Macron remains the favorite, never has a representative of the far right held such a dominant position for the second round as well as such positive campaign dynamics.
On March 5, the Ipsos-Sopra Steria barometer for Le Monde attributed 14.5% of voting intentions to it. The same survey showed Macron at 30.5%. The fate of the second round will be largely decided by supporters of the left, in particular the electoral base of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came in third position with 21.95%.
Le Pen’s pro-Putin stance hasn’t affected his position
I have no doubt that the idea of France electing someone like Le Pen is hard to believe, especially in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Unfortunately, talk of foreign policy and broader European topics has been sparse during the campaign, with Le Pen offering very little, especially since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
When war broke out, she decided to throw away 1.2 million election leaflets, which were about to be distributed because they included a photo showing her with Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing her as “a woman of conviction”.
By far the main theme of the campaign was purchasing power and rising costs, which became the two mainstays of his campaign platform. So even though support for Ukraine is widespread in France, its pro-Putin stance has not affected its position, either positively or negatively.
It can be difficult to fully understand the implications his victory would have on the EU and European security, so I have read his official program and recent speeches to try to explain.
In short, even if Le Pen tries to avoid these topics, his election would undoubtedly bring chaos to Europe.
To imagine the consequences, we would do well to imagine Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the helm of the European Union’s second largest economy – a “Viktor Orban” unencumbered by the pressure of EU funds as as the leader of the second largest contributor to the EU budget. We are talking about a complete destabilization of the EU.
Undermining the EU and NATO
The La Pen manifesto literally calls for the replacement of the European Union by a new “Alliance of European Nations”. Although it often claims to have close ties to the Hungarian and Polish governments, it is also very likely that it will fail to convince many other countries to follow suit. But in many respects, her strategy mirrors Orban’s steps: officially, she does not envisage leaving the EU, the euro zone or NATO. But it wants to undermine these institutions from within.
Marine Le Pen did not often address European issues during the campaign, but when she did it was of course entirely negative. She accused the EU of being “increasingly intrusive and authoritarian”, “embedded in techno-liberal dead ends” and of espousing a “globalist and borderless ideology”. It “weakens our agriculture”, she claims, “destroys our identity” and “imposes its laws on the constitutions of the States”.
In its program, it wants to include discriminatory policies that favor French citizens over foreign citizens. This includes EU citizens, and she also wants to restrict their access to social benefits. EU rules prevent governments from prioritizing their own nationals over other EU citizens. To achieve this unconstitutional violation of European law, it plans to organize a referendum affirming the primacy of French law over European law. European law “would no longer be applied” if the government decided that it was contrary to the “sovereign will” of France.
In her manifesto, she also plans to undermine the EU’s single market and two of the EU’s key principles: the free movement of goods and people. She wants to reintroduce border controls for goods arriving in France, and “renegotiate” the Schengen agreements to replace the absence of border controls for citizens with “simplified procedures”.
She also wants to unilaterally reduce France’s contribution to EU budgets, while intending to keep the resources of the EU’s carbon tax, initially intended to partially finance the large European loan launched in 2021, and cancel certain agreements. commercial. All of these actions would come from a founding member of the EU – a country which is the second largest contributor to the EU budget. Therefore, she would use this as leverage to blackmail other EU members.
If the other member states refused these renegotiations – other Schengen members do not want permanent border controls – she would veto everything (unlike Orban, the EU could not use European funds as an argument to exert pressure on her). Therefore, even though she no longer officially calls for a “Frexit”, she simply plans to block everything in the EU until she gets what she wants.
What if the other EU countries did not give in? Then, it is very likely that the Frexit option would come back on the table.
EU climate policy would also suffer, as Le Pen wants France’s emissions reduction strategy to be decided at national level and on an annual basis, unlike the current system of EU ten-year energy and climate plans. .
His foreign policy would be a significant break with France’s post-Cold War approach. She wants to “take the initiative to renegotiate with Washington the complete foundations of its partnership in all areas”. It calls for an end to industrial defense cooperation with Germany and wants to withdraw from NATO’s integrated military structure, which France joined in 2009 after 43 years of absence.
In search of an alliance with Russia
Of course, on Russia, the change would be the most significant. It seeks an alliance with Russia on specific issues such as security in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. During this year’s campaign, she also said Putin could become an ally of France if the war ends.
She opposes sanctions that would affect the French economy, the delivery of arms to Ukraine, says that only a UN investigation could determine who is responsible for the Bucha and Mariupol massacres, wants an agreement with Russia to ensure that Ukraine will always remain a buffer zone and not join the EU or NATO and called for recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
To say that she would do her best to block Europe’s support for Ukraine is an understatement. After all, we are talking about someone who said in 2017, “the politicians I represent are the politicians represented by Mr. Putin”.
This year, his main inspiration seems to be Viktor Orban. Many people know that in 2017 she received a loan of nine million euros from a small bank, First Czech Russian Bank, linked to the Kremlin. She will repay this debt until 2028, which would certainly pose a national security problem if she were elected. However, this year she received a loan of 10 million euros from a Hungarian bank, MKB, owned by Lőrinc Mészáros, a close friend of Orban, politician and businessman, whose fortune has rested much on public contracts and on EU funds (in 2018, it won public contracts worth 259 billion HUF, 93% of which came from the European Union).
Several French people I spoke to believe that they can always stop his plans anyway if another party wins the presidential election in June. But France is not a parliamentary system. It is a semi-presidential system.
Although the French prime minister, through his government and parliament, oversees much of the day-to-day domestic affairs of the nation, the French president wields significant influence and authority, serves as head of the armed forces, represents the country to the European Council, and is responsible, among other things, for national security and foreign policy. This is what often allows France to make decisions and to move forward faster than many other countries on these subjects. This has largely been a positive feature of the French system, but could also become just as dangerous.
Thus, with the election of Le Pen, Putin would gain an ally, the one who runs the EU’s second largest economy, and Orban would gain a strong partner to undermine the EU from within. This is what is at stake now, the future of Europe and the EU, and why this French presidential election is undoubtedly more important than any other election in Europe.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.