BY HUGO RIOS
France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, is a young political newcomer who seemed to have miniscule chances of winning the French presidency this year; his centrist Republique En Marche (REM) party had only been created last April. Having faced far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen in the general French presidential election, Macron challenged Le Pen’s ideas on the future of the European Union and refugees. He has sought to preserve European integration and supports German chancellor Angela Merkel’s acceptance of refugees. But besides Le Pen, Macron must now contend with established French political parties such as the left-wing Socialists and the right-wing Republicans, both of which seek to challenge the REM in the parliamentary elections next month. If not enough of his party members and allies are elected for a majority in the French parliament, Macron may be forced to negotiate deals with either the Socialists or Republicans in order to form a government. In an attempt to ensure a smooth transition of power, Macron has established a presidential cabinet that represents the French political spectrum to appeal to most parties and to form alliances; Republican Édouard Philippe was appointed to serve as the prime minister while Socialist Jean-Yves Le Drian was chosen to serve as the Foreign Minister. Until the parliamentary elections are concluded, Macron must tread carefully with the policies he pursues regarding the future of the European Union and refugees.
After the European Union was informed by the United Kingdom of its intention to exit its ranks in March, the European Union’s future was under threat. Making matters worse, Le Pen actively campaigned with promises of demolishing the European Union. Although France elected to maintain its status within the European Union under Macron, 34 percent of voters cast their vote for Le Pen, a large minority that contained opposition to the European Union and will be a powerful force during the French parliamentary election. Within Germany, Merkel continues to face parliamentary elections in September, which means she must be cautious of the policies that she pursues in order to not antagonize voters. In the meantime, Macron and Merkel have held discussions on what goals their countries should pursue in relation to the European Union. Reinforcement of the eurozone, the group of European Union members who use the euro as a common currency, is an important goal. Several eurozone states such as Greece, Italy, Spain, and Ireland continue to accumulate debt and have struggled for years at reversing this trend. Rumors have circulated within Germany ahead of its parliamentary elections that politicians such as Macron will advocate for combining the debt of individual eurozone states into one common debt that all eurozone states would be responsible for. Macron has strongly denied these accusations.
While the European Union will struggle with formulating economic reforms, Macron and Merkel have found common ground in their political positions regarding the refugee crisis. Macron has approved of Merkel’s policies under which refugees, most fleeing the Syrian civil war, were permitted to reside in Germany as a short-term solution. As part of his campaign to promote the European Union, Macron has advocated for increased border security, sharing of intelligence, and more distribution of migrants amongst European Union states rather than leaving states along the Mediterranean Sea, such as Italy and Greece, to deal with the issue alone. Perhaps even more bold is his threats to take action such as sanctions against certain European Union states for holding undemocratic values. One of the states facing criticism is Poland, which has been resistant to the European Union resettling refugees within its borders. With the refugee crisis continuing to escalate as more refugees enter Europe, Macron is vulnerable to a changing French electorate and could lose his position to Le Pen in 2022 unless he negotiates a successful solution with other European Union states. Merkel losing parliamentary elections in Germany would have an impact on Macron’s chance of success and the long-term health of the European Union, with European elections unofficially serving a dual purpose as referendums on each state’s status within the European Union.