With the final round of the presidential elections approaching, FNF Europe asked Katja Borck from the ‘Institut français des relations internationales’ (IFRI) on how foreign policy has played a role in the election campaign.
Looking at the two remaining candidates, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, voters will have to choose between candidates with two opposing visions on Europe. How could this impact the future with regards to the EU and in particular the Franco-German relations?
» Even though the French executive has significant authority in terms of foreign policy, this latter does not figure on the list of primary subjects in the presidential election campaign. Candidates have had, and the two remaining have, opposing stances on foreign relations, positions towards Russia for example vary greatly. But it is not a subject on which the presidential election battle is fought, candidates have a rather clear stand but do generally not spend much time on it. The French voter and especially the one dissatisfied with his current situation, is more interested by home affairs.
The EU and Frances role in it (or even out of it) has however polarised the debate this year. From further integration to leaving the EU – the campaign would have seen all of it. Interestingly enough, with the two remaining candidates, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, this divide is taken to the extreme: M. Macron has lead the most Europhile campaign whereas Mme Le Pen would like to see France leave the EU and promises to pass a referendum for a “Frexit” – a French Brexit.
Towards Germany this difference is just as evident. Mme Le Pen argues that Germany has been patronising France and that in order to give France back its powerful position in the world, it must free itself of the German neighbour and a suffocating EU. She accuses M Macron who has openly campaigned for strong French-German relations despite his sharp criticism of the German export policy of being influenced by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It culminated in the candidate saying during the last debate (Wednesday, 3rd Mai) that France would in any case be governed by a woman – herself or Ms Merkel.
Mme Le Pen’s presidency would allow for Europhobe and protectionist changes that could profoundly damage Frances relationship with the EU and lead to a severe deterioration of French-German cooperation. Her protectionist and nationalist views sharply contrast with the German model of European integration and open borders – and also the liberal views of M Macron. With the leader of “En Marche”, the EU would gain a pro-integrationist player that would not disregard France’s interests but be valuable to Germany and other EU member states in their fight to keep the EU united in times of Brexit and rise of populism.«
Since September 2016 Katja Borck has been project manager of the Franco-German research group Cerfa whilst also coordinating the French-German Future Dialogue, financed by the Robert Bosch foundation. She holds a BA and MA degree in European Studies from King’s College London and the Sorbonne University respectively. From 2014 to 2016 she taught at the University of Paris-Sorbonne where she also conducted research on German liberalism and the European project.