Macron, Le Pen, and the Future of France’s Alliances
The next French president will face a very different European and international environment from that in 2012, when President François Hollande arrived at the Élysée Palace. A resurgent Russia, the spread of terrorism in Europe, Brexit and the rise of nationalism in Europe, massive refugee flows, and the election of President Donald Trump in the United States will all require strong French leadership, cooperation with European and other partners, French military engagement, and more assertive international diplomacy.
Whoever is elected French president in the second-round runoff on May 7 will lead a major power of the EU and NATO, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and the eurozone’s second-largest economy. The evolutions in France’s economy and foreign policy in the five years to come will depend on the next president’s ability to efficiently use these assets of French power.
Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron have opposite views of the world and France’s international role. Le Pen envisions a place for France in what she calls a new world of great powers shaped by a Washington-Paris-Moscow axis. Meanwhile, Macron firmly believes that France first needs to regain credibility and influence in Europe, to move toward more balanced co-leadership with Germany, while preserving France’s traditional alliances and interests abroad.
Europe and globalization have been the main dividing lines in this election campaign, with the debate about France’s independence at the center—independence vis-à-vis EU institutions and Germany, U.S. foreign policy, and traditional alliances. Considering France’s global engagement on security and diplomacy and its critical role in fighting terrorism in the Sahel alongside the United States, the election of the next president will be particularly decisive for the future of Europe and transatlantic cooperation.
The first diplomatic move by the next president, whether Le Pen or Macron, will take place in Europe. Both candidates recognize that business as usual is impossible and that EU institutions need to be reformed, but they propose very different approaches.