Blog Post

“France is Back”: A Renewed Engagement between France and the World

July 26, 2017
4 min read
Photo credit: Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock

Emmanuel Macron’s improbable rise to the French presidency has transformed France’s role on the global stage. But his task is not over. Macron must address France’s internal divisions while contending with ever more complex European politics and a new era of American leadership. In this Leadership Perspectives call — exclusive to GMF's Alumni Leadership Council members, Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, director of GMF’s Paris office and a senior transatlantic fellow, provides an executive summary of Macron’s presidency and assesses the diplomatic and economic future of France.

Listen to the call:

Read below for a few of the call’s key takeaways:

  • The 2017 presidential election was France’s most consequential election in at least a decade. Emmanuel Macron’s victory indicates that France has gone through a major political transformation, and his En Marche movement has pushed traditional political parties to the wayside. The Socialist Party, UMP, and Front National are experiencing an identity crisis and are nowhere near as influential as before.

  • Macron’s victory disproved the hypothesis of there being an “automatic domino effect” in global elections. France was able to prevent what many Europeans considered a catastrophic trio of Trump, Brexit, and Marine Le Pen.

  • French hostility toward the European Union has little to do with British “Europhobia” and more to do with France’s sense that it has been evicted from the heart of the European continent. Macron won in part because he promised to restore France’s status in Europe.

  • A denormalization of the far right has not yet happened in France. 40 percent of voters for Macron voted in protest of Le Pen not in support of his policies.

  • Macron wants French citizens to feel more secure physically (by combatting terrorism) and economically (by addressing the disruptive forces of globalization and digitization). He hopes to build a Europe that protects European citizens.

  • Macron has benefited from entering the office during a period of increased economic growth.

  • According to the Soft Power 30, a recent report published by Portland Communications and the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy, France possesses more soft power than any other country in the world. It has moved from fifth to first place, while the United States has slid from first to third and the United Kingdom remained constant at second.

  • Macron wants to regain credibility in France and in Europe by reducing the public deficit to 3 percent of GDP, in compliance with the Maastricht Treaty of 1992.

  • Where François Hollande believed that national security should prevail in spite of rising national debt, Macron believes that economic stability is the most important issue facing France today. Macron’s proposed military cuts of €850 million forced Gen. Pierre de Villiers, France’s chief military officer, to resign.

  • Macron hopes to pass powerful economic reform laws, and his party’s majority in parliament will help him. France’s public sector wages are the highest among developed countries in the OECD. Right now, his reforms are centered on reducing the public deficit by €4.5 billion through government cuts. Tax reform will not be addressed until at least 2018, possibly 2020.

  • In order to increase productivity, lower unemployment, and re-energize the economy, Macron plans to forcefully push through labor reforms between now and August. The current state of emergency will aid him, as it prohibits public demonstrations. However, protests are already planned for mid-September when the state of emergency ends.

  • Macron has said that he will end France’s 14-month state of emergency but keep certain anti-terrorism powers in effect (e.g. the ability to shutter places of worship and conduct searches with fewer restrictions). This proposal has been met with hostility by civil liberty groups in France.

  • Macron has demonstrated a renewed engagement with Berlin and worked to display France’s diplomatic prowess. Macron’s recently discussed German–French alliance with Angela Merkel and Trump’s presence at the Bastille Day military parade were both hugely popular in France.

  • France has always been Europe’s military power, and today with 30,000 troops overseas the country is hoping to cajole other nations like Germany and the United States into contributing financially to its defense efforts.

  • Alexandra predicts that after Merkel is re-elected in September she will engage Macron’s agenda more thoroughly.

  • Africa remains one of France’s top international priorities, but France’s abundance of military power and lack of development prowess has hindered the country’s effectiveness in creating successful states in the region. German cooperation in economic and political development would help France better support the African continent.

  • Macron’s control of the media has allowed him to focus his message in a way that Holland or Le Pen could not. This will benefit his initiatives in the future.​​

This product is supported by NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division.

GMF’s Leadership Perspectives informs leaders about trends that are changing the nature of transatlantic relations. During each call, members of GMF's Alumni Leadership Council have the unique opportunity to send questions through an instant messaging group and shape content.
Access to GMF's Alumni Leadership Council is exclusive to alumni of GMF's leadership programs, including Marshall Memorial Fellowship, Manfred Wörner Seminar, Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network, Asmus Policy Entrepreneurs Fellowship, APSA Congressional Fellowship, and New Länder Fellowship. 
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