Macron’s European and Global Goals for His Second Term
The election also confirmed the restructuring of French politics into three political blocs and opened what will be an intense campaign for the parliamentary election in June.
A Divided France
Gathering 58.54 percent of the vote against 41.46 percent for Marine Le Pen, Macron is the first president to be reelected since 2002. Compared to 2017, when he also faced Le Pen in the second round, he lost 8 points and 2 million votes while his opponent gained more than 2.5 million votes. This second round was also characterized by a high level of abstention (28 percent) and of blank and invalid votes (6.2 percent). While around 18.8 million people voted for Macron and 13.5 million for Le Pen, over 16 million decided not to choose between them.
Gathering 58.54 percent of the vote against 41.46 percent for Marine Le Pen, Macron is the first president to be reelected since 2002.
Macron is well aware that many have cast a ballot for him not because they supported his program, but because they wanted to avoid a Le Pen presidency. Important shares of the voters choosing Jean-Luc Mélenchon (far left) and Valérie Pécresse (center-right) in the first round (42 percent and 53 percent respectively) voted for Macron, compared to 17 percent and 18 percent respectively for Le Pen. Macron addressed this in his victory speech, underlining that “this vote comes with obligations.” He said he would change his method of governing, as he was often criticized for centralizing power at the Elysée Palace, and that he wants to make France an “ecological great power,” a clear signal to the left). He also spoke about the need to talk to Le Pen voters.
Reconciling the different camps will probably be Macron’s most significant challenge in the years to come.
Reconciling the different camps will probably be Macron’s most significant challenge in the years to come. The political spectrum is now structured with three political blocs around Macron, Le Pen, and Mélenchon. Each offers a very different vision of globalization, the role of France in the world, and the role of the EU in advancing European interests. Furthermore, Macron’s election cannot be seen as a victory over right-wing populism or anti-establishment parties. In the first round, more than half of the voters went for anti-establishment candidates. What these forces have in common is their strong criticism of the EU and the current course of the French-German relationship.
Support for European Sovereignty
Macron’s foreign policy vision is well known and there should not be a major evolution in his second term. He will pursue his agenda on European sovereignty in critical fields like security and defense, climate change, and technology. And he remains convinced that only a strong EU can ensure that France and other European countries remain competitive in a multipolar order. Accordingly, initiatives under France’s current presidency of the Council of the EU, such as a summit for the Western Balkans or the Conference on the Future of Europe, will constitute the starting point for this endeavor. Macron will most likely try to leverage this French role as much as possible for the two remaining months of the council presidency.
Macron will also continue to base his European policy on a strong degree of French-German policy coordination. Berlin will probably be his first destination and his working relationship with Chancellor Olaf Scholz is generally characterized as good. Furthermore, the Europe agendas of Germany’s government and Macron overlap on several questions. One example is the EU’s carbon border adjustment mechanism.
Yet, the scope of French-German cooperation will most likely depend on the answer the government in Berlin gives to Macron. In 2017, when he announced his project for Europe, Germany’s previous government never gave an answer—or at least not by using the Macron momentum for an ambitious project for French-German cooperation. Furthermore, the future of their cooperation in security and defense, and whether they will be able to find a common answer to the war in Ukraine, will significantly depend on how Germany’s Zeitenwende (“new era”) translates into practice.
Macron will aim to increase consultation with European leaders too. He and his advisors are aware of the criticism of his disruptive and unilateral approach on the international stage. Over the past two months, there has therefore been an effort to better coordinate with European partners—especially with the Central European and Baltic states. Macron’s instincts, however, will continue push him to seek pragmatic and efficient solutions rather than inclusive ones.
A Balancing Power
At the global level, Macron will continue to develop the concept of France as a “balancing power.” The idea is that it should and can engage in diplomatic initiatives with any country around the world without betraying its formal partnerships and alliances. This underlines Macron’s ambitions for France to maintain its independence and ability to play a special role in world affairs. The challenge will be to implement this vision by having it play a leading role within a more geopolitical and united EU.
Macron will continue to develop the concept of France as a “balancing power.”
The reelected president will also have to continue the improvement of French-US relations. According to Paris, the crisis over the AUKUS security pact between Australia, the United Kindgdom, and the United States provided an opportunity to have a brutally honest discussion with Washington, and the joint communiqué by Macron and President Joe Biden in October 2021 opened a new chapter in the relationship.
Besides pushing for more cooperation in defense and security, notably in the Sahel region, Macron will seek to address with the United States key transnational issues, such as climate change, democracy, and technology and innovation regulations. France also aims to deepen transatlantic policy coordination in the Indo-Pacific, where it has significant strategic interests. Finally, he will continue to promote the complementarity of NATO and the EU in European defense, and he will hope for the support of the Biden administration for more ambitious EU foreign and security policy initiatives.