It’s on! Macron has officially put France en Marche (On the Move) after winning the 2017 French Presidential Elections against Marine Le Pen, his primary rival. After an ambitious trajectory and a surprising rise to the top, Emmanuel Macron became France’s youngest Head of State since Napoleon Bonaparte. 2017 is definitely not a year of ordinary politics.
With the threat of a Grexit, financial crises, Brexit becoming reality, Donald Trump’s election, and now Emmanuel Macron as President of France, the EU is on the verge of collapsing. For most politicians, Marine Le Pen was a favorite because her ideas and strategies were predictable from such a long time in politics, so her loss took them all by surprise. There was virtually no common ground between Le Pen and Macron, and now that he’s won, EU conservatives are going nuts. Macron has already expressed that the European Union (EU) must reform or face a–wait for it– Frexit! If Frexit were to ever come true, the days of the EU are counted. Why? There may be a Grexit because of Greece’s national debt, Brexit pulled out one of the major powers from the bloc, Spain is recovering from a financial crisis, Germany is considering Gexit, etc. Whichever way you look at it, the EU is in deep trouble.
Although he is theoretically pro-EU, he feels a stronger commitment to his people, the French, and their well-being, which is why he urges for reform. The reforms he has promised to seek out throughout his presidency are regarding environmental, social and fiscal regulations across the bloc. Failure to improve the European situation would thus mean Frexit. Meanwhile, Macron has a whole set of legislation that he believes will make France great again- sound familiar?
The French market has experienced underperformance for a long time now, especially in comparison to EU neighbours such as Germany. His financial plan has been dubbed as Macronomics. He plans to set aside 40 billion euros in tax breaks and reduce corporate taxes from 33% to 25% as part of his strategy to revive the economy. The Macronomy also involves making a 60 billion euro budget cut so that France can finally stay within the margin of the 3% GDP (Gross Domestic Product) EU deficit limit. However, it’s not all about cutting spending. There will also be a 50 billion euro investment over five years used for environmental measures, training programs/ internships, innovation, and public infrastructure.
In February 2017, France was the EU country with the seventh highest unemployment rate, at 10%. Hence, it is no surprise why tackling unemployment is important to Macron. Even worse, youth unemployment (25 years or younger) is about twice that figure. In fact, one in four young adults is unemployed. Part of his plan is to invest in training programs for “last chance” youths and incentivizing businesses that hire people who come from impoverished banlieues (suburbs). Macron has pledged to cut unemployment down to 7% by the time his term has ended.
Now, onto the most controversial topic: IMMIGRATION. His plan for immigration has been described as a manifesto. In his manifesto, Macron is in favor of strengthening EU (external) borders and plans to do so by creating a 5,000 EU border guard force. Unfortunately, due to the rise of Islamophobia, Muslims in France have been victimized by unfair security policies- remember the burkini ban? In order to reinstate peace in the nation, Macron wants all religious leaders to receive “comprehensive training in France’s secular values” while recognizing that no specific religion is a problem in France, and that it is the country’s duty to provide freedom of religion. He doesn’t envisage a France that shuts out immigrants and asylum seekers. However, with the coincidental increase of terrorism across Europe because of extremist groups such as the Islamic State and Boko Haram, and the astonishing numbers of refugees that are showing up on European coasts because of it, France is scared.
Macron wants to implement integration programs for foreigners to teach them about French language and culture. Eventually, the plan would be to make French fluency the main qualification for obtaining French nationality. There will also be a six-month processing time for those seeking asylum in France, but Macron hopes to reduce the time required to obtain “talent” visas. “Talent” visas allow skilled workers to work in France based on their profession. Whether or not these visas will be available in the future remains uncertain, especially because of the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Manchester.
France was one of the first countries to respond to the attack and offered its support to the people of London. If not on anything else, the EU stands united in terror, which may make any reform in immigration for the better almost impossible. Regarding international relations, Macron also represents a change for French diplomacy. For example, he supports sanctions on Russia because Russian foreign policy “doesn’t hesitate to break international law” and is “dangerous”. Macron is also another of many world leaders who think President Bashar al-Assad should be put on trial in an international tribunal so he may pay for crimes. However, Macron has to be careful in the way he handles and reacts to extremist terrorist attacks, as fueling the already heated anti-Arab sentiment in the EU could prove fatal. And finally, Macron is highly critical of all things Trump. Having said this, it will be interesting to see how France-Russia, France-Syria, and France-US relations play out in the future.
For better or worse, Macron won the elections at a chaotic period in our history; recessions, terrorism, anti-EU sentiment, Trump, Brexit, North Korea’s nuclear threat, the Iran nuclear deal, Ukraine, Russia, civil war in Syria–they all seem to complicate his presidency even more. As France’s youngest President, whether or not he was ready to rise to such a position, his victory has driven a wedge between the far right and left in France. Both sides, apparently, have failed the people of France for too long, which is why voters decided to go for Macron. An analysis of his campaign reveals that his victory was not mere luck. There is such thing as the perfect moment. The people of France decided to put their trust into Macron because of the rejuvenating plans he pledged to put on the table, but he must fulfill those promises if he wishes to secure his party a place in the next election and keep Le Pen away from the 2022 elections.
Ultimately, Macron’s term in office will be a decisive factor in whether the people of France want to vote for leftist, rightist, or centrist parties. Will he be able to keep the EU together? If not, how plausible is Frexit? As the year progresses and Macron’s presidential style is made clear, we’ll find out! But for now, France is clearly en Marche (On the Move)!
“En Marche” was originally posted to Flickr by Renaud Camus. The image has been licensed for fair use by the creator under the Creative Commons license – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). No modifications were made.