French Presidency over EU; Election Opportunity for Macron

2022/01/31 | Note, political, top news

Strategic Council Online - Opinion: The symmetry of the French presidency over the European Union with the start of the presidential election in that country has led some analysts to refer to that coincidence as a springboard for the president to win the next election. In fact, they believe that Macron will try in the short time left until the election, by pursuing priorities of the French presidency over the European Union, while increasing his popularity in the public opinion, increase his distance from other candidates. Hadi Khazaei - European affairs analyst

Less than three months before the French presidential election (April 10, 2022), the country’s party leaders are preparing to take part in the political race. In the short time leading up to the election, Macron, as President of France, is trying to maintain his lead over other candidates, and in this direction make the most of his country’s presidency over the European Union, an attempt that is undoubtedly a difficult task given the internal and external obstacles and challenges (internal parties of France and some members of the European Union).

Accordingly, the President of France needs to pursue his domestic electoral plans simultaneously with the realization of the priorities of the rotating presidency of the European Union; the programs that in domestic area, are largely based on the issue of French industrialization and, at EU level, on strengthening European economic independence, defense and security, that are being interpreted in the context of promoting EU sovereignty.

Priorities of French presidency over European Union

Under the three slogans of revival (economic reconstruction), power (strengthening European sovereignty and defense) and belonging (strengthening citizens’ sense of belonging to the EU), the French president is trying to focus on priorities such as migration and reforms with regard to Schengen, budget reforms in the EU, advancing the establishment of an independent European defense system with an aim of strengthening European sovereignty, increase European investment in digital and climatic change, move towards carbon-free economies, strengthen EU cooperation with Africa, EU joint action in new and controversial areas including cyberspace, seas and cyber defense, EU joint support for industry innovation and review of EU relations with Russia and China, in order to solidify his position in the electoral contests.

Macron has announced that his target of implementing such programs is to reduce EU spending outside the EU, strengthen Europe’s defense, and increase Europe’s strategic autonomy from the United States. However, he believes that the European Defense Strengthening Program will complement NATO programs and does not contradict NATO. Many analysts, citing differences among EU member states, find it difficult to achieve such targets, even in part, during France’s short-term presidency.

Nevertheless, examining the priorities of Macron’s cabinet within France over the past four years and comparing them with the priorities of his presidency over the European Union, we will find that many of the axes that Macron has identified as priorities of his presidency over EU are in fact considered as his cabinet’s goals and plans and can be seen as serving France’s national interests within the framework of using the EU’s capacity.

Macron’s electoral priorities inside France

At the level of neoliberalism in France, Emmanuel Macron believes that the government should serve the market by financially supporting companies and reducing their taxes. Accordingly, he tries to seize the golden opportunity by choosing the main slogan of French industrialization by reducing corporate taxes with the aim of attracting foreign investment and proposing some other economic plans that are in line with a number of plans of the country’s presidency over the European Union, tries to take advantage of the golden opportunity of France rotating presidency over the European Union to pursue his reform agenda within France.

Of course, reforms in various sectors of the economy (the pension system, the tax system, and the privatization of some companies, such as the French Urban Transport Company) have been on Macron’s agenda since his inauguration, but the crisis of yellow vests and the subsequent Coronavirus outbreak slowed down implementation of such reforms as such that Macron was forced to withdraw from pursuing a significant portion of them; an approach that caused Macron a lot of economic problems, but under the current situation, he intends to compensate part of such retreat which had also reduced his popularity, by taking advantage of the opportunity of the French presidency over the European Union and providing priorities, most of which are in line with his cabinet’s internal reform agenda. Adopting such an approach (trying to use the EU’s capacity to achieve national and electoral targets), although difficult in the eyes of his critics and the differences between EU members, could provide an opportunity for Macron that by demonstrating his efforts for promote France’s position in the European Union, increase his popularity in the public opinion and, consequently, his position among other electoral rivals.

Conclusion

All in all, Macron, as the President of France, has spent the past four years trying to put the European Union at the service of the economic goals of his cabinet, with the slogan of the need to reform the structure of the European Union, especially the euro zone; an issue that was faced with some obstacles and opposition from some of the member countries of the Union, such as Germany and the Nordic region.

Currently, with Mrs. Merkel stepping down, and the United States giving the green light to the European Union, the French president is once again seeking to use the EU’s capacities to secure the national interests of his country and ultimately strengthen its economic and political power in the European Union with the slogan o-f strengthening European sovereignty by reforming its structure as part of France’s priorities during its presidency over the European Union; an issue that will undoubtedly keep Macron free in various debates with his electoral rivals and will pave the way for his re-election victory. Undoubtedly, in order to achieve such goal, in addition to the possibility of opposition from some members of the Union, he will also be faced with obstacles from far-right and left-wing parties at home, but the fact that such obstacles could be influential in undermining the status of the Republic in Movement Party led by Macron in the election campaign, is questionable.

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