In the wake of a hard-fought Presidential election in France, Emmanuel Macron has emerged the victor over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen by a margin of roughly 30 per cent, in what is sure to be a historic election for the French Republic.
Emmanuel Macron had positioned himself as the centrist candidate with his independent “En Marche!” (“Forward!”) party as he sought to unite voters from both the left and right against the Front National. However, now that the election is over what does a Macron presidency mean for the future of France?
To start with the man himself, Macron was a member of the Socialist Party from 2006 to 2009, but has run as an independent ever since. However, he did serve as the Minister of Economy and Finance under Socialist Party President Francois Hollande. Macron’s experience in Economics and Finance comes from his background as a former investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque; his political beliefs are best described as centrist and “Third Way” in the sense of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, as are his commitments to social liberalism as well as free trade and free markets.
It is Macron’s economic policies that have wooed businessmen, financiers and investors as many see him as the free market reformer that France desperately needs. He has committed to cut public spending as well as liberalise the French economy to allow for growth and employment that has been all-too lacking in France, where youth unemployment has been at 23.6 per cent, and GDP growth at just 1.3 per cent. Macron’s support for private business might mean that many of France’s large state-owned enterprises could be privatised in order to raise some much-needed capital along with widespread deregulation of the French economy. The latter has made investors excited; the French CAC 40 rallied this week to a 6-year high of 5,432 as polls showed a Macron victory was inevitable.
On the EU, Macron has came out as an optimist, stating that he wishes to see an end to German dominance of the continental bloc. According to Macron, “Germany benefits from the imbalances within the euro zone and achieves very high trade surpluses” something he says is in need of “rebalancing”. Although Macron has been a supporter of EU trade deals in the past such as the CETA deal with Canada, he opposed the TTIP deal with the United States on the grounds that certain conditions were not met. Nonetheless, he recognises the importance of strong global links, including those with the United States. Perhaps in line with this, Macron has come out as an opponent to Brexit. In March, he said: “It’s the British who will lose the most, you cannot enjoy the rights in Europe if you are not a member,” also remaking that “Nigel Farage and Mr Johnson are responsible for this crime, they sailed the ship into battle and jumped overboard at the moment of crisis.” So Britain shouldn’t get its hopes up for a sweetheart deal from Mr Macron.
On Foreign policy, Macron has positioned himself as a man of peace and negotiation as he has advocated a “balanced” approach to the Syrian civil war, including talks with Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad to form a pathway to peace and an end to the conflict. However, he has emphasised a hardline stance against Islamist terrorism, saying: “as Army commander-in-chief, as someone responsible for security, I will be uncompromising and I will lead the fight on every score against Islamist terrorism,” noting that the often-homegrown terrorists “are seeking radicalisation, division and civil war”. Mr Macron supports the status quo on the relationship between the French Republic and Israel, as evidenced by his opposition to the BDS movement and his refusal to state a position on the recognition of Palestine.
On immigration, Macron is confident that France can absorb more immigrants and welcomes their arrival into Europe, on the basis that an open-door immigration policy similar to the one adopted by Germany will have a positive economic impact. However, he has also said that the review period for new arrivals should be considerably shortened and that “all those whose claims fail must be deported immediately.” He has also called for more investment in border security and coast guards through the EU agency Frontex stating that “anyone who enters at Lampedusa or elsewhere is a concern for all European countries”.
Macron’s approach to Cyber security and defence, however, is similar to that of Donald Trump – he has endorsed proposals to force internet companies to allow the French government access to encrypted communications from their customers. This policy may cause financial ruin to the French Tech sector and has been met with hostility by some of Macron’s corporate supporters.
Overall, Emmanuel Macron is the imperfect, albeit strong and moderate figure France needs.