Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrust foreign policy to the forefront of France’s presidential race. Launching his re-election campaign against the backdrop of Europe’s worst war in recent history, Emmanuel Macron promised to defend French values that “the world's disorders are threatening." In a contest usually defined by domestic issues, Macron is set to benefit from this turn of events and, despite recent polls, is poised for victory. Discussions of Macron’s improved electoral prospects often point to his demonstration of leadership as the “Father of the Nation” during the crisis. Less frequently mentioned, however, is the impact of the war on bolstering Macron’s arguments for a more capable European Union—a longstanding pillar of his political identity.
Macron’s four main challengers, by contrast, have not developed serious visions for the future of the European Union. Instead, his opponents use Brussels as a foil to win domestic support. Such a platform has become increasingly untenable in the current moment of international instability, which is demonstrating the importance of a strong and sovereign European Union.
The crisis in Ukraine underscores Macron’s pro-EU platform, vindicating his vision of a stronger Union more capable of projecting power and bolstering his chances of securing another 5-year term.
Since the early days of his first campaign for France’s presidency, Emmanuel Macron has highlighted the importance of the EU. He continued to support it even when the future of the European project seemed under threat throughout the fallout from the 2016 Brexit vote and the rise of numerous far-right political parties across the continent. As best illustrated in his 2017 speech at the Sorbonne, Macron espouses a grandiose vision of a united Europe capable of acting independently and strategically. Despite sparking widespread criticism among skeptics of greater European sovereignty, Macron has stuck to his guns—and ultimately been proven right.
Fast forward to 2022: Russia has invaded Ukraine and the European Union is united amid one of the most black-and-white conflicts of the last century. Once a mere economic organization without a political dimension, it now exerts considerable power in unprecedented ways. The EU has rapidly made unified decisions to implement harsh sanctions against Russia, jointly transfer arms to Ukraine, and commit to bolstering its military capabilities. It has also granted protected status to the more than 3.7 million Ukrainian refugees who have crossed its borders. Although critics might argue that Brussels has not gone far enough, it is clear that the Union is transforming into the powerful international actor that Macron has always envisioned. However, Macron’s opponents have their own plans for France’s relationship to the EU, ideas rooted largely in their domestic political platforms rather than strategic foresight.
Read the full article from The Wilson Center.
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