Why Macron is fleeing Europe – POLITICO


Mujtaba Rahman is the head of the European practice of the Eurasia group and the author of the Beyond the Bubble column of POLITICO. He tweets to @Mij_Europe.

In 2017, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron campaigned as a shameless Europhile who vowed to create a strong France in a strong Europe. On the other hand, her rival in the second round of the elections, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, floundered by trying to explain her own proposal to flout certain laws of the European Union and to partially pull France out of the euro. .

Five years later, it is now Macron who would prefer to avoid a disorderly debate on existential questions around the EU. And as the confrontation between Brussels and an authoritarian far-right government in Warsaw threatens to tip the European debate in France in a more difficult direction, some wonder why Macron – usually the first to assert a strong EU line. – took longer. pragmatic approach to conflict.

Macron thinks he can boast of having a fairly good track record in European affairs – especially after his success last year in persuading Germany to approve a € 750 billion plan to rebuild economies weakened by the pandemic of its 27 members. He is also keen to highlight the crises plaguing Britain after Brexit as evidence of the neglected EU benefits France and the other 26 countries in the bloc derive from achievements like the single market.

However, what complicates things for Macron is that at the beginning of the month, the Polish Constitutional Court decided to reject the primacy of the Court of Justice of the European Union. This Brussels-Warsaw confrontation threatens to reopen an old controversy in France, reminiscent of the debate over national “control” that helped shape the UK’s decision to leave the EU in 2016.

Indeed, since the decision, a series of French presidential candidates – ranging from the extreme right and center right to the Eurosceptic left – have all sided, to varying degrees, on the side of Warsaw. They called on France to assert the primacy of its own constitution, and even of its own individual laws, over European legislation, which would jeopardize the existence of the single market and even the EU itself.

Although opinion polls suggest that France is broadly tolerant of EU membership, much of the population has only a vague idea of ​​the history of the union, of its legal basis and how it works – something, according to officials, of which Macron is aware.

In a 2005 referendum, for example, the French people rejected a proposal for a European constitution that would have, among other things, enshrined the principle of the primacy of EU law over national law – something which was strongly under consideration. -understood but not stated in the original 1957 Community Treaty (EEC).

Some French voters said at the time that they voted “no” to protect “national sovereignty”. Others, particularly on the left, have said they disapprove of “free trade” and “fair competition” among European nations – principles which have been the foundation of the EEC / EU for nearly a half. -century.

After this rejection, governments consequently approved the enlarged Lisbon Treaty in 2007, which “recalled”, in the annex, that “the well-established case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union” affirmed the “primacy” EU law and EU treaties. on the law of member countries.

In recent days, this somewhat distorted assertion of the supremacy of European law has been challenged by a slew of presidential candidates in France. It has even been questioned Рin a more surprising and opportunistic way Рby two allegedly pro-European contenders for the center-right presidential nomination: Xavier Bertrand and Val̩rie P̩cresse.

The position of another center-right candidate, the former vice-president of the European Commission and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, is even more ambivalent. Before the decision of the Warsaw court, Barnier had proposed a referendum allowing France to withdraw from certain aspects of the European treaties in order to declare a three to five year moratorium on immigration. After the ruling, however, he defended the principle of EU rule of law and rejected comparisons with his own “limited” proposal.

Senior French officials say Macron has watched this confused French debate with concern. They say he is ready to defend the “first principles” of the EU if necessary. He is prepared to argue that the EU’s single market would collapse – with dire consequences for France – if each country were able to impose its own laws or if, as in the case of Poland, the The rule of law itself was eroded.

APPROVAL FROM PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON

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He is also ready to argue that European law is not “forced” on France but democratically accepted by the governments of the Council of the EU and the directly elected members of the European Parliament.

Officials also say, however, that Macron is reluctant to be portrayed as a slavishly pro-European, pro-Brussels politician in a barrage of misleading phrases from almost all parts of the electoral battlefield next year. They point out that opinion polls show that around 45% of the electorate can vote for Eurosceptic or anti-European far-right or far-left candidates.

The problem is simultaneously compounded by an unfortunate overlap with the EU calendar. France assumes the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU for the first half of next year, coinciding with the crucial months of its campaign before the country’s two-round presidential election in April. In other words, Macron might be forced to conduct negotiations with Warsaw in the weeks leading up to the vote.

Macron argues that a frontal assault on the right-wing Eurosceptic government in Warsaw would be counterproductive. It is better, he said, to let the EU’s normal confrontation and compromise processes unfold on their own. Either way, he argues that there is already a powerful internal backlash in Poland against policies that could jeopardize its economically advantageous EU membership.

This partly explains its cautious approach.,. But the same is true of electoral and national considerations.

Without a doubt, Macron wants Brussels vs Warsaw to become a long but limited dispute over the Polish government’s lack of respect for democracy and the rule of law – not an EU constitutional crisis that spills over into the presidential race. French.


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