Nora Т. Kalinskij – political analyst
Emmanuel Macron is likely to push for the revival of the German-French axis within the EU. One of the central aims of the dual leadership will be European security integration. Security is, at least in this case, a two-headed entity. On the one hand, the challenge of uncontrolled refugee flows will be central to Macron’s agenda because of the high risk of terrorism in France. On the other hand, under his leadership, Russia will further be viewed as a major threat for Europe. Sanctions will be maintained as a demonstration of the political will, as well as a convenient policy for bringing the EU states together to tackle a common challenge. After the Brexit, France will remain the only state able to build the basis for further military and intelligence integration. Yet success is far from guaranteed, as it requires deeper integration to create a political union, which is problematic, as it will be explained below.
Considering Macron’s pro-European positions, he will likely attempt to salvage the euro. This, however, is likely to prove a failed battle for the following reasons:
- The current eurozone incrementally faces structural problems due to the diverging economic models of Northern economies based on the export of high-added-value products and Southern economies based on low-added-value products and tourism from the north. Before their integration into the eurozone, Southern economies were dependent on domestic demand stimulation through expansive welfare and subsidy programs. Since their accession to the eurozone, they have become increasingly dependent on cheap credit from Northern states to stimulate domestic demand, in a situation where the devaluation was no longer an option. It is difficult to envisage how Southern countries in the eurozone such as Spain or Italy may move beyond this credit-based economic stimulation model, considering the type of goods and services that drive their economies. Though the bulk of their debt was accumulated in the period between the collapse of Bretton Woods and the advent of the euro, today’s precarious sovereign debt situation in Southern countries and their dependence on Northern credit to keep their economy running endanger the stability of the entire eurozone. These issues are unlikely to disappear in the foreseeable future. One must also consider Eastern members’ considerable dependency on the EU structural funds. The structural divergences between states in the current eurozone architecture render the common currency unstable and unreliable to deal with the economic crisis, as was demonstrated in 2008.
- The structural problems of the eurozone crisis may be addressed through a full economic union, which includes a fiscal union. This step would increase coherence of economic policies within the eurozone but it is unlikely to be attained without a full political union. This, in turn, is highly unlikely considering that it would entail the de facto demise of most national elites in Europe, who cannot all simultaneously be integrated into a federal elite. In case of a comprehensive political union in the EU, most national elites will therefore lose power. Since the union would dependent on the agency and willingness of the elites, such an outcome is highly improbable.
In the light of this analysis, it is difficult to envisage any policies that Macron would adopt which would, indeed, salvage the euro without running into unsurmountable challenges.
Solving incoherence within EU integration by creating a multi-speed Europe is advanced by some as a solution, but it will unlikely be welcomed by the states which will be cast out of the ‘core’. States classified as the ‘slower-speed’ ones can possibly perceive this system as a threat to the EU principle of equal cooperation. A multi-speed solution may also reinforce the idea of the EU as an empire, which is actively promoted by populists. In this line of thinking, the ‘fast lane’ states will be portrayed as a metropolis and the ‘slower-speed’ ones as colonies. Though this comparison may not be adopted by the mainstream, it will certainly affect the political debate in numerous member states which resist the conception of a multi-speed Europe.
Within this context, it is highly uncertain whether the revival of the French-German axis will be lasting. With results slow to come, personal relations between the French President and the German Chancellor may well deteriorate. In addition, Emmanuel Macron is likely to advance the interests of French business, which are not necessarily aligned with those of their German counterparts.
Macron’s attempts at greater integration of the EU, and those to revive the German-French axis will only kindle support for anti-integrationist parties at home, even more so considering: 1) the unlikely tangible improvement in the French economy over the next five years amid the eurozone crisis, 2) the feeble concrete success his European integration policies may achieve over the next five years, and 3) the unrestricted continued inflow of refugees and economic migrants into France.
The election of Marine le Pen may actually have been a better outcome for supporters of the EU integration in the long-term perspective because: 1) she would face a cordon républicain in the parliament, which would considerably hamper her projects. 2) To implement policies, she would therefore have to water them down and compromise with the political establishment. 3) If she refused to do so, the government would face a deadlock. 4) In both cases, her voters would gravely be disappointed by her performance. 5) Support for the mainstream perceived as more ‘competent’ would actually be galvanized at the next election.
As it now stands, support for Marine le Pen and Emmanuel Mélenchon is only likely to increase over the next five years as Mr. Macron struggles in a move towards European integration.
The victory of Mr. Macron in the French presidential elections is seen by many pro-Europeans as a sign of hope. Yet whether this hope will transform itself into concrete achievements is highly questionable. There appears to be a strong chance that Macron’s presidency will further empower the disintegration forces within the EU.