Mujtaba Rahman is Head of Europe Practice at Eurasia Group and author of POLITICO’s column “Beyond the Bubble”. He tweets @Mij_Europe.
One of the curiosities of the French presidential election ahead of last weekend’s first ballot was the failure of both the media and President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign to highlight the extreme and potentially destructive nature of Marine Le Pen’s European programme. Luckily, that’s starting to change now.
A Le Pen victory on April 24 would have devastating consequences for the European Union – and that should be made clear.
So far, Le Pen’s presidential campaign has been based on the successful ploy that she is now a moderate patriot whose aim is to shift economic power and advantage away from the rich and elite and towards ordinary people. But while their economic program is indeed interventionist and leftist, their other policies remain as extreme and nationalist as ever.
Although Le Pen now claims she does not want to leave the EU, almost her entire economic program and much of her social and migration policies depend on breaking EU laws. However, she does not openly acknowledge this fact, instead citing the widespread ignorance of many French voters about how the EU works.
In fact, she says she wants to stay on board the EU bus – but drive it off a cliff. A close look at Le Pen’s program highlights its incompatibility with EU membership: through a constitutional amendment, Le Pen would seek to make it possible to discriminate against foreign residents, including EU citizens, in relation to work, welfare and housing. It would withhold €5 billion a year in payments to the EU budget, give preference to French companies in all national and local government contracts, and give additional subsidies to French farmers. She also says she would reintroduce controls at France’s land borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Spain.
All of these measures would violate EU laws and threaten to destroy the single market. If implemented, they would undoubtedly trigger legal action and financial retaliation from both Brussels and domestic courts, causing the biggest crisis in EU history. France, at the heart of Europe, could find itself isolated or the leader of a small group of dissenting nations.
FRANCE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION POLL
For more survey data from across Europe, see POLITICS poll of polls.
There is a possibility that Le Pen’s ambitions will still be dashed as she is unlikely to win a parliamentary majority in June’s National Assembly elections. But the French electorate has never refused a working majority to a recently elected president, which could therefore allow her to cobble together a form of majority for some of her proposals. There are also emergency powers that she could use to override Parliament, and in any case the Fifth Republic’s constitution would give her significant direct powers in European, international and defense policy.
Le Pen has distanced herself from Russian President Vladimir Putin since he invaded Ukraine, but she still says Moscow should be an ally, not an enemy, when the war is over. She wants it too Stop arms shipments to Ukraine and to soften Western sanctions against Russia, especially those that create domestic problems in France. Their victory would make it difficult, if not impossible, to enforce EU-wide import bans on Russian oil and gas.
At the same time, Le Pen believes that France should reduce its “dependence” on Germany and the United States. And when it comes to NATO, she says she would pull out France its integrated military structure, which it rejoined only 13 years ago while remaining within the alliance – a move that contradicts its desire to make Putin a French ally.
Le Pen seeks to overthrow France’s tolerant, outward-looking, pro-European post-war consensus. At best, that would lead to confusion and five years of paralysis in Paris and Brussels. At worst, it could set in motion a process that could tear the EU apart from within and remove a key nation — a nuclear power, a G7 member and a permanent member of the UN Security Council — from the Western alliance.
Le Pen’s campaign platform amounts to a secret Frexit – or at least mimics Hungary’s policy of disruption and disobedience – and it is time to make it a reality. The systematic violation of EU law by Budapest is a dangerous challenge for Brussels. But for France, a founding member of the EU and its second largest economy, this would render the union useless and raise the prospect of its collapse.
After weeks of extraordinary passivity by the Macron campaign and much of the media, Le Pen’s European and foreign policy will now be subjected to intensive analysis in the next 10 days before the second round of the runoff. They should.
Far more than Brexit ever did, Le Pen’s policies pose a major threat to the EU and the liberal, democratic, Western status quo. Everyone – and French voters in particular – need to understand this.
https://www.politico.eu/article/marine-le-pen-france-president-election-forget-brexit/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Forget Brexit, here comes Marine Le Pen – POLITICO