Monday, March 27, 2017


One month before the French presidential elections start, Marine Le Pen was received chez Putin. The links between the French Front National and Russia are well known. As was the case in the US, the Russian president is all too happy to lend his support to parties within the EU that stand against the EU, NATO and pluralism.

Her main opponent is the de facto independent Emmanuel Macron (formerly minister of economy, finance and industry, under President Hollande), 39 years young.  Despite his last lapsus, mistaking French Guiana for an island and arguing that there is not such a thing as French culture, the polls give him the advantage over Le Pen. This is surprising considering his indifference to traditional more Gaullist concepts and his unconditional commitment to the EU and Europe. He does not hide his respect for Mrs. Merkel and his fluency in English, still a daring step for any French politician.

Since the Dutch vote, the Brexit allure appears to have lost some of its mobilizing strength on the continent.  This is mostly due to three factors: the lack of a sophisticated alternative in the EU, the grotesque beginning of the Trump administration and, last but not least, the heavy, clumsy medeling of Moscow in Western Europe (and the US).  Since this is also the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome this is a perfect moment to regroup, reform and slim down the Brussels machinery. The news cycle in Europe and the United States is all too negative (for a reason) and the Torquemada's rule the waves. In France the choice is clear between retrenchment and enlightenment.  In Germany the elections between Chancellor Merkel and the Socialist candidate, Martin Schulz, are more about "nuance" than about "alternative". The victory of one or the other will not bring fundamental change in Berlin's choices. 

Accordingly, the outcome of the French presidentials is of a primary importance for Europe but also for the trans-Atlantic partnership. While the Americans chose to take a ride on the mad Republican roller coaster, the Europeans should stick to the Berlin/Paris arbitrage for the future. There is no alternative after the United Kingdom's exit and given that Italy and Spain for financial/economic reasons and Poland and Hungary for their ideological leanings have no place in the middle.  Emmanuel Macron might be Europe's best hope. He is devoid of old- fashioned socialist nostalgia and is a reformist who is willing to correct globalization's and free- trade's less desirable consequences as long as the core beliefs of the existing Davos order remain intact.

The battle is far from won but the Front National looks and sounds like yesterday! Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin brought to mind previous ad limina courtesy calls of underlings to the Master and the French, after all, have their often exaggerated national pride, for the worse...but more often for the good.

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