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Following in the footsteps of Russia: EU influences French presidential elections?

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

12:25, 6 March 2017
Following in the footsteps of Russia: EU influences French presidential elections?

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Deprivation of Marine Le Pen's immunity is an attempt of the EU to discredit the image of the Eurosceptics

12:25, 6 March 2017

Read the original text at 112.ua.

Le Monde

Recently, the majority of MEPs voted for lifting the immunity of Marine Le Pen, leader of the French right-wing party "National Front" and the parliamentary faction of the "Europe of nations and freedom," French presidential candidate of the Eurosceptics. This decision was adopted on the basis of the request of the French city of Nanterre prosecutor's office. According to Reuters, the law enforcement agencies of France, Le Pen was accused of "spreading the images of violence." In 2015, she published in Twitter photos of victims of ISIS. On one of the photos there was American photojournalist James Foley beheaded by radical Islamists over the Syrian territory in 2014. Supporters of Le Pen are convinced that her post was calling for the fight against Islamic extremists. Until recently, the immunity of MEP defended Le Pen of the legal proceedings. Under French law, the dissemination of images of violence is punishable by imprisonment for a term of three years or a fine of 79 thousand Euro. The EU has shown the "green light" by the French law enforcement agencies for prosecution of Le Pen.

Related: Marine Le Pen stripped of EU parliamentary immunity

Related: Le Pen does not see Russia as threat for Europe

Brussels does not want a Eurosceptic politician to become a French president. France is the second largest economy in Europe, a country-founder of the European Union, which since the 50s, together with Germany, specifies the trend of European integration. European officials conducted a course on EU centralization. Shortly before the deprivation of immunity of Marine Le Pen, the European Parliament adopted resolutions on the formation of the EU Ministry of Finance and the European army. Brussels seeks to withdraw EU from the ongoing political and socio-economic crisis by the growing influence of supranational bodies on financial and economic developments and security issues.

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However, Le Pen is convinced that the current EU system is based on the ideology of globalization and reducing the political weight of national states. She adheres to the anti-globalization politics and protectionism in the economy. She supports the idea of supranational bodies of the EU reform to increase influence of the governments of the Member States on the decisions of European significance. Her approach to the development of the EU is known as the "Free Europe" - every European country has the right to independently determine the customs duties for foreign countries, and to develop independent foreign policy. Marine Le Pen is also in favor of normalizing relations with Russia, the abolition of the anti-Russian sanctions and recognition of annexed Crimea. According to Deutsche Welle, French MEPs previously voted for the abolition of the anti-Russian sanctions (24 seats in the European Parliament are held by representatives of the "National Front"). Also, Le Pen promises to hold a referendum to withdraw France from the EU ("Frexit"), similar to the British "Brexit," in case of her victory.

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Marine Le Pen and her party "National Front" are supported by those French citizens who are disappointed in the ability of the ruling Socialist Party to address pressing socio-economic problems. In terms of unemployment, France occupies the 7th place in the EU (10.5%), according to Eurostat. The Socialists have not coped with the migration crisis and the concomitant threat of terrorism. In 2015, 71 thousand people applied for a refugee status in France. Over the past two years, more than 230 people were killed by the terrorists.

Victory of Le Pen is beneficial for some Russian and French business circles. According to the French CEPII research center, as a result of the anti-Russian sanctions, France has lost billions of dollars. From 2013 to 2015, trade between Russia and France has dropped from 18.9 to US $ 11.4 billion. French producers of food products and alcoholic beverages have lost access to the Russian market. The contract on the supply the French "Mistral" helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy was cancelled. French Minister of Economy and Finance Michel Sapin stressed the interest of French businesses to invest in the Russian economy and supported the formation of the economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

Related: Former Ku Klux Klan leader supports Marine Le Pen

Deprivation of Marine Le Pen's immunity in the European Parliament is an attempt of the EU to discredit the image of the Eurosceptics on the eve of presidential elections in France. According to British newspaper Express, odious politician has the highest rating (25%) among the presidential candidates. European officials are counting on the fact that the attraction of Le Pen to the legal liability would reduce her electoral power.

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A recent scandal involving presidential candidate Francois Fillon, French people scrupulously assess to a breach of the law by the politicians. Fillon "sees no reason" to extend the anti-Russian sanctions. An article in the satirical newspaper Canard enchaine has undermined his image by publishing information that his wife Penelope received a salary as an assistant deputy. The same applies to the children of the presidential candidate. Fillon and his wife could be called to the court on charges of embezzlement and fictitious employment. Despite the fact that Fillon has denied this information, his ratings have markedly fallen. Before this scandal, he was the favorite in the presidential race in the primaries and scored 66% of the vote. Now 21% of the French support Francois Fillon, according to the Express data.

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It may seem that the EU adopts a strategy of Russia, trying to influence the election situation in France. Withdrawal of Le Pen’s immunity in the European Parliament is the EU's response to the Kremlin's attempts to interfere in the internal political processes of member countries of the Union. Marine Le Pen is Kremlin's protege in the presidential race. According to The Times, "National Front" party has already received at least 11 million euros from Russia. Perhaps the money was intended for the election campaign.

One gets the impression that Brussels is trying to help clear the way for the independent candidate centrist Emmanuel Macron, the former Minister of Economy and Finance, which is not an opponent of European integration. 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron has previously been a member of the Socialist Party and left the ministerial post because of disagreements with President Francois Hollande. He founded the movement "Forward", which positions itself as a "third force", the alternative to the left and right-wing parties. According to the newspaper Express, Emmanuel Macron has obtained 24% support among the French. Experts are predicting his victory in the second round under favorable circumstances. Macron in his campaign suggests the deepening of cooperation in the euro area, a program of reform aimed at reducing the tax burden for large and small businesses, the reduction of public spending by 60 billion, reduction apparatus of civil servants, creation of new jobs for police officers and teachers. He supports the idea of creating a common euro-zone budget that resonates with the EU's development priorities.

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Some Socialists also rely on Macron. Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Folle inclined to support Macron instead of the candidate of the Socialist Party Benoît Amon. For socialists, Macron is a lesser evil than Le Pen or Fillon of the right-wing camp. Positions of the Socialists are quite weak. President Francois Hollande, who was the main candidate of the Socialist Party, withdrew his candidacy, and Prime Minister Manuel Valls has no ratings, comparable with the position of Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon in French society. Even one of his opponents in the presidential candidate Francois Bayrou, chairman of the Democratic Movement that entered into an alliance with the movement "Forward," supported the candidacy of Macron.

Related: Political strategy of French meteor: Emmanuel Macron against populists

The EU seeks to prevent the victory of Marine Le Pen, and it uses all possible means. If she wins the election the President of France, there will a precedent for another victories of Eurosceptics in the EU member countries. This autumn Germany would hold parliamentary elections, the popularity of the party of Eurosceptics "Alternative for Germany" and businesswoman Frauke Petry is growing. This force, like the "National Front", supports closer ties with Russia. For the sake of pan-European unity, Brussels is trying to influence the outcome of the presidential elections in France.

Related: "Crimean credit" for Marine Le Pen

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