Life after Hollande: How elections in France influence EU and Ukraine?

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

Francois Fillon, Marine Le Pen, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon stand for lifting anti-Russian sanctions, restoration of economic relations with the Kremlin, regardless of further Russian aggression
22:41, 6 December 2016

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On the first day of winter incumbent French President Francois Hollande announced his decision not to participate as a candidate of the Socialist Party in the presidential elections in April 2017. The results of the presidential elections in France will affect the nature of the EU in the future. Paris and Berlin set the tone for European integration. December 4, Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi announced his resignation. In Italy, right-wing parties have a good chance of success in the elections. All this creates a dangerous backdrop for Germany, which would hold the elections to the Bundestag these fall elections. Europe is likely to face severe changes.

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Regrouping of "socialists" for the sake of European integration

It is possible that the rejection of Francois Hollande to run for a second term is a pre-election game of the Socialist Party in order to maintain the current foreign policies of France. The Socialists are interested in the fact that France continued to exert a significant influence on the nature of European integration; an increase in the role of supranational decision-making bodies of the EU, including the European Parliament, European Council, and European Commission; for the continuation of the single social, economic foreign policy; building a multicultural society. As well as strengthening of military-political integration in the EU, a defense alliance of European states for restraining Russia's aggression and the threat of Islamic extremism. After Brexit influence of France and Germany on the process of European integration will increase significantly.

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However, according to the November polls, 4 % of voters were satisfied with Francois Hollande as a president. He earned a reputation as the most unpopular French President. Team of Francois Hollande failed to improve the situation on the labor market. The level of unemployment France occupies the 7th place in the EU (10.5%), according to Eurostat. Socialists failed migration from the crisis and the associated terrorist threat. In 2015, 71 thousand people filled the applications for asylum in France. Together with refugees from Syria and other countries of the third world, the flames of war in France leaked Islamic extremists. Over the past two years the terrorists killed more than 230 people. Nevertheless, in November Francois Hollande confirmed the intention to place an additional 30 thousand eefugees in France for two years. Socialists understand that in the present circumstances the current president does not win the upcoming elections.

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The current Prime Minister Manuel Valls has ambiguous chances to run for president of the Socialist Party. The press already named him "natural successor" of Francois Hollande in French political course. Francois Hollande could leave the election race in order to give the "green light" to the former banker and Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs of France, 38-year-old Manuel Macron. In August, he left the ministerial post and founded his own movement "Forward." In the election, he will act as an independent candidate. Manuel Macron does not associate himself with any right nor left-wing rhetoric. His campaign focuses on addressing the socio-economic problems. According to the October poll by Odoxa, all office holders Manuel Macron is the most popular presidential candidate, ahead of the president and prime minister. He is convinced that France's foreign policy should not be isolated from globalization processes, as proposed by Eurosceptics, and it should focus on cooperation with other European countries. In the 2006-09 Manuel Macron was in the ranks of the Socialist Party. The former Minister is a compromise figure. He can continue the work on strengthening the role of France in the EU and maintain priorities in foreign policy, including support for Ukraine in confronting Russia.

Related: Hollande: Safety issue is basic for success of Minsk agreement

Eurosceptic candidates: Implications for the EU

However Manuel Macron, Manuel Valls, and many independent candidates will face difficulties when fighting for the presidency due concurrence with Eurosceptics. Far-right and ultra-left politicians gained popularity in French society against the backdrop of the socio-economic problems and the migration crisis in the EU. They are accused of all the sins of the authorities. In their election programs, they are critical to strengthening pan-European unity.

Supporters of the "independent" foreign policy of France is the candidate of the "Republicans" Party and former prime minister Francois Fillon. In the primaries, he bypassed his own party colleague Alain Juppe, and former president Nicolas Sarkozy, with a score of 66% of votes. Francois Fillon sees its program as "social gaullism" and considers European integration as a threat to the sovereignty of France. Pure ideology of gaullism, on behalf of President Charles De Gaulle, suggests skepticism about the dominance of Brussels or Washington for Europe, multi-vector foreign policy, by which France should be a mediator between East and West. By Charles De Gaulle France withdrew from NATO's military structure. Francois Fillon opposed the idea of a transatlantic partnership with the US. It supports EU membership France, but the growing influence of national governments on economy, immigration and social security. Francois Fillon supports the strengthening migration policy EU ban on imports of migrants to their families in European countries. The EU, led by France has positioned itself as a separate center of power, independent of the United States.

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A more radical implications for EU might be caused by the victory of Marine Le Pen, candidate of the ultra-right party "National Front". According to the poll agency Ipsos, 29% of the French maintains Marine Le Pen. In addition to strengthening migration policy and depending on the decisions coming from Brussels, Le Pen wants to destroy traditional tandem of Germany and France, which are the basis of European integration. National Front supporters are convinced that the cause of the crisis in the EU is the "dominance" of Germany in supranational bodies. The coming to power Marine Le Pen will strengthen the division of Europe. Paris will be the center of attraction Eurosceptics. Isolated anti-migrants movements and populist parties united under the French tricolor in the "Free Movement of Europe." Reaching consensus within the EU supranational bodies will be impossible. If France can not drag on the blanket championship in Europe, Marine Le Pen can start the procedure withdrawal from the EU. From the mouth of French politics are sounding rhetoric about the possibility of a referendum in France on Frexit similar to the plebiscite to withdraw Britain from the EU.

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Equally radical changes might be in Europe if the maximum number of votes in the presidential elections in France will take ultra candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon from the "Left Front". In 1992, he voted for the Maastricht Treaty establishing the EU, gave impetus to the formation of a monetary union and the introduction of the euro, as a deputy from the Socialist Party. However, adjusting to Eurosceptic sentiment, Jean-Luc Mélenchon believes current EU "ultraliberal design." Politician proposes to revise the basic EU treaties. He opposes the strengthening of supranational bodies of the EU and transfer to Brussels the powers of national governments. In his view, it makes sense to abolish the European Parliament, to prevent the federalisation of the EU. France and other EU members may refuse to follow the European legislation and does not fulfill the guidelines and recommendations of supranational bodies. In practice, the EU will become the organization, a decision which will have no effect.

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The victory of Eurosceptics will create a precedent for the coming to power of similar policies in other EU countries. Varying degrees of Euroscepticism are present in Hungary, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Germany is particularly vulnerable, which will be held in the fall elections. For Germany also characterized by the negative effects of the migration crisis. From the beginning, came to Germany more than 200 thousand. Refugees. Among Germans antyemihrantska popular party "Alternative for Germany". In local elections in Germany, "Alternative for Germany" has 21% of the vote, finishing second after the center-left "Social Democratic Party." "Christian Democratic Union" of Merkel took the third place.

The consequences for Ukraine if he Eurosceptics win

The current government of France supports the continuation of anti-Russian sanctions to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Support of France plays a significant role for Ukraine against Russia. France is involved in the conflict in Donbas in "Norman format".

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In case of winning the election candidates of Eurosceptic French position on Ukraine change in the interests of Russia. Francois Fillon, Marine Le Pen, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon support the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions they consider inappropriate means of coercion to peace in Donbas. They support the restoration of trade and economic relations with the Kremlin, regardless of further Russian aggression turns.

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Similar positions candidates and Eurosceptics hold on Crimean issue. Francois Fillon compared annexation of Crimea with separation of Kosovo from Yugoslavia. Although unlike Kosovo, in Crimea until 2014 there was oppression and ethnic cleansing on the ground. Jean-Luc Mélenchon called annexation of Crimea "protective measures" Russia "coup against the government-adventurers who are under the influence of neo-Nazis disgusting." Then all went to Marine Le Pen, who has promised to recognize the Crimea Russian territory.

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French Eurosceptics are flirting with the Kremlin in the economic interest. According to The Times, the party "National Front" of Marine Le Pen has received from Russia at least 11 million euros. Eurosceptics defend the interests of certain business circles of France. According to the French research center CEPII, from anti-Russian sanctions France, Poland, the Netherlands, Japan lost about $ 200 million.

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As part of "Norman Quartet" France will push for an acceptable variant of settlement of the conflict in Donbas. Judging by the results of the last meeting, "Norman Quartet" at the level of foreign ministers, Russia is interested in the fact that the political agreements of Minsk and safety conditions performed closely to each other. The Kremlin will thus not fulfill its part of the obligations and achieve the legalization of separatist authorities in the elections in Donbas and maintain a military presence in the east of Ukraine.

The victory of Eurosceptics in presidential elections in France odds with the interests of the EU and Ukraine.

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