Or so Lauren Collins would have us believe in her fearful piece in the New Yorker, titled The Future of Europe Hinges on a Face-Off in France about this weekend’s money round of the Presidential election in France.
After all, this election is a referendum between a globalist economy and a globalist identity (Macron) and a nationalist economy and a nationalist identity (LePen). That does sound apocalyptic, but really, it’s more apocryphal.
As a practical matter, and as is the case with most democratic-oriented governments, French government power is divided between an executive, the President, and the legislative, which elections are next month. French government power is divided further: the legislative branch’s majority party appoints the Prime Minister, who has serious executive authorities of his own.
A President Le Pen will face two obstacles to her agenda: a Prime Minister from another party (Front National is unlikely to win more than a few legislative seats) and a hostile legislative. A President Macron may well have to work with a Prime Minister from another party (his En Marche! is all of a year old and unlikely to win many more seats than Front National), and while he would face a not particularly hostile legislative, its agenda most assuredly will not be his.
Either President will find Executive ambitions greatly dampened. That’s a purely domestic matter, but it spills across French borders.
As a (n international) political matter, Europe’s political future is not much influenced by either President. Aside from the domestic dampening, which must also dampen these potential Presidents’ influence externally, both Europe and the European Union are made of sterner stuff.
I’ve written of the lack of long-term viability of the EU, but that weakness stems from weaknesses internal to the EU as an institution, not from pressures from within this or that member State, for all that France is an important member State. No, the EU is good for several more years, the British departure won’t hurt it or Europe, German continued prosperity definitely won’t hurt Europe or the EU, not even the continued brink-of-bankruptcy state of Greece won’t hurt it.
And neither will a staunch EU-supporting President Macron significantly enhance the viability of the EU, nor will a staunch anti-EU President Le Pen significantly diminish the EU. Indeed, Le Pen has promised a referendum on French membership in the entity, and the French citizenry are strongly more in favor of Remain than of Exit.
What is a threat to Europe is the aggressively acquisitiveness of Russia and most of Europe’s timidity in responding to that. Nor Macron’s election nor Le Pen’s will have much impact on Europe’s attitude or what France might do about either that timidity or Putin’s acquisitiveness. Even with Le Pen’s affinity for all things Putin.