By Fang Xiaozhi
France’s current president Macron will face off against Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Rally party candidate, in the second round of voting to be held on April 24. While Macron insists on having an integrated Europe, Le Pen is a strong supporter of nationalism, advocating an internal reform in the European Union (EU) and France’s exit from NATO. Their divergences in governance philosophy and policies have drawn close attention amid the current precarious security situation in Europe.
Macron has been pushing for a united, independent European military force ever since he took power in 2017, but “strategic independence of Europe” is still more of a slogan now without making much substantial progress, and the social consensus that making the EU an “adhesive agent” of the continent is losing luster in face of multiple economic challenges.
Le Pen envisions a more independent France that’s no longer bounded by the EU framework. Announcing her election program on April 13, the female candidate said Paris should be freed from the fetters of Brussels and that the EU needs an internal reform. Her statements lent a heavy blow to the prospects of having an integrated Europe.
Le Pen’s attitude toward Germany has also tilted the already subtle France-Germany relationship out of balance, exposing Europe’s future to many uncertainties. She once vowed to readjust the relationship with Germany if/when she was elected, including pulling off the support for Germany to become a permanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council.
Le Pen doesn’t like NATO either, and had, in previous election rallies, more than once blasted the organization for destroying the stability in Europe, saying that she would not allow French troops to follow orders from a military command organization that’s outside of France’s jurisdiction. While vowing to take France out of NATO if she were elected, Le Pen also said she wouldn’t renounce the “collective defense” of NATO as that was vital for preserving security and stability on the continent.
These seemingly contradictory statements show that if France were to leave NATO, it was because it was dissatisfied with its position in the organization, wanted to shake off the shadow of American hegemony and compete with it for military leadership in NATO, at least among its European members. In recent years, Washington has adopted several measures that have disgruntled France. Its transfer of nuclear submarine technology to Australia, which led to the latter canceling the gigantic conventional submarine deals with France, particularly infuriated Paris.
Therefore, the noteworthy divergences between the two candidates running for the French presidency have not only revealed France's domestic problems, but also the more conspicuous rift across Europe, and the conflict between Europe's pursuit of strategic independence and America's hegemony. If these problems remain unsolved, the rift in European society is sure to widen in the foreseeable future.
(The author is an associate professor from the College of International Studies, National University of Defense Technology)