France election: Macron and Le Pen battle for two separate visions of country's role within Europe

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By Gregoire Lory
Campaign posters of Emmanuel Macron (left) and Marine Le Pen (right)
Campaign posters of Emmanuel Macron (left) and Marine Le Pen (right)   -   Copyright  PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP or licensors   -  

As the 2022 French presidential election enters a new stage, current President Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are once again going tête-à-tête.

In a rerun of the 2017 vote, the two fundamentally different campaigns are both fighting for their own visions of how they want to see France's role within the EU.

Macron, a staunch defender of the so-called European project, sees his country's position in the bloc as a point of strength for France. And he wants this to continue.

"On April the 24th, we can make the choice of hope. We can make the choice of France and Europe together!" the French president said following his success in the first round of voting on Sunday.

But compared to his first run for president five years ago, the same enthusiasm for the EU is no longer on display.

Christophe Sente, a researcher at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, said it is due to his need to attract votes from the Eurosceptic far left.

"I think he has to take into account the logic of the second round, which assumes a carryover of votes, especially those of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon," Sente told Euronews. "So, Euroscepticism is not only on the far-right, it is also widespread on the left. And in his last speeches he called for a gathering of social democrats and neo-Gaullists, so not exactly passionate European federalists."

Le Pen programme remains deeply Eurosceptic

Marine Le Pen on the other hand wants to take back what she calls French sovereignty. Previously, this included leaving the EU and dropping the euro currency, but she has since rowed back on these policies, moderating her views to broaden her appeal.

"I will bring back France's sovereignty in all areas, which means freedom for the French people to decide for themselves and defend their interests," Le Pen said.

Despite her attempt to make her politics more palatable to voters, her programme remains deeply Eurosceptic, with her National Rally party continuing its opposition to France's European commitments, something that will be keeping Brussels concerned.

"Marine Le Pen is questioning certain obligations of France and is considering, for example, re-establishing border controls on goods, which would reimpose French borders within the single market, which cannot happen, it is contrary to the treaties," Eric Maurice, head of the Brussels office of the Robert Schuman Foundation, told Euronews.

"Her migration policy too would also be strongly at odds with European commitments and partnerships with other member states."

Their campaigns, of course, are defined by polar opposite visions of how they see France domestically, but they also have completely different ideas of France within Europe itself.