In Washington foreign policy circles, Emmanuel Macron’s large victory is seen as a big win for the European Union – and consequently as a rebuff of Donald Trump.
The US president has made it only a thinly veiled secret that he had preferred Marine Le Pen in the Elysée Palace.
In the run-up of the French elections he told the AP in an interview that Le Pen would be “the candidate who is strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
If eloquence is any indication, Trump was not overly excited by Macron’s victory.
The White House issued a two-sentence briefly congratulating the new counterpart in Paris. “We look forward to working with the new President and continuing our close cooperation with France”, the statement’s second sentence read.
In the past, Trump, who has labeled himself “Mr. Brexit”, supported nationalistic politicians in Europe who aggressively advocated leaving the EU.
In his election campaign, Trump had seized on last year’s Brexit vote in the United Kingdom as an example of disillusioned voters rising up against the political establishment and forged a friendship with Nigel Farage, a leading campaigner for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
Once in the White House, Trump suggested that London appointed Farage UK ambassador in Washington.
After Austria and the Netherlands, France is now the third EU country in a row to reject a nationalistic agenda of economic protectionism, monetary isolation and European disintegration.
Consequently, analysts and commentators in Washington underlined the importance of Macron’s victory for the EU, as the centrist candidate has been elected on a clear pro-European platform and who was the only truly “Europhile” candidate in the entire field.
This might now be his principal risk, says Julien Touati, Millenium Fellow at the Atlantic Council, “of being perceived as the champion of the slim segment of the French population that has drawn tangible benefit from globalization. His extremely high levels of support among French expatriates across the globe could be cited as evidence.”
This stands in sharp contrast with Le Pen who drew support from lower-income voters and people facing challenging rates of national unemployment, Touati says.
“Macron’s willingness to reshape the French social ladder into a more inclusive and open system has not fully convinced these segments of the population and will certainly be one of the most critical issues in the coming years. His large victory against Le Pen has shown that this bet can be won”, Touati says.
Rober Kahn, Senior Fellow for International Politics at the Council on Foreign Relations, does not believe that this will be an easy fight.
“The nationalism and populism that has spread across western industrial countries will remain a potent force in Europe, even as the immediate threat has been pushed back”, he writes in a post-election analysis.
European populism appears, according to Kahn, to have entered the awkward adolescence years: “able to borrow the car but not own it, have an influence on the household but be too young to run it.”
But the European institutions now have a chance to deliver a more optimistic economic future to more of its citizens – “with more broad-based, inclusive growth and a more integrated Europe that is better able to respond to shocks”.
“While a France-led Macron may become a leading voice for more Europe, forming a consensus across Europe (including, most importantly, those countries with the fiscal capacity to finance greater integration) on pro-growth, pro-Europe policies seems increasingly challenging”, Kahn writes.
As far as foreign policy is concerned, Macron may find it hard at first to work with President Trump, European experts at the Heritage Foundation believe.
“France, however, is a NATO ally, the world’s fifth largest economy and a nuclear power with a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. The concern regarding terror threats and unbridled immigration remain on the minds of Europeans, and the United States must continue pursuing close, bilateral relationships with France and others to strengthen counterterrorism efforts and push back against regional actors like Russia”, Nile Gardiner, Robin Simcox and Mike Gonzalez say.