Note: This article does not necessarily represent the views of the NWYJ, only the views of the author
Emmanuel Macron’s victory over Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election means that the European Union has avoided a close encounter with nationalist politics. However, there are many questions about whether Macron will be able to deliver on his promises.
At age 39, Emmanuel Macron is the youngest man to lead France since Napoleon Bonaparte. His win bent on a promise of prosperity for all and his mission to now unite a country divided between resentful globalists and nationalists. In Macron’s own words, “Europe and the world expect us to defend the spirit of the Enlightenment, under threat in so many places. They expect us to defend freedom everywhere, to protect the oppressed.”
The international challenges facing the new French president will be immense, starting with the conflict in Syria, the need for reforms in the Eurozone, Brexit, and the rise of Russia as an aggressive, revisionist power. After the Kremlin interfered in the French election through a disinformation campaign directed against Macron, hacking the servers of his campaign, and dumping nine gigabytes of private data on WikiLeaks as campaigning was drawing to a close, it is safe to say Macron will face a lot of obstacles.
In addition to the plethora of international issues, Macron will have to face France’s most important challenge by far: its economy. France’s economy has hit rock bottom with a per capita gross domestic product that once exceeded that of the United Kingdom. Since the late 1990s, the growth rates have not exceeded 3 percent. This year, the growth is expected to be 1.4 percent. These numbers go hand in hand with chronically high levels of unemployment, currently at 10 percent and 24 percent among young people. Furthermore, like other many Western nations, France’s government is a big spender, with a large public debt.
Macron is on the road to delivering on his promises, and aiming to solve France’s problems. He has promised to downsize the public sector, free up the labor markets, cut public spending by 60 billion euros and reduce corporate tax rates. As the former Minister of Economy and Finance, he has already introduced a series of measures that liberalized certain professions whom had previously enjoyed government protection. This made it easier to hire and fire employees and gave more flexibility to businesses and workers to agree on working time.
Although Macron was elected by a third of the votes, he is not backed by an established party, making his agenda slightly ambitious. However, it is safe to say he is backed by most other European nations. After his win, Macron received congratulations and expressions of relief from European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In a report on Monday Merkel told reporters “I would like to help France lower its unemployment rate and to increase the chances of young people to find jobs. We will talk together about how we do this.” If Macron fails to live up to these standards and does not deliver on his lofty promises, he could be extending a lifeline to former presidential candidate Le Pen, and the reason to believe that the solution to France’s problems will be nationalism.
Macron has also repeatedly stated that he would use his powers to rule by decree whenever possible to adopt economic reforms. He says that a lot can be done that way alone in the early days of the presidency. Yet his endgame for the next couple of weeks is to make sure that he can rely on a parliamentary majority, that understands the need for structural reforms. If he instead ends up with a National Assembly and cabinet that are not sold on his reform agenda, his five years of presidency could easily become just another period of muddling through and preservation of the status quo: a devastating loss for France.
Macron has a lot to do, both short and long term. Early moves combined with comprehensive structural reforms need to be made. However, if France’s National Assembly is not sold on reform, his five years of presidency could easily become just another period of muddling through and preservation of the status quo; a devastating loss for France.Loading Likes...