French election: Macron faces 12 contenders as race begins
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Emmanuel Macron is aiming to secure a second term as French President when the first round of voting begins on April 10. Mr Macron has often been regarded as the mouthpiece for the European Union and since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, unlike other Western leaders, has held several rounds of talks with Vladimir Putin – even travelling to Moscow to meet him.
France also currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Council, effectively giving Mr Macron slightly more say over what happens throughout the bloc.
Alistair Jones, Associate Politics Professor at De Montfort University in Leicester, believes there will be an “opportunity for France to set the European agenda” should Mr Macron win the upcoming presidential election.
He added the war Russia’s war in Ukraine could bring France and the EU closer together over issues such as security and defence, and combined will only work to bolster Brussels.
When asked how Mr Macron would look to increase his influence over Europe: Professor Jones told Express.co.uk: “Macron will want to be seen as the leader of a ‘free Europe’.
“With Angela Merkel having stepped down and Britain having left the EU, there is an opportunity for France to set the European agenda.
“None of the other states are in a position to challenge France.
“The agenda could be reforming the Common Agricultural Policy or the Common Fisheries Policy.
“There is likely to be closer co-operation in security and defence as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, but not a complete EU army.
“Eurocorps – which is more about intelligence and logistics – may get bolstered.”
The political expert added: “He would be more of a national figurehead.
“As a result, he will be alongside Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, and Roberta Metsola (Presidents of the Commission, European Council, and European Parliament respectively), but outside leaders may look to France first.”
Professor Jones believes it would “definitely be the case” Mr Macron could try to impose policies or at least have a very influential say on how they are shaped – particularly as France currently holds the rotating presidency for the European Council.
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He further warned: “France has an opportunity to shape the EU not just for the next five years, but more.
“The antagonism with the UK over the fishing licences, among other things, will see a more robust response from the EU as a result of French pressure.”
But a victory for Mr Macron may not be as straightforward as initially predicted, with right-wing rival Ms Le Pen closing the gap in the latest polls.
During a rally in front of 35,000 supporters just outside Paris on Saturday, he warned over the risk of a Brexit-style upset.
Mr Macron said: “Don’t believe the commentators or the opinion polls who say it’s impossible, unthinkable, who say ‘the election is already won and it’ll all be fine’.
“Look at us, look at you, five years ago. People said it was impossible. Look at Brexit and so many elections where the result seemed improbable but did actually happen.”
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