EU a peripheral issue for some French voters

Voters consider the presidential candidates outside a polling station in Strasbourg, France. [Hadrian/Shutterstock]

The future of the European Union has been at the heart of the French presidential debate. But for some voters, it remained a peripheral issue. EURACTIV France reports.

To stay in the EU, or go? The question appeared not to weigh too heavily on the minds of some of France’s 47 million registered voters when they went to cast their ballots on Sunday (23 April).

EURACTIV spoke to voters leaving the Rue Boulard polling station in Paris’ 14th district.

A future debate

Henri, a traditional right-wing voter, was not swayed by the scandal engulfing François Fillon and voted for the Republican candidate.

In his fifties, Henri believes the debate on Europe didn’t really materialise during the presidential campaign, “but it should become a bigger issue during the second round, if Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen qualify”.

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The first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday (23 April) saw the traditional parties reduced to insignificance in a vote that exposed the country’s deep social divisions. EURACTIV France reports.

For him, the first round was all about “avoid(ing) the extremes, especially a second round between Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon”.

Olivier, 57, is “a technician and musician by profession, although mainly unemployed at the moment”. He cast his vote for Socialist Party candidate Benoît Hamon.

“It’s only the second time in my life I have voted. The first was for José Bové,” he recounted. In 2007, Bové was the Green party candidate, and a decade later it was the alliance between Hamon and Green candidate Yannick Jadot that motivated Olivier to head to the ballot box.

Europe did not play a big role in his decision. “I think Benoît Hamon is fairly pro-European. Europe is a big machine, it is hard to know how to approach it, but the best thing would still be to keep it. For me, the anti-Europeans are backward-looking.”

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The second round of France’s presidential election will be a run-off between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Across the EU, politicians have called on French voters to rally against the extreme-right candidate. EURACTIV France reports.

Pro-Europeans not put off by Mélenchon

Mr Gnazalz is a technician. At 43 years old, he describes himself as a “left-winger from birth” and voted for far-left candidate Mélenchon. “You cannot base your vote on all the criteria in a candidate’s programme, only two or three.”

“What people do not understand is that Mélenchon did not say we should leave the EU, he said we should change it and renegotiate our membership, so we should see what happens,” he said. “The European Union can be something positive, I do not want to leave.”

Laurent, 22, cast his first vote in a presidential election, after a long period of relfection, for En Marche candidate Macron. The former economy minister’s pro-European programme “did not necessarily affect my decision, even if it is quite an important subject,” he said.

“We have no real examples of countries that have left. Even the UK has not really left yet. And the euro has not necessarily been purely a good thing, but it has not been all bad either,” Laurent added.

Alexis is a tax lawyer. The 27-year-old is “left leaning” but does not adhere to any one party. On Sunday he voted for Mélenchon, despite his “foreign and European policy, which I do not like at all”.

“But on domestic policy, I like his programme and I have high hopes that we will stay in the EU in spite of everything, because I am deeply pro-European, even if I believe we need to rethink the whole system.”

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