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.
On 7 May, the most pro-European of the 11 presidential candidates will face off against the most Eurosceptic for France’s top job.
Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament who aims to challenge Angela Merkel for the post of German chancellor later this year, on Twitter called for “all the democrats in France to unite to ensure the nationalist does not become president”.
Je félicite @EmmanuelMacron! Mnt, il faut que tous les démocrates en France s’unissent pour que la nationaliste ne devienne pas présidente.
— Martin Schulz (@MartinSchulz) April 23, 2017
In Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated Macron on his first-round victory on Sunday (23 April) and wished him luck.
— Margaritis Schinas (@MargSchinas) April 23, 2017
Merkel also spoke out in favour of the En Marche candidate. Through her spokesman she said “Macron’s success shows that France and Europe can win together. The centre is stronger than the populists believe.”
Das Ergebnis für @EmmanuelMacron zeigt: Frankreich UND Europa können gemeinsam gewinnen! Die Mitte ist stärker als die Populisten glauben!
— Peter Altmaier (@peteraltmaier) April 23, 2017
While ostensibly offering a massive vote of confidence in the former banker and economy minister, EU leaders are focused on keeping Le Pen from power. If she wins, the National Front leader has promised to do her utmost to drag France out of the EU, ditch the single currency and return to the franc – measures which could spell the end of the European Union.
Manfred Weber, the president of the centre-right European People’s Party group (EPP) in the European Parliament, welcomed Le Pen’s “weaker than predicted” performance in the first round.
“We are disappointed by Benoît Hamon’s result,” said Gianni Pittella, the leader of the Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats group (S&D). “Despite the result, Hamon was the only candidate to have defended a progressive pro-European project with innovative proposals.”
“This evening, the French people have called for change. It is a clear message that we cannot ignore. For the good of France and the whole of Europe, we now need to unite all the democratic forces in the second round to confront the National Front,” he added.
In Belgium, liberal Prime Minister Charles Michel congratulated Macron, endorsing his programme as an “optimistic European project looking to the future”.
The president of the Belgian Socialist Party, Elio di Rupo, also called on French democrats to stop the National Front in its tracks. “This is about the future of France and of Europe, so it is also about our future,” he posted on Twitter.
J'invite tous les démocrates français à voter contre l'extrême droite de Marine Le Pen et en faveur d'Emmanuel Macron.
— Elio Di Rupo (@eliodirupo) April 23, 2017
For Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, Macron was “the only truly pro-European candidate”.
— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) April 23, 2017
But Le Pen was not without her plaudits. Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, described Sunday as a “day of celebration for all patriots in Europe”.