French election concerns every European citizen

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Supporters of Emmanuel Macron watch a live broadcast of the televised debate between Macron and Marine Le Pen in a bar. Paris, May 2017. [Ian Langsdon/EPA]

Whoever is president of France is of the highest importance for the future of Europe. The choice for us is clear, write 13 former Europe ministers, in an exclusive op-ed for EURACTIV.com.

This is a joint letter, written by Hans-Martin Bury (Germany) ; Peter Friedrich (Germany) ; Mircea Geoana (Romania) ; Günter Gloser (Germany) ; Elisabeth Guigou (France) ; Alain Lamassoure (France) ; Noëlle Lenoir (France) ; Gunnar Lund (Sweden) ; Denis MacShane ( United Kingdom) ; Ramon de Miguel (Spain) ; Antonio Monteiro-Martins (Portugal) ; Dick Roche (Eire) ; Vicenzo Scoti (Italy).

The election of the next French president next Sunday (7 May) is a matter for French citizens. But it concerns every European citizen. France was a founding member of the integration of Europe that began in 1950 and is still under way today.

Whoever is president of France is thus of the highest importance. The choice for us is clear. One candidate stands as a partner of other European member states. One candidate stands for closing the frontiers of France to the rest of Europe.

One candidate expresses a core patriotism, a love of his country and a confidence that patriotism is not the enemy of European partnership rather its complement.

The other candidate is isolationist tinted with xenophobia.

One candidate sees Europe’s common currency as an advantage for France. The other seeks to return to a Europe of competing, rival currencies – the dream of the speculators everywhere and the destruction of the savings of French citizens who have worked hard all their lives. Faced with French reluctance to abandon the euro this candidate suddenly pretends to wait for one year before exiting the Euro. No one is fooled.

One candidate insists that Europe needs reforms, new energy, a new focus on social obligations, a Europe that makes jobs, encourages entrepreneurs’, reforms tax and labour codes to put France on a par with the most efficient and dynamic of European and world economies.

The other proclaims a nationalist conservatism which turns away foreign investors and shuts France out of markets essential for the new economic models around the world.

One candidate accepts France’s responsibility for what was done to Jewish citizens in France in World War Two. One candidate had even named as her successor at the head of the National Front a man who seeks to downplay and revise what happened to European Jews, gays, and others targeted by extreme nationalism in the 1930s and the years up to 1945. He was forced to resign but the fact he was nominated says much.

One candidate reaches out to the leaders and people of other EU Member States and offers France’s hand of friendship and partnership.

The other candidate is the candidate of Frexit and is keener to make friends with a network of anti-Europe propagandists emanating from dark forces to the east of the European Union.

After the lost decade in Europe following the arrival of the crisis of 2007-2009 and the need to devote public resources to stopping the collapse of the financial system, Europe’s economies engaging in a higher gear which means investing in new productive capacity and creating jobs that pay a decent income to all in society.

One candidate is unafraid to commit his leadership and that of France to such a programme.

The other candidate thinks that nationalist barriers and controls and protectionism are the 21st century way forward.

One candidate is open to the cultural diversity of Europe as enriching France while knowing intimately and enjoying the culture of France.

The other sees nationalist culture and supremacy of the nation as the future of France.

So as former ministers of Europe and foreign affairs from different countries we have no hesitation in asking our many, many friends in France to cast their votes on Emmanuel Macron on Sunday for the future of France and Europe and to reject the creation of a wall between France and the rest of the world and instead vote for the France we know and love in a strong and cohesive Europe.

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