François-Xavier Bellamy, a quirky lead candidate for the French right

François-Xavier Bellamy.

François-Xavier Bellamy, a philosophy teacher from Versailles, does not believe in European democracy but wants to advance the idea of Europe by working on culture and education. Bellamy believes Europe’s roots are Christian, but not exclusively. EURACTIV France reports.

“I wasn’t specifically programmed for this candidacy,” Bellamy has said. The head of the list for the conservative Les Républicains (LR) party for the European elections has the merit of being frank.

He does not hesitate to acknowledge that he is only “beginning in politics” and is not a “specialist on European issues.” For example, he always mentions Europe rather than the European Union and does not believe in “European democracy.”

“The term ‘demos,’ as defined by Greek philosophy, means a people, a language. In a democracy, it is the citizens who decide their destiny, the EU is just an alliance of democracies who have decided to transfer competences,” he told a meeting with journalists from the Europresse association.

Nominated as the lead candidate at Laurent Wauquiez’s specific request, the young candidate insisted on not being the ‘token young member’ on the LR list, which is expected to include 50% new names in its first 20 candidates. At the same time, some LR MEPs not known for their capability at the European Parliament will be remain on the list.

Polls currently assign the eclectic list between 8 and 12 seats, compared to the 20 held by the outbound LR delegation.

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In these difficult times for the French right, Bellamy’s nomination was not an accident. “I don’t believe it’s the end of [political] divides. The right has to raise its head in order to stop the debate from being reduced to opposing nationalists and progressives,” he explained.

A pro-Orban mini Macron?

In the established political divide, Bellamy is closer to Emmanuel Macron than to Marine Le Pen. For instance, if nations are willing, he can envisage the emergence of a United States of Europe in the long term.

“Macron has a vision where nation-states in Europe are dissolved, but I don’t believe in the federalist project because there isn’t a European people,” Bellamy said, citing the economist Friedrich Hayek, who stated that order is formed spontaneously and not produced by political decisions.

However, there are not many differences between Bellamy and the centrist La République En Marche (LREM) and these are limited to specific issues. For example, unlike LREM, Bellamy does not want the creation of a eurozone budget.

Bellamy also supports Viktor Orban’s continued membership of the European People’s Party (EPP) group at the European Parliament, a surprising position for somebody from his generation. The Swedish right has already distanced itself from this position by officially supporting the expulsion of Orban and his Fidesz party from the EPP.

“Of course, in the context of the attacks against him, I’m closer to Juncker than to Orban. The cohabitation is becoming extremely difficult but it seems relatively necessary,” said the representative of the French right, mentioning the risk of a geographical divide opening up between western and eastern Europe.

Moreover, Bellamy raised the spectre of the “risk of a populist majority” in the European Parliament if the Hungarian party joined Matteo Salvini’s Lega and Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National.

However, there is little risk of this happening because the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) party supports ideas that are radically opposed to Orban, particularly on migration. Even with his 15 MEPs, which the EPP needs to wield influence, the ENF would not become a majority party but lag behind at fourth place, behind the right, the left and the centre.

Education and culture

Another surprising aspect of Bellamy’s candidacy is that he wants to work on educational and cultural issues in the European Parliament. While these topics were raised by many French people during the European citizens’ initiative, they are not part of the EU’s main competences, as opposed to financial, environmental and energy issues.

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Bellamy also supports European student exchanges – particularly in secondary schools – in order to generate collective awareness of Europe, as has been the case with students under the Erasmus programme. He also recommended spending 1% of the European budget on culture, compared to the current 0.15%.

“Europe needs to be based on a shared civilisation,” he said, without specifying. Despite being Catholic and opposing abortion, he nevertheless said that “what Christianity has brought to Europe is secularism,” criticising the fact that Catholic imagery is used by Salvini, who always seems to be holding a rosary.

Bellamy believes that such a use of religion is a perversion of faith, whereas Manfred Weber has widely used Christian images in the Spitzenkandidaten campaign. Furthermore, Bellamy considers that Europe’s roots are not exclusively Christian.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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