Judy Asks: Is France Europe's redeemer?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
10 May 2017

Europe the sinner, at last redeemed by the grace of French President-elect Emmanuel Macron, set to the music of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - Europhiles may be forgiven for enjoying this fantasy on the evening of 7 May.

But France’s feel-good victory for liberalism is not enough to compensate for Europe’s past performance. Macron’s win may be a battle lost for populists. But the war against illiberal politics will not be won until the EU deals with its three cardinal sins: the flaws in its currency, its chaotic response to the refugee crisis, and its failure to protect Europeans against terrorism.

What can France do? Macron wants Germany to cooperate in redesigning eurozone governance and boosting European security cooperation. In turn, he promises to strengthen France’s economy and support Germany’s open stance on refugees.

But Germany may prove unwilling to budge on fiscal matters. And a joint EU response to refugees or terrorism will be possible only if Paris and Berlin can convince Europe’s East and South. Finally, Macron knows that he was elected by the French people—they, not Brussels, are his first priority.

Macron's victory is good news, but no one is redeemed yet. Europe should turn down the Beethoven and get to work.

Sophia Besch is a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform.