It has been a long standing idea in Existentialist philosophy, rampant in France, that freedom is an encumbrance to humanity. People do not want to be free, because they incur a certain responsibility to lead their own lives of their own accord. People need to be told how to be happy. Keeping this in mind, the right-wing populist groups threatening to destroy the fabric of a federalist Europe, or even the EU as a whole, seem to be a testament to the idea that people don’t want freedom, they want to be ruled.
With just over 66% majority in the recent French presidential election, former banker and philosophy graduate, Emmanuel Macron can easily fall into ill-advised contentedness. It is also easy for his followers, in turn, to take it for granted that their Le Pen nightmares are a thing of the past. But how relaxed should they actually be considering National Assembly elections on the 11th and 18th June might turn into another Obama-esque stalemate? According to European news reports, no sooner had Macron been elected, that the mainstream conservative politicians vowed to take control essentially ending up with the new President having to pander to opposing politicians in parliament on every issue.
I mentioned Obama earlier because this was also the bane of his existence from 2011 until the regrettable end of his term. With a strong Republican congress to answer to, the former President had his work cut out for him time and time again when decisions were dragged out until the last possible second before disaster struck until they managed to strike a deal. While this was seemingly distant from Malta in terms of direct effects, the French situation might hit a little harder.
Granted it is highly implausible that we are looking at Frexit, but when considering the Républicains and their makeshift leader and short-lived economy minister under Sarkozy, François Baroin are ready to force Macron into choosing a conservative Prime Minister - preferably Baroin himself if they have anything to say about it. Who knows where the French are headed? The country has historically always been prone to dealing with political and cultural change like any other person deals with a feral cat living in an attic. They remove it, and fast.
France also recently came under fire by European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, who said that, “The French spend too much money and spend it on the wrong things.” Juncker also went on to explain that 53%-57% of France’s GDP went on public spending adding that, “They can’t go well in the long run with relatively high debt … France is going to have to compromise with others.” As a reaction, Macron vowed to cut up to 120,000 public sector jobs which should reduce spending by up to €60b over a five year period.
On the other hand, the European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, was absolutely chuffed with the news of the election results saying that the populist scourge which gained momentum last year with Brexit and Trump has finally ended. With Macron being a self-professed Europhile, the word ‘reform’ has been echoing all around Europe with Tajani saying that, “We need to change it all together. France and Germany but also Italy and Spain have to give a contribution.”
And speaking of Germany, foreign affairs minister, Sigmar Gabriel has pointed out that Macron’s full commitment to the EU means that Germany will have to fight for its pole position on the European front. “It is also an order for us Germans,” Gabriel explained, “We will have to do more for Europe instead of just raising an index finger.”
On a local front, Macron has to deal with France’s economy, particularly passing domestic labour reforms as recommended by EU finance ministers; as well as ensuring that any coalition or agreement needs to be made before the potential Republican takeover of the National Assembly. On a European front, he wants specific Eurozone reform with new fiscal and social rules, a new parliamentary assembly, and a Eurozone finance minister. Regarding Brexit, he has said “An exit is an exit,” and doesn’t seem to want to show any mercy whatsoever; this going hand in hand with his harsh criticism of Hungary and Poland’s breaches to EU rules.
It will be an uphill struggle, and Macron has a lot on his plate with no slack whatsoever at any point, but the future of the EU seemingly rests on his shoulders at this point and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Are we seeing the first steps of a centrist European rebirth? Or is this simply a step in the right direction ready to be thwarted by the next Trump-style fiasco?