OpinionWill Macron become Ukraine’s new ally?
France has finally elected its new president, Emmanuel Macron. The second round of voting in the presidential election is traditionally more of a vote against someone than for someone. This case is no exception as Macron in the second round gained the votes of most of Marine Le Pen’s opponents.
Now, the future shape of Macron’s foreign policy will largely depend on whether his En Marche! Party will be able to form a government, which seems rather doubtful at the moment.
Why will it be difficult for Macron’s political force to win in the upcoming parliamentary elections in June? France exploits a purely majoritarian electoral system, with two rounds of voting. So, to win in the constituency, a candidate needs to score more than half of all votes cast. On the one hand, it limits the candidates from Marine Le Pen’s "Front National" because, once again, in the second round, they will mostly be losing due to the negative motivation of voters. But on the other hand, En Marche! has no strong candidates in constituencies either, that’s because his party is still very young, having literally been created during the latest presidential campaign. Under such circumstances, they did manage to bring their leader to presidency, but to secure wins in many majority districts, they should have really strong candidates, who are simply not there yet.
Issues of Ukraine and the Normandy format could become Macron’s program tasks to take up
Therefore, I assume that the parliamentary elections in France will see a rematch of systemic political parties: Republicans, Socialists, and others. And the formation of a future coalition will depend on the position of these parties. We can definitely say that there will be no single-party government in France - it became clear back in the first round of voting, when as many as four candidates got about the same number of votes (nearly 20%). This means that in some way or another, a coalition must be created.
Thus, it is likely that the Macron’s influence on the French government will not be too strong, and therefore the new president of France will focus more on foreign policy. In this case, the issues of Ukraine and the Normandy format can become Macron’s program tasks to take up.
In addition, during the campaign debate, Macron said he supported the idea of the EU renewal. This means that he is uncomfortable with the current state of affairs in the EU, also criticized by Marine Le Pen. But he offers his personal recipe of resolving the crisis. Macron proposes the update of the Union rather than its abolition. So we might as well expect some initiatives by President Macron on the evolution of the integration project within the European Union. For Macron, the urgent issue to deal with will be Brexit talks with the UK but this does not mean that he will lead the process.
Besides, under the new circumstances, the Franco-German partnership in the Macron-Merkel format can get a fresh impulse through a combination of experience, carefulness, and principle stance of Angela Merkel with a youthful activism of Macron. Perhaps this is indeed a tandem (if it’s ever formed) which will be able to upgrade the EU without breaking it apart at the same time. That is, such combination of progressive and conservative principles could at least change a negative trend in the EU, which began with Brexit, to a more encouraging one.
Indeed, we can suggest that Ukraine sees a new Normandy Four member who not so much favors Ukraine but is definitely cautious in relation to Russia
A prerequisite for Emmanuel Macron joining global politics was the "Russian trauma": he beat his rivals in the elections despite Russia’s efforts to intervene with the election process in France. So he has all reasons to treat Russia's foreign political position cautiously, including Moscow’s interpretation of the events in Ukraine: the war in Donbas and Crimea annexation. Given this fact, we can suggest that Ukraine sees a new Normandy Four member who not so much favors Ukraine but is definitely cautious in relation to Russia. Poroshenko will be able to cooperate with such partner and I believe he will take into account while working in the Normandy format Macron’s caution toward Russia. Therefore, Poroshenko’s statement saying that following presidential elections in France "Ukraine received a reliable ally" is a justified one. However, we are yet to see whether the expectations will meet the reality.
Volodymyr Horbach is a political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation