Macron after Europe division to save his country: Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy publishes an opinion by a senior researcher, focusing on the French President's "French-centric views" and the European Union members' weakened trust in him.
An opinion piece by senior researcher Eoin Drea published in Foreign Policy says that French President Emanuel Macron is dividing Europe to save his country and those who have followed French debates are aware of "French statism".
The author said that when the French President was elected in 2017, he talked about his perspective on the role of France in Europe and expressed his discontent over Europeans "concentrating all of our energy on our internal divisions," and warned of "losing our debates in a European civil war."
His statements revealed infinite disagreements within the European Union about financial resources and budget constraints, Drea said, adding that to establish a "strong Europe", Macron suggested a solution: "A centralized EU with a common political, economic, and social model -- essentially an EU recreated in France’s own image -- wrapped in another deeply ingrained French idea, that of a bloc that is strategically autonomous from the United States."
As per Drea, any individual who has been following French debates is able to "recognize this as textbook French statism, with a few updates for the digital, environmentally conscious age."
The past year's events have exposed the "veracity and desirability of Macron’s French-centric views," Drea wrote, and the misjudgment of Russian President Vladimir Putin by Macron, along with his "substance-free platitudes about peace," has disastrously undermined the EU's trust in France.
Macron is "either unwilling or unable to reconceive France’s positioning in an EU," Drea argues, giving evidence about France’s renewed attempt to impose its statist economic model on other EU member states.
The apparent reason is the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which has raised fears in Europe over unfair competition. For Macron, Drea wrote, "it’s a chance to impose their anti-competitive, anti-Atlanticist impulses on the rest of the bloc."
A close French ally of Macron, European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, is "at the vanguard of leveraging European concerns over the IRA in order to push Paris’ vision of an interventionist, subsidy-driven industrial strategy," Drea wrote.
By tying this to Europe's concerns of being wiped out by US rivals and falling behind in the green transition, "France is seeking to leverage these fears to override resistance in other member states."
Breton has also been clear in promoting a European sovereignty fund for "direct, fast and flexible budgetary support to well-identified projects of interest for EU sovereignty across any sector of our industrial spectrum."
This would obviously be a "debt-fueled carte blanche for EU-level intervention across Europe’s entire industrial base."
Think tanks, competition policy experts, academics, and European industrial leaders all agree that the French method of "subsidizing your way to competitiveness is an illusion without real competition and meaningful structural change. It’s an irrational and disproportionate response to the IRA and does not address the wider problems of European industry in many high-tech sectors," Drea concluded.
Not only is the French proposal bound to fail in today's economy, but it has also made other member nations question the French President’s motives.
In addition, France’s approach mirrors French economic insecurities. With the country’s public debt and taxes consuming a whopping 47.3% of economic output, France cannot continue financing its big-state economic model.
France also appears to have intentions to reverse "the European Commission’s blocking, on antitrust grounds, of the 2019 merger of French industrial giant Alstom with German conglomerate Siemens." It is obvious by now that "this isn't the grand plan for European unity that Macron’s soaring rhetoric makes it appear," Drea added, but "a blatant attempt to access EU funds to shore up creaking French industrial competitiveness on the global stage."
All this has "left Macron short of true political allies in the bloc," when trust in him is already at its lowest possible level, due to his indecisiveness on the war in Ukraine and his rejection to have a significant role in the matter.
Read more: Macron, Scholz anticipate prolonged conflict in Ukraine, vow readiness
The proposals have laid bare France’s increasing isolation in the bloc. Seven EU member countries explicitly opposed more EU borrowing for industrial subsidies. On February 9, during the special European Council Summit in Brussels, member states broadly opposed the renewed Franco-German push for industrial aid.
In his approach, Macron mirrors France’s uncertain role in the post-Cold War world, and keeping his country in the concert of great powers is "a much higher priority for Paris than building effective partnerships with smaller EU member states."
Therefore, Drea concludes that "the disconnect between France (supported, at best, by a few increasingly lukewarm backers) and the rest of the EU deepens."
Drea ends her article by noting that "rather than lead Europe into a glorious age of integration, Macron is widening the very divisions in Europe he warned against in 2017. The meeting of lofty aspiration and cold reality has exposed a diminished France, a more powerful Central and Eastern Europe, and an increasingly disconnected Macron."