Mon. Nov 28th, 2022


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EU panic as rogue candidate ‘poised to topple Emmanuel Macron’

3 min read

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Seventy years ago, on May 9, 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, presented the Schuman Declaration on the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, which was the first of a series of European institutions that would ultimately become today’s EU. Built from the ruins of World War 2 in a bid to establish peace through economic collaboration, the original six-member bloc grew to include 28 countries over the years, and only one of them has left so far ‒ the UK. Keeping the EU alive and going, though, has been incredibly difficult. Economic challenges, migration crises, unemployment, and a growing nationalism in several member states are only some of the challenges the bloc has faced throughout the years.

The most recent one is the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the EU to shut its borders, something that has not ever happened in its 70 years of existence.

Moreover, unearthed reports suggest there will be even more challenges ahead.

French President Emmanuel Macron got elected in 2017 on a pro-EU platform, defeating the National Front – an anti-immigration and anti-EU party led by Marine Le Pen.

Mr Macron has voiced his view of a more integrated EU from the moment he took office and has managed to drive the European rhetoric in key moments, such as during the Brexit negotiations.

However, things might change soon.

Trust in Mr Macron is plummeting amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to a poll published in September, around 62 percent of French people admitted to not trusting their President.

The Elabe poll for BFMTV, which asked 1,000 people in France aged 18 and over, also found that nearly one in two people (47 percent) think the President is not taking “enough precautions” to limit the spread of the virus.

With the 2022 presidential election nearing, according to the head of London-based think-tank Euro Intelligence Wolfgang Munchau, Mr Macron and the EU should be concerned about a surprise candidate sweeping in.

He wrote: “The French President might be worried about Xavier Bertrand, a high-profile former member of Les Républicains and potential 2022 candidate who is close with the [fishing] industry.

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“Bertrand is president of the Hauts-de-France region. He served as health minister under Jacques Chirac and labour minister under Nicolas Sarkozy.

“Last month, he attended the general assembly of the Coopérative Maritime Etaploise, where he called for arm-wrestling with the UK in fisheries negotiations.”

He added: “More good optics for him. Bertrand has recently been spotted in meetings with a string of senior right-wing political figures, including LR [The Republicans] President Christian Jacob.

“Rachida Dati supports his candidacy, and Le Journal du Dimanche reports that he will meet with Nicolas Sarkozy next month. With the help of LR deputy Julien Dive, he has also been meeting with parliamentarians this week, and is set to meet with senators next week.

“His think tank La Manufacture has been mobilised to develop an election campaign strategy, and a recent Ifop poll put Bertrand at the top of the list of potential right-wing candidates.”

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Mr Bertrand’s ideas on Europe seem to be in stark contrast with Mr Macron.

In 2014, the former health minister said he no longer believed in the French-German pas-de-deux at the heart of the European project.

He told Le Journal du Dimanche: “It’s not the be-all and end-all of French politics.

“Take energy – I don’t see how we can have a common policy when our interests are so different.”

In 1992, he led the campaign for the ‘no’ to the Maastricht Treaty in his department, the Aisne in the region of Picardy.

However, he pronounced himself strongly in favour of a European Constitution for the referendum on May 29, 2005.

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