The French elections are crucial for the future of Europe. Two candidates want to leave the European treaties, while the other three, despite different approaches, want to change the European Union. With programs varying from the far-left to the far-right, France’s candidates are offering five visions of Europe.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon: “The Europe of our dreams is dead”
For the candidate of La France insoumise, "Europe, either we change it, either we leave it." According to him, "the EU is currently a single market only and the peoples are subjected to banks and finance's dictatorship." He argues that EU's policies of "economic austerity, free-trade and destruction of public services" do not fit his programme.
He advocates an exit of the European treaties “which oblige us to conduct austerity measures, to abolish the state’s action and public investments under the pretext of a debt that everyone knows won’t be paid in any country”. Instead, Jean-Luc Mélenchon wants to focus on a cultural, social and environmental cooperation between countries.
He is strongly against free-trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP between EU & North America), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA between Canada & EU) and the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA, which liberalises the worldwide trade of services between 23 Parties).
He prefers national laws over “regressive European laws on social and ecological questions”.
On defense, the candidate says “Thinking we will revive Europe by launching a common Defense is a terrible vision. We didn’t build Europe for this, but for peace”
On Brexit, the candidate says there would be no revenge on the agenda concerning negotiating trade deals with the UK. Their vote must be respected and therefore, France has to cooperate with its neighbour. He adds he is against the Touquet agreement (an agreement between France, the UK and Belgium implemented in 2004 and which sets immigration checkpoints before crossing the Channel) because the British border is not in the Pas-De-Calais region.
He suggests a two point plan to exit the EU:
Plan A: Leaving the EU treaties with other countries to reconstruct the EU. Mélenchon wants to end the independence of the European central bank, devalue the euro and tax financial transactions. He also wants to organise a united protectionism against the states outside of Europe and leave the carbon market. If this plan succeeds, a referendum will be submitted to the French people. They will then have to choose between a reorganisation of the EU, or an exit.
If plan A fails, Mélenchon has a backup plan: to leave the EU unilaterally. He will stop contributing to the EU budget, transform the euro into a common currency, set up a control over national borders and protect the country from tax avoidance.
In his opinion, the EU treaties focus on competition rather than cooperation between its peoples. He wants to make an alliance with Southern European countries to leave the economic austerity and focus on boosting environmental and social activities.
Also, he encourages any country that is willing to participate in new cooperations regarding these issues.
Benoît Hamon: “I want a new political deal for Europe”
For the socialist candidate, France can only be independent and audible in a strong and unified Europe. In his programme, he says that "the current sense of direction of the EU is no longer possible, but a simple disagreement is not enough". He wants another Europe that will focus on aEuropean defence, a greater investment plan towards environmental transition and that will end economic austerity measures.
Benoît Hamon is in favour of a European cooperation for Defense. He wants to progressively mutualise intelligence services to reach a “European intelligence agency”.
He is against the TTIP, TISA and CETA agreements “to protect our collective preferences regarding environmental, healthcare and social protection issues”.
The candidate wants to increase the European budget and “build an investment plan of 1000 billion euros” that will focus on ecological transition and look at the most disadvantaged European areas.” He wants to cancel the accumulated debt by the state members, which “is strangling Southern countries”. Benoît Hamon advocates a solidarity amongst the states by mutualising the European debt. He wants the European Central Bank (ECB) to facilitate the direct financing of the states’ debt. Also, he suggests a European minimum wage, which will be “60% of the average wage”.
“We’ll cancel the accumulated debt”
Benoît Hamon wants to create a “humanitarian visa” to give a legal and secured access to France for refugees. He thinks it nonsensical that the countries at the border of the EU, which already are suffering economically like Greece and Italy, have to take care of the reception of refugees. He says he will “establish a system of distribution to receieve asylum-seekers between state-members”, based on their own capacity.
Regarding ecology, he says he will launch a national conference six months after he is elected, to gather popular support. “We will promote a great European project of social and environmental progress, in order to remobilise Europeans around our common values.” He wants to label pesticides on a European level and forbid them on a national one.
Finally, the socialist candidate wants to promote a European culture and continue measures such as “the fixed book price agreement”. He also wants to fight for a European regulation to protect whistle-blowers.
Emmanuel Macron: “We must recreate the European dream”
En Marche! candidate has made Europe his flagship. For Emmanuel Macron, despite the fact that the EU is fairly young, "it is exhausted". He callsfor a responsible and "sovereign Europe" and hopes to boost it through investment policies. He wants to be respectful of the EU treaties, and especially the Maastricht Treaty.
For the candidate “isolation” is not the solution and “sovereignty” should not be confused with “nationalism”. He says that a united Europe is the best course of action to face the challenges of migrants, international terrorism, climatic change, numeric transition, and the American or Chinese economic powers.
On Brexit, Emmanuel Macron says that “it is not a selfish act”. For him, British leaders have praised a rapid liberal society without considering the industrial, economic and social “destructions” that necessarily follow. He says that the political class has made Europe its scapegoat, and failed to explain that leaving it would be a disaster. Also he says that Brexit happened because of “the arrogance of experts and the lies of demagogues”. “Brexit is not a British crisis but a European one”, because the countries are torn apart between “opening and closing” he says.
“if we decide it, the EU is what enables us to be protected in globalisation”
Going back to our national borders is for him a “fanciful” idea. Instead, not only does he want to remain in Schengen but also “invest in a real common force of coastguards and border guards”, as it is today known as Frontex. He wants to create a Union of Defense and a special fund that would finance military equipments. Regarding refugees, a common solution has to be found between the EU and the countries of origin, through development aids. For the candidate, the UK has to be involved in the refugee crisis at the EU borders.
On the euro, Emmanuel Macron wants to go further and convince the state members to launch a common budget of investment on digital equipment, renewable energy, education and research. It would be coordinated by a finance ministry.
Finally, he wants to “democratise” the EU by organising citizen debates and conventions right after his election.
François Fillon: “A sovereign France in a Europe respectful of nations”
According to the Républicains candidate, Europe is now “inefficient, useless, outdated” and is “an obstacle from our development and our freedom”. Because “Europe has to be a tool and not a religion”, François Fillon is against any federal project of the EU and the Maastricht Treaty.
He wants a Europe that will control its borders and its immigration, by launching “a Schengen for justice”. For instance, he wants a double penalty for any foreign delinquent who committed a crime within the EU who would then systematically be ejected from Europe. He wants to create a “European right to asylum” and triple the Frontex budget.
He wants other countries to participate and invest in a better and independent European Defence and to support the European industry. In his opinion “it is not normal that only France is taking part financially and militarily with war on terror in Sahel.” He also wants to cooperate militarily with the UK.
“To change Europe, we have to reform its institutions so their power is better supervised by the States”
On the euro, François Fillon thinks it is a tool to counter the dollar. He suggests that a political board of directors composed of heads of government will lead the Euro Zone. He wants to coordinate the European Central Bank policies through a global economic strategy. Later, he wants to create a European Treasury with a pooling of debts.
Regarding other economic powers, the candidate refuses to sign the TTIP agreement which is “not fair”. He wants the EU to better respect anti-dumping regulations and ask for reciprocity when it comes to open public markets in China or in the US.
On the European institutions, the candidate wants to revise the role of the European Commission. According to Fillon, it should focus on “a few fundamental fields” and withdraw from topics that only state members can deal with.
Finally, Mr Fillon wants Europe to become a hub for innovation. Among his propositions, he wants to set up a new European policy on energy and focus on Europe’s digital future.
Marine Le Pen: “it is time to get over the EU”
Front National leader starts her programme with the EU referendum she wants to organise six months after she is elected. In these first six months, she intends to negotiate France’s sovereignty with the EU on three levels.
On a territorial level, she wants France’s borders back. On a legislative level, she says she will entrench the superiority of national laws over European laws into the Constitution. And on a monetary level, she wants a national currency back. She tweeted: “the euro failed and caused a spectacular increase of prices and therefore a decrease in purchasing power!” She says she doesn’t mind the euro as long as it is transformed into a common currency that mostly will affect states and big companies.This would mean that France will have two currencies. But first, it has to be negotiated with the EU.
It’s a considerable step from her program she presented five years ago. In 2012, she was only advocating a referendum on the euro.
She wants to step back from free-trade agreements and to transform the Common Agricultural Policy into a French Agricultural Policy, “to save our French model of family farms”. In her opinion, the EU wants “the disappearance of French agriculture”. Also, she wants to stop the liberalisation of public services.
“I am not against Europe, I am against the Union”
On Brexit, she warmly welcomes the British vote because “we have to end with this bureaucratic world”.
By exiting the EU treaties, Marine Le Pen wants to build another Europe based on “free nations”. She believes the time has come to transform it and she will have the support of other nations. “Today, Mrs Merkel is the one who is isolated from the European scene” she said on a popular French show conducted by journalist Jean-Jacques Bourdin. She argues she is not against Europe but against the Union. She wants “bilateral relations” with the countries. “I am reinforcing Europe with this policy and diplomacy that once gave France all its glory.” “Many countries are sovereign and do business with others and have international relations”, she added.
Front National leader wants French flags to fly on every public building. As for the European ones, they will be removed. For her, “the EU diminishes France and separates it from the world.”