France’s old and new President Emmanuel Macron could not have shown more explicitly the political dimension of this election. When Macron started his victory speech on the Field of Mars in Paris on Sunday evening, the European anthem sounded instead of the French national anthem – a clear signal of how decisive this election was for the cohesion of the European Union. Not only the congratulations of the European Heads of State sounded relieved, but also those of the European Commission and its President Ursula von der Leyen. “I am happy to continue our good cooperation,” the German politician wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “We will push France and Europe together forward.”
But even as Europe expresses its relief, the election reveals how divided France and Europe are and how far the political discourse has moved to the right. Marine Le Pen achieved a historically satisfying result for her Rassemblement National party. Le Pen won not only the votes of low-income earners, the unemployed and farmers but also caught up with white-collar workers, craftsmen and even company bosses. However, the energy crisis, political frustration and a sceptical attitude toward Europe are not only strengthening the political peripheries of the left and right in France but also in many other member states. The traditional parties are fading into insignificance. The army of frustrated non-voters is growing. 16.6 million French voters have lapsed their right to vote or voted invalidly, the turnout was 72 per cent.
A tremendous task for Macron and all other European heads of state who need to find a way to bring politically frustrated citizens back to the polls. The stakes are high. It is not only the war in Ukraine that has to be terminated with a joint European and global effort, but only a united Europe will find solutions to the energy crisis and climate change. Only a strong Union can guarantee peace and prosperity for all citizens. These challenges cannot be solved with disunity. Macron promised on election night to be the President of all French citizens. “No one will be forgotten” – a promise that should apply to the whole of Europe.
A statement by the Team of United Europe: Rieke Schües, Dyria Alloussi, Katharina Kaemmerer