What the French vote results mean for Europe

What the French vote results mean for Europe

The unexpected results of the legislative elections in France paint a picture of the transalpine Republic that is very fragmented and uncertain. The markets do not like uncertainty, but several leaders both in Europe and outside the old continent have breathed a sigh of relief at the defeat of Marine Le Pen. Her Rassemblement national has nevertheless achieved a historic result without however conquering that first place, with an absolute majority attached, which would have opened the doors of the Hotel Matignon and the transalpine government. The New Popular Front, which came in first, is preparing to propose a prime minister who can gather consensus even outside the left-wing coalition, trying to overcome the difficulties of dialogue already present within its majority.

The repercussions of these results on the old continent are many. Some have occurred immediately, such as the adhesion of the Rassemblement National to the far-right group of the Patriots of Viktor Orban in the European Parliament. Others will be seen over time and the extent of the change will be clear only when the main knots are untied and the new prime minister obtains the mandate from French President Emmanuel Macron as well as the decisive vote of confidence from the elected members of the National Assembly.

The embrace between Le Pen and Orban

After the July 7 run-off, the French government team is a real puzzle, with the left-wing alliance New Popular Front having gained 182 of the 577 seats in the French National Assembly, but which will have to seek a compromise with President Macron’s centrist alliance, which has 168 seats. The far-right Rassemblement National, which gained “only” 143, will certainly remain in opposition. The coexistence of the center and left in power is not a given and it is not certain that it will last until 2027, the year of the presidential elections. The first European reflection concerns Marine Le Pen’s membership in the new group in the European Parliament founded by Hungarian President Viktor Orban. On the morning of July 8, during a meeting in Brussels, the sovereignist group Identity and Democracy, which included both the Rassemblement National and Matteo Salvini’s League, dissolved and decided to join the Patriots.

Orban-Le Pen ‘marriage’ puts pressure on Meloni in Europe

The goal is to form a new, strengthened far-right bloc, which will oppose the second legislature of Ursula von der Leyen, who awaits a vote of confidence from the European Parliament in Strasbourg on July 18. The disappointing electoral result has dissolved the last qualms of Marine Le Pen, who according to experts, in the event of a victory, could have chosen to avoid the embrace with Orban, disliked by a large part of the leaders of the European Union due to his positions of closeness to Vladimir Putin. The marriage between Le Pen’s sovereignists and the Hungarians of Fidesz, the Czechs of ANO, the Austrians of FPO and the Spanish of Vox, in addition to the members of the Northern League, means only one thing: greater isolation for Giorgia Meloni.

Macron’s role, weakened but not defeated

Contrary to what was suspected on the eve, Macron has been less weakened than expected. His pro-European and pro-Kiev international role could remain intact as predicted by the French think tank Iris. The solution of a compromise government could be unwelcome to a part of the left-wing electorate, but according to analysts it is the only one that could dispel uncertainties and restore the image of a strong France that can still play a leading role among the member states of the European bloc.

So far, Macron has had a fruitful dialogue with the Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is also grappling with a complicated red-green-blue coalition, along with the socialists and liberals. The continuation of the Franco-German axis could act as a guarantee for some more moderate left-wing components, such as the socialists of Place Publique headed by Raphael Gluckmann, while the radical French left of France Insoumise does not look favorably on this alliance, which is very unbalanced in its support for Kiev and does not exclude a direct European military commitment in Ukraine.

Kiev’s sigh of relief. Or not?

The unity of the New Popular Front passes precisely through the issue of support for Ukraine. In the meantime, Kiev has breathed a sigh of relief, fearing first of all the imposition of the Rassemblement National in Paris. The main fear remains that of seeing a reduction in subsidies to Ukraine and the military support guaranteed so far by Macron’s centrist majority. The averted danger was also underlined by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk with an ironic post on X: “In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kiev relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw”. To be fair, after the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Le Pen’s party distanced itself from Vladimir Putin, claiming in an electoral key that in case of victory it would continue to provide defense aid but would not send long-range missiles or other weapons capable of hitting Russian territory from Ukraine.

He won the elections but he will not govern: who is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader who splits the left

On the other hand, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of La France Insoumise, has been accused of excessively close relations with Russia. In February, he had argued that “the time had come to negotiate peace in Ukraine with mutual security clauses”, immediately opposing the sending of high-profile weapons to Kiev. Glucksmann, on the other hand, newly elected MEP, is positioned more clearly alongside the government of Volodomyr Zelensky. His figure would almost certainly be more welcome to supporters of Ukraine, such as Kaja Kallas, the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the EU in pectore.

What’s Happening on Energy and Drought Fight

The new French government will also have to figure out how to position itself with respect to the Green Deal, the cornerstone of environmental policies at the European level. The far right has firmly opposed the reforms of the ecological transition, so its defeat reassures the supporters of the Pact for the Environment. In his years in power, Macron has pushed to include and strengthen nuclear energy in the Pact’s measures, seen as a safer and more convenient alternative for France compared to renewable energy. The left-wing alliance could instead focus much more on offshore wind energy and hydroelectricity. At the same time, however, it cannot risk increasing voters’ bills.

Finding a European alternative to compensate for the lack of Russian gas supplies will be a priority for a prime minister who wants to be credible in the eyes of the other 26 EU leaders. The New Popular Front will also seek an alternative to the mega-water basins, very expensive facilities wanted by Macron, to ensure a better balance between the needs of the territories and the needs of agricultural production in the fight against climate change. This is an issue that in recent months has sparked violent protests in various areas of France and that heavily influences both the future of agriculture across the Alps and the models that Europe, especially southern Europe, could adopt in the fight against drought.