Tonight, the champagne must be flowing in the Kremlin where an important victory has been won. The unexpected result of the French elections is a major step forward towards Putin’s goal of de-stabilizing the European Union; it is likely to compensate for the disappointments caused by the military stalemate on the ground in Ukraine and to encourage the government to show patience and resilience in the face of the sanctions imposed by the West. The taste of President Macron’s “humiliation” will, no doubt, be the subject of the usual sarcasms from Russian politicians and media.
As for the results: it is necessary to distinguish between the composition of the new National Assembly and the analysis of the vote. Indeed, the Assembly was elected by less than 40% of the registered voters (54% abstentions and 7% of blank and invalid votes). Nearly 50% of the elected members are Eurosceptic, at least in terms of the support they show for certain policies that are incompatible with the TEU or European legislation.
At a time when consensus becomes necessary it seems unattainable, given the likelihood of a call for new elections within 24 months. Behavior will therefore be dictated by essentially electoral considerations: the President will wait for the moment when the electorate has had enough of instability and/or immobility; he will seek to mobilize disgusted abstentionists in order to try to secure a majority. The opposition, on the other hand, will seek to prevent the government of achieving a constructive record in order to impose an alternative majority after the dissolution. The role of the trade unions, of the street mobs and the deployment of law enforcement troops will be exploited and scrutinized by all parties, possibly leading to social movements, which in turn will be fueled by inflation, geopolitical fears etc.
These political calculations are dangerous. They constitute a particular threat to the cohesion of the EU at a time when close cooperation is of paramount importance, as made obvious by the threat of various simultaneous crises (financial, economic, climatic, etc.) and by the enormous amounts of public and private capital to be mobilized (for health, education, defense, security of supply, energy transition, etc.); this challenge can only be met by resorting to the EU model of the mutualized post-Covid “Stimulus Plan”.
As for understanding the high rate of abstention in these elections, one of the most convincing explanations lies in the fact that elected representatives are constrained in their action by the primacy of Community legislation over national law. While the ‘sovereigntists’ find in this the justification for their Euroscepticism which, by construction, leads to the dismantling of the EU, the ‘Europhiles’ see the need for further integration as the only answer to insoluble challenges at national level which, for their part, also by construction, imposes a profound revision of the TUE; dismantling would be catastrophic, the revision of the treaties seems chimerical!
At the geopolitical level, it is clear that only an integrated Union, speaking with a single voice, can ensure the protection of the interests of the vast majority of its citizens. To be convinced of this, it is enough to consider the individual defense capacity of the Member States. Without the EU, each country would remain under the unescapable domination of the United States (whose benefits since 1945 have been indisputable given the well-being of the Member States compared to that of the great majority of nations). Accepting this, even voluntarily, within the framework of NATO would, nevertheless, expose each new “sovereign” European state to the not inconsiderable risk of a unilateral withdrawal of the American defense umbrella on which they are all dependent. This addiction has led to the unbridled satisfaction of personal needs, which, though certainly beneficial (social protection), have reached levels creating significant shortfalls, not only in their respective defense capabilities, but also in other key areas requiring significant financial means. The withdrawal of American protection would expose the political and military vulnerability of each individual country, making the European populations, engrossed in their comfort, aware – too late – of the risks posed by sovereigntist and populist parties.
When confronted with the proposals of the French nationalist left and right, one must ask why they are prepared to accept the contradictions of sacrificing their military sovereignty to the United States and accepting the inevitable “vassalization” of their new national currencies to the dollar instead of sharing the sovereignty of the €. The only plausible explanation lies in their thirst for power, which they can only capture at the national level by fooling the voter, who is viscerally attached to NATO and the €; remaining in charge then most likely leads to a drift towards authoritarian if not totalitarian regimes.
President Macron recently spoke of a reality: “we must transform our economy into a war economy“. This analysis, despite its relevance, has little resonance with the public, whose knowledge of a “state of war” is most often limited to films and television news broadcasts; moreover, the explosion of inequalities makes the sharing of sacrifices more complicated to manage. Already, even the mention of restrictions raises reservations about continued support for Ukraine as it defends our values and freedom; whatever the cost of the sacrifices required, they will be infinitely less than those that will eventually result from withdrawal.
The catastrophic election result will have visible consequences soon: a first test will be the impact over the next few days on the bond market where the appetite for French sovereign debt could be tested. This could increase resistance to the implementation of the new stabilization instrument being studied by the ECB, if it appears that it would not be used exclusively to smooth unjustified speculative movements but rather to counter the impact of uncontrolled budget deficits.
The second test will come again later this week when the European Council votes on whether to grant Ukraine “candidate” status for EU membership. The weakened position of the French President could prompt one or more Member States to express reservations, preventing the required unanimous vote and leading to the usual postponement of the decision. This would be a terrible blow to the morale of the heroic Ukrainian people. It is to be hoped that the French Presidency of the European Council does not end with this further humiliation! It would be further proof of the EU’s impotence and the superficial nature of the “unity” regained in the aftermath of the Russian aggression.
Without having the capacity to foresee the future, it nevertheless seems likely that the European Union will suffer a fate comparable to that of the Roman Empire, whose decadence, spread over several centuries. In the case of the EU, this could be greatly accelerated. Let us not allow Putin, who employs all the tricks of the “weak against the strong”, to satisfy his ambitions by letting him reap the fruits of our own selfishness. Let us also make sure that we draw all the consequences of these disastrous French legislative elections.
Brussels, June 20th, 2022