Macron’s domestic travails to sap European leadership

© Ludovic MARIN Europe now has a lack of national leaders with the charisma and political clout to advocate for its values on the international stage.

This could further weaken European leadership, as Emmanuel Macron is likely to be distracted by domestic issues even though he retains formal authority over foreign policy.

In the wake of his second-term victory in April, President Emmanuel Macron was dealt a major personal setback in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

It was during his first term as president, which began in 2017, that France solidified its position as a major global player. In the wake of Brexit and Angela Merkel’s departure, many observers see Emmanuel Macron as Europe’s most important figure.

© Ludovic MARIN As an antidote to populism, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi recently accompanied French President Francois Hollande and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Scholz on a trip to Ukraine.

Although Macron’s presidential victory over the far right was widely celebrated by supporters as a triumph of democracy over populism, the election fiasco was the icing on top of an already difficult few weeks for Macron.

© Ludovic MARIN When Macron said that the West should be careful not to humiliate Moscow, he was roundly slammed.

France’s international reputation was tarnished and doubts about its ability to host events were raised as a result of a heavy-handed police crackdown at the Champions League football final in Paris.

When Macron argued that the West should be careful not to humiliate Moscow by helping Ukraine defeat the invasion, he was accused of wanting Russia to lose.

There will now be weeks of political horse trading that will diminish the president’s reputation as an indispensable European leader, even though he retains full control of foreign policy.

Is there a chance of this becoming weaker?

Political credibility is affected by the results of legislative elections, according to Jacques Delors Institute special adviser Thierry Chopin. In addition, this has a negative impact on his European influence, he stated.

From a strictly institutional standpoint, European issues remain the strong prerogative of the president.

“However, if the president is prevented from implementing structural reforms expected by European partners, this could have a negative effect,” he told Agence France Press.

The rise of the far right, led by the resurgent Marine Le Pen, to 89 seats in the National Assembly has been a major setback for President Macron, who prides himself on being an anti-populist champion.

According to Tara Varma of the European Council on Foreign Relations, “we see trends in other member states of the European Union where a number of forces tend to destroy the EU from within” (ECFR).

The National Rally (RN) of National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen is vying for control of the parliament’s powerful foreign affairs committee, as well.

Groups known for their anti-European sentiments are expected to engage in business, resulting in “lively exchanges,” Pascale Joanin of the Robert Schuman Foundation said.

“A change in France’s foreign policy is likely impossible, but it is now possible,” says Paolo Mattera, an Italian professor of contemporary history at the Università Roma Tre in Rome.

In order to focus on foreign policy, Macron wanted a trusted prime minister in charge of domestic affairs so that he could focus on that instead, according to Mattera.

According to the French president’s own words, “a lot of time and energy” could be devoted to “domestic issues” instead of foreign policy.

– Draghi in the spotlight –

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for Europe to find national leaders with the charisma and political clout necessary to champion the continent’s values around the world.

It hasn’t been an easy start for new German chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has heard criticism that Berlin’s support for Ukraine isn’t strong enough.

Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister and former head of the European Central Bank, is given extra prominence because of the political vacuum.

Last week, Draghi accompanied French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Wolfgang Scholz on a trip to Kyiv.

One could argue that the anti-establishment movement has returned, and this would be bad news for Draghi, the quintessential embodiment of the establishment,” according to risk consultants at Policy Sonar, a Rome-based consultancy.

On the other hand, they said, Draghi will take center stage in the EU as a result of Macron’s fall.