Macron’s struggles have Europe fretting over defence, Ukraine
    Article by Bloomberg

    WORLD  18 June 2024 - 16:51

    France’s political turmoil is causing concern in some European Union capitals that initiatives like joint military spending and a fresh push to support Ukraine could fall by the wayside.

    Doubts are growing over beefing up EU defence outlays through collective financing — an idea that President Emmanuel Macron backs strongly, according to people familiar with the matter. There’s also a fear that the snap legislative elections he called this month will undermine his role as one of Kyiv’s top cheerleaders, including his plan to dispatch army trainers to Ukraine, Bloomberg reports.

    Ever since he celebrated his first election victory in 2017 with the European anthem, Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy,’ Macron has been among the leading advocates for a stronger, more unified EU. But he’s also struggled to bring both other leaders and voters along with him, and in a landmark speech earlier this year, he warned that the European project itself is at risk.

    At home, his party and its allies are now some distance behind both far-right and left-wing rivals in polls. If Marine Le Pen’s National Rally can extend its lead to cement a majority, it would pose a fundamental challenge to EU leaders, who are meeting Monday in Brussels to discuss how to stiffen their response to Russian aggression.

    The president is the head of the military in France but the state budget is presented by the government, run by the prime minister and approved by parliament, which could end up with its lower house being dominated by parties with very different priorities following the two rounds of voting set for June 30 and July 7.

    Macron’s gamble leaves a question mark over additional EU defence spending, for which he’d sought options for leaders to assess at next week’s summit, a person familiar with the matter said.

    Those options are likely to come from the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, in the coming days, according to another person, who said joint borrowing is still being discussed and may be omitted given strong resistance from frugal nations and the fact France’s position is now weaker.

    Everyone is looking at France and considering the potential impact on EU policies, another person said. All asked not to be identified talking about private discussions.

    On the push to place military personnel in Ukraine side, doubts are also emerging. While Lithuania is ready to provide instructors alongside other partners, should Ukraine request such help, Latvia remains undecided.

    France’s own financing is a concern, too. While it adopted a military-spending bill last year that runs from 2024 to 2030, some defence-equipment pledges made sine remain unfunded. Questions could also arise over Macron’s promise to provide Ukraine with as much as 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid this year, depending on the election results, people familiar with the matter said.

    Le Pen may adopt a conciliatory approach, for now, to present herself “as a credible alternative for the 2027 presidential election,” according to Gilles Ivaldi, a political scientist at Sciences Po’s CEVIPOF Ivaldi.

    But a National Rally prime minister “would have totally antagonistic positions from Emmanuel Macron on European issues, Russia, Ukraine, European defence but also climate change,” he said. “Given France’s role in Europe, it would be a weakening of Europe.”

    Caliber.Az

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