Macron vs Central Europe

The heart of Europe is now beating in France, but it is not sure whether it will be able to pump life throughout the rest of the continent

Visegrad Insight
11 May 2017

After the victory of Emmanuel Macron, congratulations arrived from all over the world. Here is a selection of letters and messages from Central Europe:

Your victory is a happy day for all who believe in a united and strong Europe,” President Andrej Kiska of Slovakia wrote in a telegram.

Meanwhile, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, stressed in his letter to Macron long-lasting collaboration between the two countries: “Bonds of cooperation and friendship have held Poland and France close for many centuries. I am confident we will now be able to preserve these good traditions together”.

The Polish PM Beata Szydlo congratulated the French people on Twitter and invited Macron to Poland.

PM Victor Orbán sent to Macron a letter of congratulations. “I look forward to our cooperation and trust that in future we will have the opportunity to further develop our bilateral relations, and also to discuss our ideas with relation to the future of Europe” – he wrote.

A very similar tone was conveyed in the telegram sent by Czech President Milos Zeman: “I firmly believe that we will find an opportunity for a personal meeting, which would enable us, in our capacity as presidents, to contribute to further deepening and development of traditional friendship between our countries“.

The outgoing PM Bohuslav Sobotka congratulated Macron and thanked the French voters that had rejected populism, nationalism and isolation.

The President of European Council Donald Tusk congratulated Emmanuel Macoron on Twitter. He referred to the French Republican values: liberty, equality and fraternity and wrote that the “French people said ‘no’ to the tyranny of fake-news”

“Poland is drifting away from the core of Europe” – Wojciech Przybylski, Editor-in-chief of Visegrad Insight commented on Macron’s victory. “We can expect that the Czech Republic and Hungary will adopt the euro soon, and we will remain alone” – he added.

Europe’s moral leadership is with France today” tweeted Marcin Zaborowski, Senior Associate at Visegrad Insight – It’s time to reverse the wave of populism in Poland and Hungary” – he added.

What Central Europe should expect and what is it actually expecting from the newly elected French president?

Two weeks ago, Macron announced that a decision on the Polish issue would be taken within the 3 months following his election.

Karel Schwarzenberg, the former Czech Foreign Minister, referred to it during the debate organized by Europeum in Prague. He said that sanctions against Poland and Hungary would fuel further division.

David Emler – Professor at the Institute of International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague – reminded many that it has been a long time since Central Europe was a priority for France’s foreign policy.

Many commentators remarked that if the “Weimar Triangle” (France-Germany-Poland) ceases to exist, there would be very little hope to revive it.

According to Kateryna Kruk, the Macron victory has opened up new possibilities and perspectives for Ukraine, considering that France is a member of Normandy format. “Le Pen’s defeat seen as a victory for Kyiv” she wrote.

But not everyone is so enthusiastic about Macron; though perhaps it is not about him, in particular, but the on-going situation. Martin Ehl, Visegrad Insight editor, predicts that the victory of Macron can even boost populism because of the great expectations that cannot be fully accomplished.

Łukasz Jurczyszyn from PISM wrote that President Macron is good news for both Poland and the region, but he noted that “Macron’s support for a “multi-speed” Europe could pose a challenge”. Macron’s criticism of the Polish authorities over the rule of law may jeopardise bilateral cooperation in the initial period of Macron’s presidency – he remarked – but after some time, he is likely to be more pragmatic.

The victory of Macron is just the beginning. It brings with it hope for the future, but it doesn’t disregard the challenges facing Central Europe, the European Union and even France.

On June 11th and 18th, the French will vote for the National Assembly, and they may want to counterbalance Macron’s party En March! by voting for, potentially, the National Front.

Europe breathed a sigh of relief, but it shouldn’t be too satisfied. Just after the first exit polls on Sunday evening, Timothy Garton Ash commented: “Like someone who has narrowly escaped a heart attack, Europe can raise a glass and give thanks for the victory of Emmanuel Macron. But the glass is less than half full, and if Europe doesn’t change its ways it will only have postponed the fateful day”.

Compiled by Gabriela Rogowska