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Europe takes the front row
All Eu eyes on the results of the May 6 second round
“Winds of populism are threatening one of the most significant integration achievements: freedom of movement in the Union”. During his visit to Bucharest, Eu Council chief HermanVan Rompuy expressed his concerns for the Schengen agreement ( Romania and Bulgaria’s entry bid has been vetoed by the Netherlands) that are bound to be echoed also within the French borders. It does not sound like an undue interference by the EU in the presidential second round, scheduled on May 6th, but more a sign of Europe’s interest and confidence in France. In the hope that populist voices echoed during the election campaign and also after the first round on April 22 will leave the way to the great social values that are the foundation of integration, advocated by its famous French “fathers” such as Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet and Jacques Delors.
Van Rompuy expressed concerns, shared by various Member States, on the success of Marine Le Pen ’s National Front party. Remarks made by the outgoing President, neo-Gallist Nikolas Sarkozy displeased Brussels and some capitals (“France wants to take back its destiny; if Europe does not act, France will do so on its own”, or “A Europe open to everybody is over). Equally equivocal claims were pronounced by François Hollande, the socialist candidate, on economic issues and certain hostility towards measures such as the “fiscal compact”, taken at community level to tighten public accounts.
In Paris, the second round confrontation between the two candidates is underway and seems centred mainly on a series of domestic issues: attitude taken by the candidates who were excluded at the first round (especially the extreme right candidate Marine Le Pen, neo-Jacobin Jean-Luc Mélenchon and centrist François Bayrou); voters willingness to return to the ballots 15 days after the first round, fight against low turnouts; jobs, immigration, costs of living... However, considering the current global scenario, such an important “match” is closely monitored also abroad and specifically in Europe.
Needless to say that uncertainty on the final result prevents us from making forecasts. This is one of the reasons why, apart from Van Rompuy message of concern, prudence prevails in Eu headquarters, as well as in Berlin and London, Rome and Madrid, Stockholm, Warsaw or Athens. Hollande (who in the first round was the most voted candidate with 28.6% of consents) and Sarkozy ( second, with 27.2%) are under the spotlight for catchwords they coin and endlessly repeat, “recipes” to address issues such as unemployment, economic relaunch, public expenditure monitoring, answers to migrations and foreign affairs.
The two leaders seem to be re-positioning themselves in the Eu. Sarkozy, president since 2007, throughout the recession, one of the champions of the “common home”, is today distancing himself from a series of European policies reinforced in the last years, such as economic governance and joint action to safeguard European borders in a coordinated response to migration. On the opposite front Hollande, who until the day before yesterday - perhaps also due to a domestic anti Sarkozy battle - appeared more skeptical towards Eu-27, is today presenting himself as the politician who wants to “relaunch growth”, giving the Eu a key role. Therefore, the Union will take the front row as the spectator of the election match, hoping populist and nationalist stands will not defeat France’s European vocation (open fronts in the Continent are already many, starting from the leader of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders). On May 7th, the Eu hopes to have a credible and strong interlocutor supported by his country, willing to realign himself in the building of a united Europe, respectful of diversities. Even the French one.
27/04/2012 - Sir Europe (Rome - Brussels - Bratislava)