French Elections: top 5 candidates’ wish list for the future of the EU

5 April 2017

As France’s presidential race reaches its climax with heated debates and frequent twists and turns, DeHavilland EU takes a step back to review the five most popular candidates’ EU manifestos, namely Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron, Francois Fillon, Benoit Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Governance of the EU

Most of the candidates agree that the EU suffers from a democratic deficit but not all of them propose the same remedies.

The most pro-European candidate is perhaps Emmanuel Macron, which is why he has succeeded in gathering support ranging from former Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit to ALDE MEP Sylvie Goulard, both European Federalists. If elected, Mr Macron would like to convene citizen’s conventions across Europe as of the end of 2017 to “give a meaning to the European project”.

On the right wing, Francois Fillon from ‘Les Républicains’ is more in favour of the status quo, with France and Germany at the centre of the European project.

Representing the Socialist Party, Benoit Hamon wants to recall the fundamental principles underlying the EU by establishing a Rule of Law mechanism by which Member States will have to abide.

For her part, Marine Le Pen foresees a six-month negotiation with EU Member States towards a reform of the EU and the dismantling of the eurozone. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is against the current economic ideology underpinning the EU and therefore sets out a number of negotiating guidelines for a major reform of the treaties. Should negotiations fail, he would then call to leave the EU as a plan B and build “cooperation with States who would be so willing on culture, education, science, etc.”

Economic and Monetary policy

Mr Macron believes that the eurozone cannot work properly without a major overhaul. In particular, the former French economy minister calls for the establishment of a Parliament and a Finance Minister of the eurozone. Similarly, Mr Hamon proposes a new treaty to enhance the governance of the single currency area, replacing the current Eurogroup with a parliamentary assembly composed of national MPs, with strengthened powers, in particular on tax policy.

In line with his deep attachment to national sovereignty, Mr Fillon advocates the creation of a political directorate and a general secretariat of the eurozone, independent from the Commission.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon believes that a more democratic eurozone would not resolve the current economic orientations of the EU which go against his call to set aside the Stability Pact and European rules on deficits. He pledges for a devaluation of the euro and the European Central Bank to be more committed towards growth and employment. While Mr Mélenchon “only” plans to organise a conference on sovereign debt, his closest political rival Benoit Hamon asks for the debt accumulated by Member States since 2008 to be cancelled. Finally, both candidates would like to see more harmonised fiscal policies in view of fighting against social dumping within the EU and taxing financial transactions.

Internal Market & Trade

Most candidates endorse the current trend towards more protectionism, although with significant differences.

On public procurement, while Marine Le Pen calls for tenders to be reserved for national operators, Emmanuel Macron believes that industries should rather be protected at the European level through a “Buy European Act”.

Mr Macron is less severe on posted workers, whom he would allow to work in a Member State for a limited period of one year, while Benoit Hamon calls for a more complete overhaul of the legislation.

Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon are the most vocal against an economically liberal Europe. In particular, Ms Le Pen intends to renationalise the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) while Mr Mélenchon would like to reform the CAP towards a self-sustainable system. On public services, Ms Le Pen would fight against further liberalisation, such as in rail transport.

On international trade, Francois Fillon wants tougher standards that would include reciprocity rules on public procurement, environment and social issues. Similarly to Benoit Hamon, he would reject trade agreements which he believes are not in the interest of European citizens, such as TTIP or the recognition of China as a market economy.

Security & Defence

Among the five candidates, Marine Le Pen is the only one who calls on security and defence issues to be dealt with at national level. Among other things, this would imply that national borders are reinstated and that France leaves the Schengen area.

On security at EU’s external borders, Francois Fillon and Emmanuel Macron would like to see Frontex’ powers strengthened, in particular by upgrading the Agency’s budget to make it more operational. Mr Macron wants a pool of 5,000 coast guards to be established.

Within EU borders, Benoit Hamon advises that multilateral task forces should be created in view of establishing a European Intelligence Agency.

Francois Fillon would set tougher restrictions on access to the Schengen area by calling on any non-EU citizens guilty of a crime or an offence to be systematically expelled from the area and access to be denied to any convicted non-EU citizen or any non-EU citizen who has been involved in terrorist activities.

Finally, on defence, Emmanuel Macron and Benoit Hamon both agree on strengthened EU cooperation. In particular, Mr Macron calls on the creation of a European Defence Fund as well as permanent European Headquarters.

Conversely, Jean-Luc Mélenchon would oppose a common defence policy as “Europe has been built for peace, not for war”.

All eleven candidates will have a last occasion to exchange their views during a final broadcast debate on the 20th of April. However, it is not yet certain whether everyone will attend and whether the debate will even take place, in tune with this rather unusual campaign.


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Alexis Thuau, EU Policy Analyst
Alexis Thuau
EU Policy Analyst

Alexis is responsible for DeHavilland EU’s energy, climate and environment portfolios. A graduate of Sciences-Po Aix-en-Provence and Pace University, he joined DeHavilland EU in 2015.