Macron Blasts Biden Subsidies At Start Of US State Visit

File: French President Emmanuel Macron

 

France’s President Emmanuel Macron fired an undiplomatic volley at his American hosts on the first day of a rare state visit to Washington, telling lawmakers Wednesday that US industrial subsidies are “super aggressive” against French competitors.

“This is super aggressive for our business people,” an AFP reporter heard Macron tell members of Congress and business leaders, who had invited him to lunch ahead of the main part of the state visit on Thursday, when the French leader will spend most of the day with President Joe Biden.

Macron was referring to Biden’s signature policy called the Inflation Reduction Act, which is set to pour billions of dollars into environmentally friendly industries — with strong backing for US-based manufacturers.

The White House touts the IRA legislation as a groundbreaking effort to reignite US manufacturing and promote renewable technologies, but European Union governments are crying foul, threatening to launch a trade war by subsidizing their own green economy sector.

Macron’s blunt assessment, saying he just wanted “to be respected as a good friend,” tore some of the veneer off a carefully choreographed state visit intended to celebrate historic US-French ties — and also tackle the trickier parts of the US-EU transatlantic alliance.

Macron warned that the United States championing its own industry under the IRA will “kill a lot of jobs” in Europe and it may “perhaps fix your issue but you will increase my problem.”

– Space talk –
Earlier, Macron joined Vice President Kamala Harris at the NASA facility in Washington to discuss cooperation in space.

“France is a vital ally to the United States and this visit demonstrates the strength of our partnership, our friendship…, one that is based on shared democratic principles and values,” Harris told Macron.

Macron stayed in the high-tech sphere later with a meeting on civilian nuclear energy. His busy schedule, which also included a working lunch to discuss biodiversity and clean energy, and a visit to the historic Arlington National Cemetery, illustrated the ambitions set for the trip — the first formal state visit by a foreign leader to Washington since Biden took office nearly two years ago.

The core of the visit will be on Thursday, including a White House military honor guard, Oval Office talks with Biden, a joint press conference and a banquet where Grammy-award-winning American musician Jon Batiste will perform.

– EU-US tensions –
Trade tensions, however, are only part of the uncomfortable flip side to the red carpet occasion.

Another gripe in Europe is the high cost of US liquid natural gas exports — which have surged to help compensate for canceled Russian deliveries.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the US side wants to defuse tensions, promising “transparent, forthright” discussions.

“We certainly will stay open to listening” to the EU concerns, he said.

There is also divergence on how to deal with the rise of superpower China. The question — with Washington pursuing a more hawkish tone and EU powers trying to find a middle ground — is unlikely to see much progress.

“Europe has since 2018 its own, unique strategy for relations with China,” tweeted French embassy spokesman Pascal Confavreux in Washington.

Kirby said China will be “very high on the agenda” this week but stressed that both countries share a broad approach.

“We believe that not only France, but every other member of the G7 — frankly, our NATO allies too — see the threats and challenges posed by China in the same way.”

The breadth of Macron’s entourage — including the foreign, defense and finance ministers, as well as business leaders and astronauts — illustrates the importance Paris has put on the visit.

At the White House, however, a senior official said the main goal of the state visit is to nurture the “personal relationship, the alliance relationship” with France — and between Biden and Macron.

AFP

Sport Must Not Be Politicised, Says Macron Ahead Of Qatar World Cup

 

File: French President Emmanuel Macron attends a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin (off frame) in Moscow, early on February 8, 2022. – International efforts to defuse the standoff over Ukraine intensified with French President holding talks in Moscow and German Chancellor in Washington to coordinate policies as fears of a Russian invasion mount. (Photo by Sergei GUNEYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday waded into the controversy around Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup, insisting sport should not be politicised.

“I think we must not politicise sport,” said Macron, whose national team are defending the title they won in Russia in 2018.

The 2022 World Cup, which kicks off on Sunday, has been dogged by controversy, including over Qatar’s alleged human rights abuses, suppression of dissent, mistreatment of foreign workers and persecution of LGBTQ people.

“These questions must be addressed when hosting the event is decided,” he told reporters in Bangkok, where he is attending a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

French football captain Hugo Lloris has said he will not join other European captains in wearing an anti-discrimination armband during the tournament, saying he wanted to “show respect” to Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Macron, who will go to Qatar if France reach the semi-finals, said it was “a very bad idea to politicise sport”, noting that France will host the Olympic Games in 2024.

The president travelled to Russia in 2018 to see Lloris lift France’s second World Cup title with a 4-2 win in the final over Croatia.

France begin their defence of the World Cup trophy against Australia on Tuesday before also playing Denmark and Tunisia.

The Danes have sought to take a stand on Qatar’s rights record, proposing to wear pro-human rights training shirts — until the idea was shot down by FIFA.

AFP

Trump Failed America, Biden Says After Ex-President Announces 2024 Run

US President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Jim WATSON / AFP
File photo of US President Joe Biden. Jim WATSON / AFP

 

President Joe Biden responded Wednesday to Donald Trump’s announcement of another run for the White House by saying the Republican “failed” his country while in office.

“Donald Trump failed America,” Biden said in a tweet from Bali, where he was attending the last day of the G20 summit.

This accompanied a video compilation saying Trump presided over “rigging economy for rich”, “attacking health care”, “coddling extremists”, “attacking women’s rights”, and “inciting a violent mob” to try to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden.

Later, while participating in a ceremonial mangrove planting with other G20 leaders, reporters asked Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron if they had reactions to the Trump announcement.

The two looked at each other briefly before Biden said “not really,” while Macron remained silent.

AFP

Sunak, Macron Agree Greater Cooperation On Channel Migrants

New Conservative Party leader and incoming prime minister Rishi Sunak waves as he leaves from Conservative Party Headquarters in central London having been announced as the winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest, on October 24, 2022. – Britain’s next prime minister, former finance chief Rishi Sunak, inherits a UK economy that was headed for recession even before the recent turmoil triggered by Liz Truss. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

 

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron Friday in their first call since Sunak took office agreed on greater cooperation to prevent migrant Channel crossings, Downing Street said.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the leaders “committed to deepening our partnership to deter deadly journeys across the Channel that benefit organised criminals”.

Macron Meets Parents Of Murdered 12-Year-Old

France's President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he visits a third place called "Le Quarante" in Laval, northwestern France, on October 10, 2022. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)
France’s President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he visits a third place called “Le Quarante” in Laval, northwestern France, on October 10, 2022. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday met the parents of a 12-year-old girl whose brutalised body was found in a trunk in a killing that shocked France, his office said.

Macron “offered his condolences and assured them of his complete solidarity and support in the ordeal they are going through, and which has shaken all of us,” the Elysee added.

A 24-year-old woman with a history of psychiatric disorders has been charged with the rape and murder of the young girl, identified only as “Lola”, and is being held in custody.

Prosecutors said Monday that in a rambling interview, the suspect had described luring Lola into her sister’s apartment — located in the same building where the girl lived — and forcing her to take a shower, before sexually assaulting and ultimately killing the 12-year-old.

An autopsy report said Lola died of “cardio-respiratory failure with signs of asphyxiation and cervical compression”, as well as suffering wounds on her neck and elsewhere on her body.

Investigators quickly got on the suspect’s trail after Lola’s father, the building’s custodian, spotted her interacting with his daughter in CCTV recordings that he checked when Lola did not return from school on Friday afternoon.

The suspect was arrested in northwestern Paris suburb Bois-Colombes early on Saturday morning.

A 43-year-old man who acknowledged driving the suspect away from the crime scene with the trunk containing Lola’s body has also been charged with concealing a corpse.

– Far-right ‘making hay’ –
Some politicians have already begun using the case to attack the government’s immigration policy, as the suspect, an Algerian, was under an order to leave France after overstaying her student visa.

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen as well as the conservative Republicans party brought up the case in Tuesday’s regular government questions session in the National Assembly (lower house).

“You owe it to us to come up with urgent answers and uncompromising solutions to make sure the law is applied and respected in our country,” Le Pen told Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti told lawmakers that while the suspect was subject to an order to leave France, it was not yet known whether her lawyer had appealed the decision — which could have meant she was within her rights to stay.

“I’ll speak as I find. Doing petty politics, using the coffin of a 12-year-old girl as a stepping stone, is shameful,” he added.

Addressing the right of the chamber, Dupond-Moretti said that “you’re always there when tragedy strikes, you’ve been making hay out of it for years.”

AFP

French Strikes Spread As Macron’s Opponents Push For ‘Confrontation’

France's President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he visits a third place called "Le Quarante" in Laval, northwestern France, on October 10, 2022. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)
France’s President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he visits a third place called “Le Quarante” in Laval, northwestern France, on October 10, 2022. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

 

French railway workers and civil servants voted Thursday to join striking oil refinery staff with a walkout next week, raising fears that anger over the rising cost of living could spiral into a series of blockages.

Railway staff and civil servants represented by the hard-left CGT union, the biggest in the public sector, will stop work next Tuesday, with several labour groups calling for a national day of stoppages.

The famously militant CGT said it was pushing for higher wages for railway workers but also wanted to protest government efforts to break a strike by refinery workers that has caused nationwide fuel shortages.

“Railway workers want to press again for salary improvements and denounce the repression and attack against the right to strike,” said a union statement.

The government has resorted to emergency powers to compel some striking refinery workers to return to their jobs to release fuel stocks stuck inside blockaded facilities.

Six out of seven refineries have been affected by strikes that are now in their third week, causing huge tailbacks outside petrol stations and growing frustration among motorists.

“The time for a confrontation (with the government) has arrived,” left-wing opposition parliamentarian Clementine Autain from the France Unbowed party told France 2 television on Thursday.

A leading Greens lawmaker, Sandrine Rousseau, said Wednesday she hoped the refinery standoff would be “the spark that begins a general strike”.

Not all unions have joined the call for strikes next Tuesday, however, with the country’s biggest, the CFDT, opting out.

Left-wing political parties are to hold a protest rally against the policies of President Emmanuel Macron and the rising cost of living on Sunday.

Sympathy and anger

Until Tuesday, the government had been reluctant to inflame the pay dispute at French energy group TotalEnergies and US giant Esso-ExxonMobil whose refineries are affected.

TotalEnergies made a net profit of $5.7 billion in the April-June period and is distributing billions to shareholders, sparking some sympathy for employees pushing for higher wages.

But with 30 percent of French service stations with little or no fuel, particularly those in the Paris region and the north, the government has begun requisitioning some fuel depot workers, forcing them to return to work or risk prosecution.

After an ExxonMobil depot Wednesday, a TotalEnergies site in northern France was requisitioned Thursday, with the first laden fuel tankers protected by police seen leaving during the afternoon.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s office said the emergency measures were justified because of a “real economic threat” for northern France, which relies heavily on agriculture, fishing and industry.

But the unions have reacted furiously to the government intervention.

“What we are seeing here is the Macronian dictatorship,” CGT official Benjamin Tange told AFP. The current industrial action, he said, arose out of “the anger of several months, several years and a rupture of social dialogue”.

Striking workers at an Esso-ExxonMobil refinery in Fos-sur-Mer, outside Marseille in the south, voted Thursday to lift their blockade after reaching a pay deal with management.

That leaves five out of seven of France’s refineries still affected by industrial action.

TotalEnergies announced it would hold talks with trade union representatives for the first time since the start of the strikes, raising hopes of a breakthrough.

The group has proposed a six percent raise for next year, below the CGT’s demand for an immediate 10 percent hike, retroactive to January 1.

The company has come under increasing pressure from the government to reach an agreement.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio that given its huge profits this year, it had “the capacity… and therefore an obligation” to raise workers’ pay.

 

AFP

Macron Promises Air Defence Systems For Ukraine

File photo: French President Emmanuel Macron reviews the troops during a national homage to late French actor Michel Bouquet at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris on April 27, 2022. – Michel Bouquet, a legend of French stage and screen known for his collaborations with new wave directors Francois Truffaut and Claude Chabrol, died on April 13, 2022 at the age of 96. (Photo by Francois Mori / POOL / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that France would supply air defence systems to Ukraine following Russia’s missile assault which he said was aimed at “breaking Ukrainian resistance”.

“We’re going to deliver… radars, systems and missiles to protect them from these attacks,” Macron told France 2 television, adding that France was also negotiating to send another six Caesar mobile artillery units.

Macron also said Russian President Vladimir Putin must “return to the table” to discuss making peace in Ukraine.

“Today, first of all, Vladimir Putin must stop this war, respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and come back to the table for talks,” Macron told broadcaster France 2, saying he aimed to avoid a “global war”.

READ ALSO: Labour Party Unveils 1,234-Member Campaign Council For Peter Obi

Meanwhile, the G7 vowed Wednesday to “stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” pledging to help Kyiv meet its financing needs and urging Moscow to end its “unjust and brutal war.”

G7 finance ministers and central bankers, who met in Washington, also said in a statement that they had made “significant progress” in talks on a proposed price cap on Russian oil and welcomed Australia’s addition to the coalition.

Johnson Showed ‘Lots Of Enthusiasm’ On Wider European Community Idea – Macron Office

A file photo: French President Emmanuel Macron (Photo by GONZALO FUENTES / POOL / AFP)

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson showed interest in France’s idea of creating a wider European political community beyond the EU during talks between the two countries’ leaders on Sunday, the French presidency said.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron saw “lots of enthusiasm” from his British counterpart who oversaw his country leaving the EU, when he spoke about the idea, a spokesman said.

The broader community could allow Britain to “reengage” with the bloc, he added.

More to follow…

France’s Macron Congratulates Queen Elizabeth II On Jubilee

French President Emmanuel Macron reviews the troops during a national homage to late French actor Michel Bouquet at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris on April 27, 2022. (Photo by Francois Mori / POOL / AFP)

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday congratulated Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on her platinum jubilee, calling her “the golden thread that binds our two countries” going back to World War II.

“During the past seventy years, the President of the French Republic has relied on very few constants… your devotion to our alliance and to our friendship has remained,” Macron said in English in a video message to the queen.

He recalled “the dark days when your family welcomed General de Gaulle in your home” during World War II, when the leader of the Free French and later founding president of France’s Fifth Republic took refuge in London from the Nazi German occupation.

Since then, in “a lifetime of devotion to our alliance”, the queen had “shared our joys, and seen the deep affection and admiration that the people of France have for you,” Macron said.

Switching to French — in which the queen is fluent — the recently re-elected leader told the monarch that “celebrating you today is celebrating the sincere and deep friendship which unites our two countries”.

While Britain and France are close allies, ties have been strained since the UK’s departure from the European Union in 2020.

The two governments have been at odds over issues like London’s post-Brexit trading relationship with its neighbours and regular attempts by migrants to cross from France to the UK in small boats.

Most recently, there has been anger in Britain at the treatment of Liverpool football fans at Saturday’s Champions League final in Paris, with French ministers blaming unruly supporters for chaos that saw some of them tear-gassed by police.

France’s Macron Targeted By Tomatoes On First Post-Election Trip

French President Emmanuel Macron waves from his car as he leaves after a visit at the Saint-Christophe market square in Cergy, Paris suburb, on April 27, 2022, during his first trip after being re-elected president. (Photo by BENOIT TESSIER / POOL / AFP)

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron was the target Wednesday of a bunch of tomatoes hurled by a disgruntled onlooker as he made his first public appearance after his weekend re-election victory. 

Macron has spent the last days secluded in an out-of-town residence and then the Elysee Palace, considering the formation of a new government following his defeat of far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday.

But reflecting his promise of uniting a divided France, he chose for his first post-election visit the French town of Cergy-Pointoise in the Paris suburbs, a low-income area where far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon came out on top in the first round of voting on April 10.

Macron was meeting residents when a bunch of cherry tomatoes whizzed by close to his face, missing him but hitting bystanders.

His security detail moved swiftly, shouting “projectile! projectile!” and covering Macron’s head with their hands before protecting him with a black umbrella.

Macron appeared unflustered but keen to move on as rapidly as possible. “No! No! No fighting,” he could be heard saying.

While the incident was minor, it was a reminder of the challenges of fully protecting a president who is fond of immersing himself into crowds even in areas that can be hostile to him.

In June 2021, he was slapped in the face by a man while greeting locals on another trip.

Elysee officials emphasised that the visit to Cergy-Pointoise had been marked by a good atmosphere, with an intense crush caused by people trying to get as close as possible to the president.

“In the poorest neighbourhoods, whether in cities or rural areas, we really need to create the conditions for real and effective equality of opportunity,” Macron said during the visit.

“It is the only way to get rid of this distrust… and sense of abandonment,” he said.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron reviews the troops during a national homage to late French actor Michel Bouquet at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris on April 27, 2022.  (Photo by Francois Mori / POOL / AFP)

 

France’s Constitutional Council is due to certify the results of the election later Wednesday, paving the way for Macron’s second term to start next month.

With an eye on parliament elections in June, Macron is expected in the coming days to name a new prime minister and government but has offered few clues on who he may be considering.

“I will appoint someone who is committed to social and environmental issues and is productive,” he said as speculation whirls that a woman could head the government for the first time since Edith Cresson in 1991.

World Leaders Welcome Macron’s Re-Election

French President and La Republique en Marche (LREM) party candidate for re-election Emmanuel Macron (R) holds his fist in the air as he holds Brigitte Macron’s hand after his victory in France’s presidential election, at the Champ de Mars in Paris, on April 24, 2022.
Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

World leaders rushed to congratulate France’s centrist President Emmanuel Macron on his re-election and defeat of far-right leader Marine Le Pen in elections Sunday.

Here are some of the main reactions:

– European Union –

 


YVES HERMAN / POOL / AFP

 

“I am delighted to be able to continue our excellent cooperation,” tweeted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“We can count on France for five more years,” European Council President Charles Michel wrote on Twitter.

 

– United States –

US President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Jim WATSON / AFP
US President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Jim WATSON / AFP

 

“France is our oldest ally and a key partner in addressing global challenges,” US President Joe Biden tweeted. “I look forward to our continued close cooperation — including supporting Ukraine, defending democracy, and countering climate change.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also congratulated Macron.

“We look forward to continuing close cooperation with France on global challenges, underpinning our long and enduring Alliance and friendship,” he wrote.

READ ALSO: Macron Defeats Le Pen In French Election

– Germany –


Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said French voters “have sent a strong vote of confidence in Europe today. I am happy that we will continue our good cooperation”.

 

– Britain –

. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called France “one of our closest and most important allies” and said he looked forward “to continuing to work together on the issues which matter most to our two countries and to the world”.

 

– Ukraine –

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a speech during a press conference with Denmark's and Spain's Prime Ministers in Kyiv on April 21, 2022. Genya SAVILOV / AFP

Genya SAVILOV / AFP

President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has spoken with Macron several times since Russia’s invasion on February 24, called Macron a “true friend of Ukraine.”

“I wish him further success for the sake of the (French) people. I appreciate his support and I am convinced that we are moving together towards new common victories,” he wrote in both Ukrainian and French.

 

– Russia –

Photo of Vladimir Putin/AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote in a telegram: “I sincerely wish you success in your state activities, as well as good health and well-being,” according to a statement from the Kremlin.

– China –

(Photo by AFP) / TO GO WITH Tennis-CHN-China-politics-Zhang,PROFILE by Patrick BAERT

 

China President Xi Jinping said he would “like to continue working with President Macron to maintain diplomatic relations based on independence, mutual understanding, foresight and mutual benefit,” according to a readout from state broadcaster CCTV.

 

– Australia –

IGary Ramage / POOL / AFP

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Macron’s victory was a “great expression of liberal democracy in action in uncertain times”.

“We wish you and France every success, in particular, your leadership in Europe and as an important partner to Australia in the Indo-Pacific,” he tweeted.

In November, Macron accused his Australian counterpart of lying over a multibillion-dollar submarine contract that Canberra scrapped without warning.

 

– Canada –

. (Photo by Dave Chan / AFP)

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “looking forward to continuing our work together on the issues that matter most to people in Canada and France — from defending democracy to fighting climate change, to creating good jobs and economic growth for the middle class”.

– India –


Prakash SINGH / AFP

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated his “friend” on being re-elected and said, “I look forward to continuing working together to deepen the India-France Strategic Partnership.”

– Japan –


Du Xiaoyi / POOL / AFP

 

Tweeting in French, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida wrote: “We will strengthen our close cooperation with President Macron in various areas, such as the Indo-Pacific region and the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

 

– Italy –

Prime Minister Mario Draghi described Macron’s victory as “great news for all of Europe”.

– Spain –

(Photo by Borja Puig de la BELLACASA / LA MONCLOA / AFP) /

 

“The citizens have chosen a France committed to a free, strong and fair EU. Democracy wins. Europe wins,” tweeted socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. “Congratulations Emmanuel Macron.”

– Belgium –

(Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP)

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said French voters had made a “strong choice”, opting for “certainty and Enlightenment values”.

 

– UN bodies –

Filippo Grandi
(Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi sent his “warm congratulations” and said his organisation would continue to count on Macron’s support on the European and world stage “as humanitarian challenges and refugee crises become more serious and complex every day”.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he looked forward to “continuing the important partnership” with France “for a healthier, safer, fairer world”.

 

– Ireland –


Tom HONAN / POOL / AFP

Prime Minister Micheal Martin hailed Macron’s “principled and dynamic leadership” as “important not only for France but for Europe”.

 

– Switzerland –

Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

President Ignazio Cassis said he looked forward to “continuing our good collaboration,” stressing the close ties between the two neighbouring countries.

– Sweden –

Photo of Swedish Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson

 

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson sent her “warmest congratulations”.

“Let’s continue our close cooperation – bilaterally and for a competitive, green and resilient European Union,” she tweeted.

 

– African Union –

File photo of Moussa Faki Mahamat

 

African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat congratulated Macron over “his brilliant re-election”, saying he hoped to continue building “mutually beneficial relations between Africa and France”.

Macron Defeats Le Pen In French Election

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin (off frame) in Moscow, early on February 8, 2022. – International efforts to defuse the standoff over Ukraine intensified with French President holding talks in Moscow and German Chancellor in Washington to coordinate policies as fears of a Russian invasion mount. (Photo by Sergei GUNEYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday defeated his rival Marine Le Pen in presidential elections, projections showed, prompting a wave of relief in Europe that the far-right had been prevented from taking power.

Centrist Macron was set to win 57.0-58.5 per cent of the vote compared with Le Pen on 41.5-43.0 percent, according to projections by polling firms for French television channels based on a sample of the vote count.

The result is narrower than the second-round clash in 2017, when the same two candidates met in the run-off and Macron polled over 66 percent of the vote.

The outcome, expected to be confirmed by official results overnight, caused immense relief in Europe after fears a Le Pen presidency would leave the continent rudderless following Brexit and the departure of German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Macron’s victory “great news for all of Europe”.

EU president Charles Michel said the bloc can now “count on France for five more years” while commission chief Ursula von der Leyen rapidly congratulated him saying she was “delighted to be able to continue our excellent cooperation”.

In a combative speech to supporters in Paris where she accepted the result but showed no sign of quitting politics, Le Pen, 53, said she would “never abandon” the French and was already preparing for June legislative elections.

“The result represents a brilliant victory,” she said to cheers.

The relatively comfortable margin of victory gives Macron some confidence as he heads into a second five-year mandate, but the election also represents the closest the far-right has ever come to winning power in France.

Macron is the first French president to win re-election since Jacques Chirac in 2002 after his predecessors Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande left office after only one term.

The 44-year-old is to make a victory speech on the Champ de Mars in central Paris at the foot of the Eiffel Tower where flag-waving supporters erupted in joy when the projections appeared at 8:00 pm local time (1800 GMT).

High Ambitions

Macron will be hoping for a less complicated second term that will allow him to implement his vision of more pro-business reform and tighter EU integration after a first term shadowed by protests, then the pandemic and finally Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But he will have to win over those who backed his opponents and the millions of French who did not bother to vote.

On the basis of the official figures, polling organisations estimated that the abstention rate was on course for 28 percent which, if confirmed, would be the highest in any presidential election second-round run-off since 1969.

The outcome of the first round on April 10 had left Macron in a solid but not unassailable position to retain the presidency.

Convincing supporters of the hard-left third-placed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon to hold their noses and vote for the former investment banker was a key priority for Macron in the second phase of the campaign.

Macron will also need to ensure his party finds strong grassroots support to keep control of a parliamentary majority in the legislative elections in June and avoid any awkward “cohabitation” with a premier who does not share his political views.

Bitter Pill For Le Pen

High on his to-do-list is pension reform including a raising of the French retirement age which Macron has argued is essential for the budget but is likely to run into strong opposition and protests.

He will also have to rapidly return from the campaign trail to dealing with the Russian onslaught against Ukraine, with pressure on France to step up supplies of weapons to Kyiv and signs President Vladimir Putin is losing interest in any diplomacy.

For Le Pen, her third defeat in presidential polls will be a bitter pill to swallow after she ploughed years of effort into making herself electable and distancing her party from the legacy of its founder, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Critics insisted her party never stopped being extreme-right and racist while Macron repeatedly pointed to her plan to ban the wearing of the Muslim headscarf in public if elected.

When Jean-Marie Le Pen reached the second round in 2002, the result stunned France and he won less than 18 percent in the subsequent run-off against Chirac.