Pécresse on the fine line between Macron and Le Pen on Europe – EURACTIV.com

Valérie Pécresse, right-wing Republican candidate in the French elections, presented her “patriotic and European” vision of Europe. He flirts between that presented by the “not yet candidate” Emmanuel Macron and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen. EURACTIV France reports.

Immigration is, unsurprisingly, Pécresse’s favorite topic when it comes to the EU.

If elected, the right-wing candidate will push for the renegotiation of key European agreements, such as the Schengen agreement, and push to speed up the recruitment of 10,000 more border guards for Frontex, the European border agency. . Recently, she also slammed EU “strainer” borders during a visit to a migrant camp in Greece.

Pécresse also called for EU enlargement procedures to be halted, highlighting Turkey as a priority. According to her, this would allow “pre-accession aid [to be redeployed] to other European priorities” such as her proposal to set up a “European Marshall Plan” for Africa which, according to her, would help to develop the continent’s economy and thus limit migratory movements.

If Pécresse were elected and thus took over the presidency of the Council of the EU for the two months remaining after Macron, she would renegotiate the so-called EU “returns” directive so that it authorizes the automatic expulsion of illegal migrants to their country. of origin.

The right-wing candidate also criticized the current system, which allows voluntary exit from the Schengen area.

Environment, industry and digital

Europe must be a leader in the fight against global warming, because we must “pursue and amplify the policy of the Green Deal”, pleaded Pécresse in an article published by The world.

While the candidate called for nuclear to be recognized as a “sustainable economic activity that can benefit from green financing”, she described the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) as an “ecological barrier at our borders”.

Pécresse has repeatedly expressed his support for the industry, affirming his commitment to coordinating policies relating to research and the drug industries after the pandemic.

Regarding the revitalization of European industry, she expressed her support for promoting the construction of “great European industrial champions” in sectors such as digital, green energy and vehicles of the future.

To achieve this, Pécresse has proposed overturning anti-competitive rules that would hinder this process and weaken the continent’s big companies. For example, she suggested establishing a principle of reciprocity in European public contracts, which would amount to closing these same contracts to companies from countries that do not accept European companies. A “European preference” will be added to the public procurement code, she also said.

Europe is also at the heart of Pécresse’s digital vision.

She affirmed her desire to pursue the objective of a “sovereign cloud”, to protect the use of French and European data, as well as to impose a quota of 50% of European products in software and digital infrastructure.

On European standards, Pécresse said he dreams of a Europe “which harmonizes social rules to avoid the effects of dumping […] which destroy the structure of peoples and weaken the European project”.

Le Pen wants the EU to be “the association of free nations”

After the defeat in the 2017 French presidential election, Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally renewed its discourse on Europe, aiming to attract a wider electorate, but it is not certain that this change will give Le Pen a chance to win the keys to the Elysée in April

A middle position

The conservative candidate also said she wanted to “strengthen Europe, not flee it”, and denounced the risk of a “national decline” in the speeches of eurosceptics.

On this point, however, she is walking a tightrope since she has been asserting for several months that she wants to re-establish some of the primacy of national law over European law: Pécresse once said that if EU law were to prove incompatible with its political projects, she will not hesitate to invoke the “constitutional identity” of France before the European courts.

Wary of differences in member states’ contributions to the EU’s common budget, the candidate said she would also engage in a “renegotiation of financial rebates” as these would no longer be needed after Brexit.

Quite unusually, Pécresse has promised to keep public debt below 3% of GDP, while most presidential candidates are in favor of a management of public funds that follows the Maastricht criteria less strictly. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire recently called the criteria “obsolete”.

Pécresse’s program seems to have trouble standing out from Macron’s, particularly on reindustrialisation, the carbon tax and the Schengen reform.

As a result, the candidate seems to hold a discourse less typical of the moderate right, and more in line with the radical right, in particular on immigration and the rule of European law.

On the budgetary rules and the need to strengthen Europe through the economy, the candidate is however more in tune with her base and the electorate of the conservative and European right.

On European issues, Pécresse thus has much less leeway than the “nationalists” or “federalists” of the race from whom she claims to distinguish herself. His quest for a middle position or balance risks making his identification with voters even more difficult.

Mary I. Bruner