For Europe’s sake, Emmanuel Macron needs help – not our scorn or hatred. A young, reformist French president who promised a “European renaissance” finds himself struggling at the helm of a country that is fast becoming “the sick man of Europe” again. It was a telling moment last weekend when rioters disfigured the face of a statue of Marianne, the republic’s symbol, at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Just three weeks earlier, world leaders had gathered there with Macron for the centenary of the Armistice. If the “sad passions” that Macron has warned of many times take hold in France, an entire continent will be affected – not just one man’s political career.
Extreme forces across Europe are busily rejoicing over Macron’s gilets jaunes predicament. From Britain’s hardline Brexiters (both left and right) to Italy’s far-right strongman Matteo Salvini, not to mention Putin’s propaganda outlets, the relish is unmistakable. Upheaval and chaos in liberal democracies is what they thrive on. The prize the extremists seek is a political takeover of Europe in next May’s European parliament elections. Events in France are ominous, and their significance extends far beyond one country’s borders.
Not long ago, Macron proudly branded himself as the arch enemy of Salvini and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, two leaders whose trademark policies target migrants, political opponents and the rule of law. Macron is weakened, on the defensive, and ever more isolated. [Continue reading…]