In the recent French election, it was received wisdom, based largely on the statements from the candidates themselves, that a vote for Marine Le Pen was a vote for Euroscepticism, some even went so far as to say that Le Pen wanted to break-up the EU.
Emmanuel Macron by contrast was painted as ‘Mr. Europe’, the man who wanted to preserve the status quo with gusto.
However, in preserving the status quo at a time when much of Europe is tending to favour a looser more confederate Europe, the kind about which Marine Le Pen spoke, one is witnessing the odd irony, that Macron may do more to break-up the EU as it is currently comprised, than Le Pen would have even attempted to do.
It is generally understood that Macron favours a so-called ‘multi-speed’ Europe. In such a scenario, countries like France, Germany, Belgium and ostensibly the Netherlands, Italy and possibly Austria, would form a EU core where economic, monetary, military and political integration would move forward at an ever faster pace.
On the sidelines of this core would be those who have recently been ostracised for purely ideological issues. This includes Viktor Orban’s centre-right Hungarian government which is opposed to mainstream EU foreign policy and migration policies.
It would also include Poland with its governing Law and Justice party whose new appointees to the Polish Constitutional court have angered the EU. It might also include The Czech Republic and Slovakia who have been less than supportive of Angela Merkel’s ‘open door’ migration policy
One step below this would be the EU’s Mediterranean economic ghetto where the economies of countries like Greece and Cyprus have been totally destroyed by the economic and monetary policies of the European Union. Some would include Portugal and Spain in this club.
Finally, there are the Baltic states, Finland, Sweden, Ireland and the two former Yugoslav members of the EU, Croatia and Slovenia who are left in a more ambiguous position than any of the aforementioned groups. These countries have generally been complaint with the EU and are all economically neo-liberal to varying degrees, but still are less overly enthusiastic about the project than older core members.
If the EU is to truly go down this path, it may end up looking like an uncomfortable version of the freely formed EU confederation of sovereign states that Marine Le Pen and those around her had suggested.
In this scenario the only two things that most EU members actually want and use: free trade and freedom of movement for existing states, would remain, while the Euro, a common military policy, a common legal policy and a common tax and financial system would likely be reserved for only the ‘top tier’ members like France and Germany.
Far from being happy about this, the more Eurosceptic/ anti-federalist states like Hungary and Poland have been angered by Macron’s suggestions. They rightly worry that along with being excluded from the dysfunctional Eurozone, they would also be excluded from certain decision making processes that would still effect their countries.
In reality, Macron will likely be too weak a leader to create any meaningful changes to the EU let alone to France. As Angela Merkel looks set on victory in the forthcoming German elections, the EU monolith will likely continue according to her wishes. However, the prospect of a multi-speed Europe still does loom.
Such a thing is ironically an involuntary and undemocratic version of what Marine Le Pen might have wanted to create on a voluntary and democratic basis.