Macron's Sorbonne Speech: The Rise of Far-Right Politics Strategy for Countering

"Europe could die," Macron warned hundreds of listeners in the amphitheater of the Sorbonne in Paris, one of the oldest universities in Europe

by Sededin Dedovic
Macron's Sorbonne Speech: The Rise of Far-Right Politics Strategy for Countering
© Pool / Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron, in his speech at the Sorbonne, advocated for greater European integration and more unity. Will this resonate with voters in the European Parliament elections? "This is a date with history - Europe could die," Macron warned in front of hundreds of listeners in the amphitheater of the Sorbonne in Paris, one of the oldest universities in Europe.

The President called for more European integration, advocating for a new, common commercial industry and an appropriate European defense strategy – likely with its own defense missile shield. "It is crucial that Russia does not win the war in Ukraine [which Moscow started with an invasion two years ago].

European security is at stake," he said. The President called for a system of "European preferences" in five areas: artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, space technology, biotechnology, and new energies. Sofi Pornschlegel from the Brussels think tank "Jacques Delors European Trust" reminds that Macron addressed the same topic he raised seven years ago in his first speech about Europe at the Sorbonne.

At that time, he called for more "European sovereignty." "Macron has a good sense of what is relevant in politics. He understands how Europe works and rightly says that greater cooperation and integration are needed, which is the only way to defend European interests," says Pornschlegel, noting that it's positive for one of the main European leaders to take such a pro-European stance.

"It will be interesting to see how other EU member states will react, whether they will accept some of his ideas," says Pornschlegel. The Élysée Palace recently stated that greater European sovereignty has indeed been achieved since 2017.

"At the initiative of France, the EU has been united in supporting Ukraine. We have reached a common industrial and technological policy, and changed our view on free trade agreements to better protect European industry," said the spokesperson for the French President, concluding, "It is natural for France to contribute to the next EU strategic agenda."

President of France Emmanuel Macron arrives to Planalto Government Palace for a meeting with President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lu© Claudio Reis / Getty Images

The five-year roadmap for EU member states will be discussed at the end of June.

Sofi Pornschlegel agrees with this view – at least to some extent: "Some of his proposals from 2017 have not been realized - for example, the eurozone budget and much stronger tax cooperation. But Macron at least has new ideas for Europe, unlike other countries, such as Germany, which only block things," says the expert from the Brussels think tank.

Benjamin Morel, a political scientist and lecturer in public law at the University of Paris-Panthéon-Assas, believes, however, that Macron had something else in mind. "Europe is one of Macron's key issues, and his goal is to improve the currently bleak prospects of his party ahead of the June parliamentary elections for the European Parliament," Morel told DW.

Recent polls predict that Valérie Hayer, Macron's Renaissance party candidate, will win around 16% of the vote - while Jordan Bardella of the far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National, RN) could gather as much as 30%.

And that's not all: socialist-centrist candidate Raphaël Glucksmann is immediately behind Hayer. "A poor result in the European Parliament elections would turn his mandate into a lame presidency and destroy what remains of his authority," Morel believes.

Katrin Fijeski, a visiting fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute in Florence and author of the book "Populocracy," agrees with him. "It's very unusual, because according to opinion polls, the majority of French people are pro-European and strongly oppose Frexit, or France's exit from the EU," she told DW.

"But at the same time, it seems that they take Europe and the euro for granted, and many of them have no problem voting for the very anti-European RN," she added. "A victory for Marine Le Pen would have catastrophic consequences," "This does not mean that the far right will rule the European Parliament, but the larger their parliamentary group, the greater the likelihood that other groups, such as the center-right European People's Party (EPP), will adopt far-right positions to maintain power.

They are already doing this, for example, when it comes to immigration," Pornschlegel said. Analysts no longer rule out the possibility of the far right winning the presidential elections in France in 2027. Some even accuse President Macron of "normalizing" the RN by adopting some of the party's positions. One example is a recent French law tightening immigration rules.