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Modern Migration as a Challenge to European Identity

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Simultaneously an issue about European identity has aroused along with European Union formation. It is said in the preamble “European Identity Declaration” 1973 that members of the Community decided to elaborate this document in order to reach more precise determination of their relations with other countries and further interaction on formation of unitary Europe.

Appreciation of that is like European identity is concentrated around ideal concept of unitary Europe formation basing on a certain “imagined community”. Identity of the type “we are Europeans” puts in a basis of existence of “European values”: human rights, human freedom, liberal economic, democracy, multiculturalism, Eurocentrism. Cultural space of Europe is represented by a diversity of nationalities, languages, religions. The concept of Christianity may not serve as a measure of European identity, as far as EU is less considered as “Christian area” even in those countries like Germany and France. However, new all-European identity acts as an integral factor of legality attribution to governmental institutes. Authority growth of European Union governmental bodies is supported at the international arena due to common identity as well as serving in the capacity of the representative and guarantor of its citizens’ interests before the interests of other nations.

Traditional views about the Europe’s borders from the moment of EU formation have an impact upon consciousness of European identity. There are different levels of identity: supranational, national and regional – they exist concurrently supplementing each other. Highest-level leaders tend to raise “European identity” over national identity. Historical borders of some regions in Europe do not coincide with ones of the national states, similar division makes difficulties in national state functioning and European nationality formation.

Over recent years Europe has become a centre of international cosmopolitanism. Identity under the terms of globalization experiences transformation, both national and supranational as well. There is a destruction of community’s social borders in the base of transformation process by means of integration and informational exchange. Integration processes in Europe lead to impact strengthening of regional identity and as a consequence to smearing EU interior borders and reinforcement of exterior ones. Several processes proceed in European integration directed upon strengthening of European self-consciousness and thinking. Under such circumstances it is rather complicated to identify differences between the countries of Europe as to their belonging to true European countries. All countries will characterized by certain cultural-social distinctions, like language and culture, however, territorial location of these countries will be a unifier.

Geographical borders of the influencing territory of European civilization are to be an essential element in creation of common space. European civilization is often characterized as Western civilization possessing nowadays more political shade. This civilization has more extended geography than physical border of Europe as continent and part of Eurasia. Certain aspects of western civilization as elements of soft power actively disseminated during the Cold War as a counterbalance to the communist Soviet Union, EU expansion to the East in 2004, apart from political and economic contradictions, emerged discussions about ideological backbones of European integration. EU expansion at the official level was performed under the slogan “return to Europe”, in this context Europe spiting during bipolar world looked like a short period in long-term history of Europe defacing actual position of the western European countries. Grave differences cause possibility of Turkey entry to the European Union. Geographically, only 3% of Turkish territory is in Europe. The leaders of EU member states vacillate in association with the countries from former USSR located in Transcaucasia. Along with the accession to the EU former USSR Republics took a hard anti-Russian stand, thus Europa turned out to be before the choice of its concern in Russia.

By EU extension a revival process is observes as to national self-consciousness, understanding regional languages and cultures significance. It is a defence reaction to the processes of integration globalization, and ethnic diversity of Europe is already the established fact influencing upon internal and social policy of the Union.

European multicultural society is a multicoloured palette of nations, ethoses and small nations residing within the EU territory. Local topos of multiculturalism is a designated area populated individually in a foreign for it social-political and communal environment, diaspora, small ethnic group united by commonality of language, mental, cultural, ethnic and faith traditions. Special feature of multiculturalism is a compromise reaching between traditional and alien migration cultural communities possessing its cultural patterns. However, another question arises regarding exactly what kind of values – cultural-historical, Christian-religious or liberal – shall become basic in formation of European identity and how to combine with their cultural and religious diversity of Europe.

In 2003 investigation was conducted “Solidarity and Religion in European Union: comparative sociological perspective”, where Europe is shown in the section of valuable settings of population. While inhabitants of Northern and eastern Europe are inclined to individualism and post-materialism having their civil rights in priority, and in the countries of Southern and Western Europe religion possesses the first place, however, concurrently, they rather highly appreciate material values. When evaluating population it is essential to consider not only geographical and material state and also history and confession. Low level of religiosity in the countries of Northern Europe, Germany and France is explained by the level of economic development and national policy.

In spite of the in people’s consciousness religion continues to play an important role in the Europeans’ life. Official representatives of Catholic Church strongly pushed for the issues on search and approval of European identity. During the period of discussion and drawing up European Constitution and Lisbon Treaty the church strongly pushed for provision inclusion about Christianity recognition as one of the sources of European integrity under support of the government of some European countries, especially Germany. However, the official edition of Lisbon Treaty included statements about the sources of democratic values, namely freedom, democracy, human rights, equality as well as cultural, religious and humanistic ancestry of Europe were admitted. However, the provision on Christianity was not included into the Treaty, but it was exactly clear what religion under concern. The subject of religion in the issues of European identity remains a relevant topic for discussion. On the part of more religious countries of Europe opinions are declared that Europe shall more precisely define its religious identity in order to uphold its interests in migration issues against the backdrop of globalization.

Many conservative parties state their position in recognition Christianity as a unified religion for EU, the radical parties are also committed for Christianity recognition but from more “Eurocynical” positions considering it to be an element of national identity. Dispute around religion role in Europe arises not only in the issues of European identity and also in the problems of migration and acceptance of new members by EU, for example Turkey. The majority of politicians are sure that general cultural heritage being inextricably connected with Christianity lies in the EU base, upon which Union’s borders shall pass. If not considering all economic and social differences of Turkey and EU, entry of Muslim Turkey to EU is able to introduce imbalance into the attempts to form European identity and reinforce social and cultural-religious diversities.

Outstanding speech of Pontiff Benedict XVI addressed on September 12, 2006 in the Regensburg University called Europe to respect and appreciate its European roots and traditions in order to oppose challenges of the outside world, to which he added Islam as well. This appearance of the Catholic church’s head caused a mass of protests on the part of Muslim people worldwide.

Nationalistic and “Eurocynical” tendencies are growing in strength as to a series of different reasons, where culture, religion, economy and policy are interlinked. Problem of migration and smearing of long-standing identity elements serve as a catalytic agent in creation of more active solutions and actions to maintain European identity. Since 2010 leaders of Great Britain, Germany and France suggested in public about collapse of multiculturalism policy, these statements got a multitude of expert assessments and opions about Europe’s failure to cope with perform actions of “melting pot”, however, these statement did not mean a final reject from the policy of multiculturalism.

After the Second World War the Europeans attempted to weaken the growth of nationalism and gradually to make up general European nationality by means of creating non-governmental institutes. Western-European countries are under a great pressure, they also have to deal with the migration flows from less developed European countries and at the same time to seek refugees assimilation, which arrive from all corners of the world. They have to face with a growth of anti-migration parties within the country (from “National Front” in France to British “United Kingdom Independence Party”) in terms of increased terrorist danger. Some provisions of Schengen Agreement are discredited on different levels of state and regional government with regard to the border control between EU countries; agreement is criticised for insufficient control over the borders inside the Union which facilitates the movement not only the illegal migrants, and increases terrorist hazard.

Issues of migration interaction between the countries are on the agenda with envious regularity. Border control introduction is left in doubt by putting one of European Union’ pillar, however, the facts itself as to this idea emergence points out a publication of questions on national European identity at the opening pages. In 2009 debates broke out in France regarding the national consciousness, however, all turned towards the situation with Muslims in the country. A series of European countries also face speeches of nationalist parties. Certainly, there is a general European tendency, but it includes regional peculiarities. The countries of central and northern Europe are mostly subjected to the nationalist insistences, it is a little bit aside in the Mediterranean world. As to political weight Italian “League of France” and Greek “Chrisi Auge” (“Golden Sunrise”) – they do not pale in comparison with Austrian “Party of Freedom” or French “National Front”.

Accession of ultra-rightists to power at the election campaign in Austria in 2016 fits into common interest of ultra-right ideas throughout Europe. Anti-Islamic dispositions prevailing before only in ultra-right political alliances take a form of popular discontent, which promotes popularity of nationalists organizations throughout EU as well as level criticism on open door policy. Anti-migrants moods are propelled by the movement “Pegida” in Germany. French «National Front» headed by Marine Le Pen in December 2015 won at the regional elections in the north of France and in departments located along the Cote d’-Azur. But now, Marine Le Pen and her party are optimistically disposed to presidential elections.

Apart from attempts to regulate several levels of identity within the frames of European Union, the questions on migrants’ identity arise. Migrants in EU may be divided into two main categories: internal and external. Internal migrants are persons committing movement inside EU borders. Exterior migrants are persons arriving from the third countries in the search of improvement of their material states or seeking out asylum. The biggest threat is represented by the migrants arriving from the countries differencing much from Europe on the type of culture. Their presence poses a threat not only for European identity and also to senses of national consciousness. This threat is displayed in the acts of vandalism, developing crime situations in the countries visited, appearance of illegal networks and groupings.

The questions arise regarding interests representation of people contributing to economic, social and cultural spheres of the country, which do not have in-country citizenship. It may be more likely reported that the image of world, environment apprehension, religion and traditions of migrants differ from generally accepted European rules. Sweden with its Muslim population may be exemplified, where government encourages the work of neo-political communities and unions by consensual discontent of ethnic Swedes. The supporters of integration policy consider that namely negative attitude to creation of political base of interaction with Muslim minorities is to be a main reason of the crisis in the process of integration. Migrants voice protests, including by means of messes as they do not see any legitimate possibility to change something. However, Swedish government attempting to protect ultra-modern secularizing democratic-individualistic Sweden as much as possible against the capture by outdated and inhumane fundamentalists, has chosen its, not much democratic, but plain way: it tries not to admit Islam to political field of its country at all.

On the other part Germany continues accepting migrants involving non-government organizations to this issue. In 2012 “National Plan of Actions” was adopted at the Fifth National Summit, in which tasks and goals were formed and set considering immigrants’ integration, program of arrangement and participants were defined, responsible for conduct, including NGO. About 400 various events were realized (specially-oriented for the youth and other age groups of immigrants) with the participation of funds, public associations of Germans, immigrant organizations, land and municipal authorities. The expenditures of the government for all events performance comprised more than 20 mln Euro. More attention is paid to Muslim communities among different groups of migrants, which German government endeavours to bring under control. The Foundation “Mercator” initiated the opening of graduate schools on Islam theology in the universities in order to solve problems on imams’ lack in Germany. The objective of this program is to train academic staff of high qualification on Islam theology to develop Islam higher education in the country. This program will allow to train its imams being loyal to Germany and German society, who had arrived before mainly from Turkey bringing its traditions being not corresponding to German culture.

European Union demonstrates its ability to integration as a new philosophy of international relations, where Europe’s unity and simultaneously its diversity of national peculiarities interlink. The President of the European Commission Romano Prodi in his address to the European Parliament made the following statement – “Process of European integration and contemporary history serve as recognition of factors converging us as well as those separating us. Extension will be characterised by the first attempt to form a new type of citizenship within the continent. It will bring along unprecedented extension of citizens’ rights and strengthening of the state. The heads of governments constantly seek the ways to reach the greatest solidarity in issues of unity build up with cultural and religious diversity of population.

Agreement on EU establishment is a contract between independent countries agreeing to donate the part of their sovereignty for peace, security, democracy, freedom, human rights and justice. Union’s institutes develop in accordance with needs of society and new goals. EU itself may be considered as an unprecedented pattern on building piece and level of integration, thus, it is vitally important to form a general European nationality. EU government provides state support of symbols creation on European belonging in order to maintain and develop ideas of general identity: passport of European patter, anthem, flag, driver’s licence, introduction of general currency. Due to Schengen Agreement and cancellation of passport control, the citizens of Europe feel their belonging to an integrated geographical space. Political integration of the European countries increases confidence level and mutual understanding between all participants of integration process guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of EU citizen in all Union member-states.

Thus, listed aspects influencing upon the European identity formation as well as close cooperation in the field of policy and economy between EU countries have created a special system, where the states maintained its identity being paid great attention, retaining strong relations and mutual respect. Apart from national identity, the citizens feel belonging to a huge unification – European Union. This kind of identity is a base for integration process strengthening and relations development within the Union.

Integrated Europe has become an attraction object for many migrants, nowadays a problem on the agenda is to build up a new identity in terms of smearing of all-European cultural-religious values due to a great migration flow, and modern European Union – it is 28 independent states having its own identity and which are engaged in one direction to develop general European identity.

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Is European humanity skin deep?

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At the border crossing between Ukraine and Moldova at Palanca, refugees stand in line. © UNICEF/Vincent Tremeau

When talking about security the most common line of thought tends to be war and the actors involved in the attack, however, all the people who had regular lives within those territories that are jeopardized are as important. With the increasing tensions and armed conflicts happening within the Twenty First Century, the movement of people searching for shelter has increased. More asylum seekers leave their home countries every single day and contemporary politics is still struggling to find a way to catch up. Europe, history wise, is the zone of the world that deals with more refugees wanting to enter the continent due to different factors: geography, proximity, democratic systems, level of development and more. Nevertheless, with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, true sentiments towards refugees are now being put on display.

Even though all refugees are fleeing their countries because their lives are in mortal danger, authorities and government officials do not seem to care. Processes to apply for the refugee status are getting harder and harder. In Europe, to apply for a refugee passport, people are asked for identifications, online questionaries and many other unrealistic aspects that if not answered correctly, the whole process is cancelled. It is ridiculous to believe that when people are scaping in order to stay alive, they will take under consideration all these requirements to receive help, sometimes even from neighboring countries. Which inevitably leads to the following question: why are refugees accepted based on the legality of their applications and not of their status?

By 2016, nearly 5.2 million refugees reached European shores, which caused the so called refugee crisis. They came mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq: countries torn apart by armed conflicts. Similarly, with Russia’s invasion over the Ukraine in 2022, only few days deep within the fighting,  874,000 people had to flee their homes. Nonetheless, the issue seems to be that, for Europe, not all refugees are the same. When the refugee crisis in 2015 was declared, the European Union called for stopping and detaining all arriving refugees for around 18 months. There was a strong reluctancy from Europeans towards offering them shelter. On the contrary, countries such as Poland and Slovakia have said that Ukrainian refugees fleeing will be accepted without passports, or any valid travel documents due to the urgency of the situation. Therefore, stating with their actions, that Ukrainian refugees are more valuable or seem to be more worthy of help than refugees from Asia, Africa, or the Middle East.

Correspondingly, it is true that not all countries inside Europe deal and act the same way towards refugees, be that as it may, with the current refugee crisis it has been proved that they all share strong sentiments of xenophobia and racism. For instance, Hungary is a country that refused to admit refugees coming from outside Europe since 2015. In 2018, Prime Minister Viktor Orban described non-European refugees as “Muslim invaders” and “poison” to society, in comparison with Ukrainian refugees who are being welcomed without hesitation. In the same way, Jarosław Kaczyński, who served as Prime Minister of Poland and is the leader of the Law and Justice party, in 2017 said that accepting asylum seekers from Syria would be dangerous and would “completely change our culture and radically lower the level of safety in our country”. Furthermore, Germany in 2015 with Chancellor Angela Merkel in charged said that they would accept one million of Syrians. Although, as time passed, Europe’s solution was to make a deal with Turkey, who is not part of the European Union, to close the migrant route. Moreover, the promise of letting refugees integrate into German society was not fulfilled since. Seven year later, an impressive amount of refugees are still in camps and centers, with their lives frozen in time. Sadly, most European governments gambled towards the idea of sending them back once the armed conflict was over, without caring for the aftermath of war’s destruction.

The common narrative until now pushed by leaders, politicians, and mass media has been that Ukrainians are prosperous, civilized, middle class working people, but refugees coming from the Middle East are terrorists, and refuges from Africa are simply too different. Despite, refugees are all people who share similar emotions and struggle to grasp the fact that their lives may never be the same; having lost their homes, friends, family and so much more. Plus, being selectively welcomed based on their religion, skin color or nationality by the continent which’s complete rhetoric is universal rights, just adds another complex layer to the issue. Conjointly, the displacement of people due to war displays how regular individuals are always the ones who suffer the most in consequence to the interests of the few that represent larger powers. Hence, greed, envy, and cruelty are stronger than recognized, even in a developed continent such as Europe.

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What Everyone Should Know About Preventing Ethnic Violence: The Case of Bosnia

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Image source: srebrenica.org.uk

When the Balkans spiraled into violence and genocide in the 90’s, many wondered what caused this resurgence in militant ethnic nationalism and how a similar situation may be countered.

***

The 1990’s were a vibrant decade, that is unless you were living in the Balkans. 1995 was especially bad, as the 11th of July of that year marked the Srebrenica Massacre, which saw Serbian soldiers murder over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims over the span of two weeks. This shocked the world, as it was the first case of a European country resorting to extreme violence and genocide on ethnic lines since World War II. After World War II, the idea that a European country would resort to genocide was unthinkable. As Balkan nations continue to see the consequences of the massacre after over 25 years, it is increasingly evident that more needs to be done to curb ethnic violence.

We must first investigate key causes of ethnic violence. According to V.P. Gagnon, the main driver of ethnic violence is elites that wish to stay in power. Ethnic nationalism is easy to exploit, as creating a scapegoat is extremely effective for keeping elites in power. This is exactly what happened in Yugoslavia, which had previously seen high levels of tolerance and intermarriage in more mixed areas that saw the worst violence during the war. Stuart J. Kaufman argues that elites may take advantage of natural psychological fears of in-group extinction, creating group myths, or stereotypes, of outgroups to fuel hatred against them. While they may take different approaches to this issue, Gagnon and Kaufman agree that the main drivers of ethnic violence are the elites.

David Lake and Donald Rothchild suggest that the main driver of ethnic conflict is collective fears for the future of in-groups. Fear is one of the most important emotions we have because it helps secure our existence in a hostile world. However, fear can easily be exploited by the elites to achieve their personal goals. In a multiethnic society such as Yugoslavia, the rise of an elite that adheres to the prospects of a single ethnic group could prove dangerous and sometimes even disastrous. The destruction of Yugoslavian hegemony under Josip Broz Tito and the resulting explosion of ethnic conflict at the hands of Serbian elites in Bosnia underline this because of the immense fear this created.

Regions with high Serb populations in Bosnia sought independence from the rest of the country when they found themselves separated from Serbia by the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Republika Srpska was formed by these alienated Serbs. The leadership and elites in Serbia riled up the Serb population of Republika Srpska by stereotyping and demonizing Bosnian Muslims as “descendants of the Turkish oppressors”. This scared the Serbs in Bosnia so much so that they obeyed the elites of Serbia in supporting and fighting for the independence of Republika Srpska by any means necessary. As was seen in Srebrenica, they were not opposed to genocide.

We know how the elites fuel ethnic tensions to secure power as well of the devastating effects of these tensions reaching their boiling point. But what could be done to address ethnic conflict? David Welsh suggests that a remedy for ethnic conflict could be the complete enfranchisement of ethnic minorities and deterrence towards ethnic cleansing. This means that we must ensure that ethnic minorities are able to have a say in a democratic system that caters to all ethnicities equally. Fostering aversion to genocide is also vital toward addressing ethnic conflict because it is the inevitable result of unchecked ethnic conflict.

There is also the issue of members of ethnic groups voting for candidates and parties on ethnic lines. For example, in the United States, White American voters have shown to prefer White candidates over African American candidates, and vice versa. Keep in mind that the United States has a deep history of ethnic conflict, including the centuries-long subjugation of African Americans by White Americans.

Ethnic violence is horrifying and destructive, but it can be prevented. The first measure would be the establishment of a representative democracy, where members of all ethnicities are accurately represented. Another measure would be to make ethnic conflict and ethnic stereotyping taboo so that the average person would not resort to genocidal behavior once things go wrong. Lastly, making people feel secure is the most important step towards preventing ethnic conflict. If the people feel secure enough, they will not even need to think about ethnic violence. In short, while it is important to consider the differences of the various ethnic groups in a multiethnic society, it is vital that each group is kept represented and secure, free of any fears of subjugation.

While the case of Bosnia was extremely unfortunate, it provides an integral view into what could happen if perceived subjugation and fear of eradication reaches a breaking point. As was seen in Bosnia, ethnic violence can be extremely violent, resulting in untold suffering and death. That is why we must take necessary steps towards de-escalation and remediation of ethnic conflicts. These measures can, quite literally, save millions of lives.

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French Presidential Election 2022 and its significance for Europe

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Eugene Delacroix’s infamous painting “la liberté Guidant le Peuple” reminds the whole world of the July Revolution of 1830 that toppled King Charles X of France. The lady in the centre of the painting with the French tricolour still symbolizes the concept of liberty and reminds the whole world of revolutions and sacrifices made for freedom. France indeed has a long journey from revolting against “if they have no bread, let them eat cake” in 1789 to establishing a modern democratic society with the principles of “liberty, equality and fraternity”.  

France and the United States are rightly considered the birthplace of modern democracy. The French revolution taught the whole world lessons about revolution, freedom modern nationalism, liberalism and sovereignty. In 2022, France celebrates the 233rd year of Bastille Day which led to a new dawn in the French political system. From establishing 1ere Republique (1st Republic) in 1792, France has evolved and is currently under the 5eme Republique (5th Republic) under the constitution crafted by Charles de Gaulle in 1958.

Today, France is holding its presidential elections. As the French believe, ‘You first vote with your heart, then your head’, the first round of voting was concluded on Sunday 10th April and the Presidential debate on 20th April 2022. While the whole world waits for the 24th of April’s second round of elections and their results, this article attempts to understand the French electoral system and analyze Why French Presidential elections are important for Europe?

French electoral system

France is a semi-presidential democracy; the president is at the centre of power and Prime Minister heads the government. The president of the French republic is elected by direct universal suffrage where all French citizens aged 18 and above can vote, whether residing in France or not. In France, there is a two-round system in which voters vote twice on two Sundays, two weeks apart. This two-round system is widely practised in central and eastern Europe as well as Central Asia, South America and Africa.

In order to apply, a candidate needs 500 signatures of elected officials and they should be at least from 30 government departments. A candidate can be an independent or he or she can represent a political party. There is no limit to how many candidates can run for presidential elections. For instance, in 2002 there were 16 candidates, in 2017- 11 and in 2022 there are 12. While all the candidates have the right to equal media presence, the amount of spending on campaigns is also monitored; for the 1st round, the spending must not exceed 16.9 million euros and for the second round, it has been limited to 22.5 million euros.

This year, the 1st round of voting was concluded on 10th April while the second one is scheduled to be held on 24th April 2022. In the first round, all 12 candidates were eligible but for the second round, only two candidates who got the maximum votes are qualified for the second round.

A brief overview of French presidential candidates

Emmanuel Macron, five years ago at the age of 39, became the youngest French president of the French republic. In 2017, he broke the dominance of the two major French parties- Republicans and Socialists- by running a campaign “neither left nor right”. During the tenure of Emmanuel Macron, a hardcore centrist, France has witnessed a 7% GDP growth, unemployment dropped by 7.2% and the crime rate has fallen to 27%.

A far-rightist, Marine Le Pen is the other presidential candidate who succeeded her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, as leader of the National Front (later National Rally) party in 2011. She was also contesting against Emmanuel Macron during the 2017 elections and before that in 2012, against Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande. While she embraced the party’s anti-immigration stance, she rebranded the party’s Euroskepticism as French nationalism.

This year, in the April 2022 elections, the current President of France, Emanuel Macron and far-right leader, Marine Le Pen are the two candidates with Macron running ahead with a lead of 4.7 per cent votes (Emmanuel Macron-27.8% & Marine Le Pen- 23.1%).

Why French Presidential elections are important for Europe?

While European defence is primarily assured by the US-led NATO military alliance, of which most EU states are members, French president Macron said,  “Europe needs to finally build its own collective security framework on our continent…”, advocating for a ‘European Security’ framework amid tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

On the other hand, Le Pen’s party has been looked upon suspiciously that it might have received financing from a Russian bank connected to the Russian President Putin. In an interview with French public radion, Le pen said, “It will be necessary diplomatically, when the war [in Ukraine] is over, when a peace treaty has been signed, to try to avoid this tie-up which risks being the largest danger of the 21st century for us,” she even further added, “Imagine … if we let the first producer of raw materials in the world — which is Russia — [create an alliance] with the first factory of the world — which is China — to let them perhaps constitute the first military power of the world. I believe that it’s a potentially great danger.” These statements only further reinforce the claims that Le Pen is more pro-Russia.

While Macron is anti-Brexit, Le Pen, on the other hand, has been known for her ‘Frexit’ plan, meaning, that she wanted France to leave the EU and abandon the euro. However, during the 2022 elections, it appears that Le Pen has softened her stance on Frexit. Another important issue pertaining to immigration has been significant not only for France but the whole of Europe. This issue of immigration is directly linked with the “economic and cultural concerns” which raises an important worry about immigrants’ socio-political and economic integration into the French society and abiding by the principle of laïcité (secularism with French characters).

As for Macron, he wants to create a “rapid reaction force” to help protect EU states’ borders in case of a migrant surge and is also pushing for a rethink of the bloc’s asylum application process. Macron also said that he urges the EU to be more efficient in deporting those refused entries. On the other hand, Marine Le Pen during her campaign stated, “I will control immigration and establish security for all.” It is pertinent to note that Macron has introduced strict laws pertaining to immigration and controlling Islamic radicalization. For instance, he introduced the bill to ban foreign funding to mosques.

What is more interesting to mention is the concerns about ‘energy’ in the presidential election. Evidently, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has gained more attention on the economic and geopolitical consequences of existing national and European energy supply chain choices. In France especially, there is a major rift between the pro and anti-nuclear power fractions. Interestingly, France has the second most nuclear power stations in the world after the United States.  Besides, in the last week of the elections, Macron has been attempting to win the hearts of the French voters with his proposal for a “complete renewal” of his climate policy. He has also promised to build up to 14 nuclear reactors by 2050 and regenerate existing plants. Meanwhile, Le Pen has promised to build 20 nuclear plants and aim to have nuclear power provide 81 per cent of France’s energy by 2050. While the current president Macron and far-right candidate Le Pen have both committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming, it is evident that their approaches differ particularly on energy. Since France is Europe’s second-biggest economy, France’s climate policy could echo right across the EU.

Besides, in light of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, Macron has played a significant role as he is the bridgehead for Russia and the US. He has also negotiated talks between Washington DC and Moscow and has also condemned the crisis by making the statement, “Russia is not under attack, it is the aggressor. As some unsustainable propaganda would have us believe, this war is not as big as the battle against, that is a lie.” Indeed, he has played the role of Europe’s de-facto leader vis-à-vis the Ukraine crisis. Nonetheless, with a marginal win in the first round against Marine Le Pen, winning the 2nd term is not as easy as it was five years ago.

More importantly, it is pertinent to note that France has the 2nd strongest military and 2nd biggest economy in Europe, further the 5th biggest economy in the world. France is not only the most visited country in the world but also ranks 1st in the global soft power index. It is also the founding member of the United Nations Security Council, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union which makes it an important player in European politics. Consequently, the policies of the French leadership not only direct the political, social and economic lives of the French but also reverberate in Europe.

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