The French Election: Shall We ‘Keep Calm and Carry on Globalizing’?

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This Sunday was an important day. Yes, it was the second round of the presidential election in France, but the results seemed to be quite important far beyond its borders. Namely, the second round of the French presidential race was viewed by many as a race between globalization and populism/nationalism, between further European integration and ‘Frexit’, between free trade and protectionist policies. This opposition is not new, yet given the recent global populist and protectionist tendencies, globalization seemed to become the underdog in this race. And Brexit and Trump didn’t really encourage hope for any other trend either. So, this Sunday was an important day, because the surge of the populist movement was broken, and globalization won!

Walking out to deliver his victory speech the president-elect Macron was accompanied by the EU’s Anthem of Europe, which clearly speaks for his standpoint of continued European integration, globalization and societal pluralism. So, what does Macron’s victory mean? Should globalization supporters drink champagne and just ‘carry on globalizing’?

As noted by Dominique Reynie, politics professor at the Sciences Po institute in Paris, “This election is about the defense of the euro. And it’s about the fracture running through France like other western democracies between those who succeed thanks to globalization, and those who pay the price for it.” Although the pro-globalization side won this time, the fracture is still there. In other words, it is too early for champagne, as the challenges and concerns that have fueled populism remain. As discussed in my previous blog posts, globalization does indeed create ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, and the benefits of globalization are not available to everyone. Macron is taking over a France with 10% unemployment rate, stagnating economic growth and continuously increasing feelings of insecurity. And even though Le Pen’s far-right vision of changes may have seemed too radical for the majority, Macron’s voters most probably still voted for change. Why else would you vote for a political outsider, right?

The way it unfolded, globalization has not worked, and we cannot ‘carry on globalizing’ without any change. Globalization needs a ‘course correction’, and Macron provides Europe with the chance to take it. Should Macron and Europe fail though, populist movements might regain their momentum. As summarized by David Bach in Yale Insights, ‘Should Macron fail, the backlash could mean that Le Pen would be the main beneficiary five years from now… Globalists are right to feel they had a lot at stake on May 7—however, what happens next in France and in Europe will matter even more’.

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