EU leaders have congratulated Emmanuel Macron on his victory in the first round of France’s presidential election, which will, according to many, define the future of the European Union. Across the EU, leaders have called on French voters to stand tall against the extreme-right candidate. On 7 May, Emmanuel Macron will face off Marine Le Pen in the second round of the election.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the En Marche pro-European candidate, saying that “Macron’s success shows that France and Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists believe.” Martin Schulz, former President of the EU Parliament, who will try to challenge Mrs. Merkel for her post, called for “all the democrats in France to unite to ensure the nationalist does not become president”.
European leaders are focusing on countering Mrs. Le Pen and keeping her away from power. She has promised to call a referendum on France’s future in the EU, ditch the euro and return to the franc. Manfred Weber, the President of the center-right European People’s Party group (EPP) in the European Parliament, said that Mrs. Le Pen’s performance in the election was “weaker than predicted”.
In preparations for the second round, Mrs. Le Pen yesterday (24 April) stepped aside as a leader of her National Front (FN) party. She said that it was important now to be above partisan considerations. Although the polls suggest that Mr. Macron is a firm favorite for the second round, Mrs. Le Pen declared that “We can win, we will win.” In the first round of the vote, Mr. Macron took the first place with 24.01% while Mrs. Le Pen came second with 21.30%.