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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion
An EU era of ‘Merkron’
    2017-June-5  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Winton Dong

dht0620@126.com

WHAT’S the relationship between wind and fire? “It extinguishes the small, it inflames the great,” said French writer Roger de Bussy-Rabutin.

Three years ago, Emmanuel Macron was virtually unknown. He was not even a small fire at that time. But on May 7 this year, the 39-year-old pro-EU independent centralist, like a great fire inflamed by a whirlwind, engulfed the whole of Europe and won a resounding victory against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to become the eighth president of France’s fifth republic and youngest-ever president of the country.

As a political newcomer, Macron has never before held elected office in France. He left Francois Hollande’s Socialist government in August 2016 and formed En Marche (On the Move), a political movement he says is neither of the left nor the right and which has attracted 250,000 members so far.

As a young leader who vows to unite a fragmented France and invigorate Europe, Macron’s victory represents a reprieve for the continent from lingering disintegration. With Britain’s determination to exit the European Union (EU), Germany and France are now surely two of the most important nations in the bloc. On May 15, only one day after taking office, as the new host of the Elysee Palace, Macron set sail to Germany and met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Some media outlets dubbed their meeting as the beginning of the “Merkron” (Merkel and Macron) era, noting that the two powerful leaders would not only enhance mutual relations but also try to revive the trouble-riddled 28-member European Union.

Despite the fact that Macron has brought some fresh air to his country and EU as a whole, there are still many stumbling blocks at home and abroad for him to step over in the coming years.

Firstly, the left-right division has dominated France for decades. As his archrival, Le Pen’s far-right National Front won 34 percent of the vote in this year’s presidential election, nearly double what her father Jean-Marie secured in 2002. In order to smash such a division, Macron needs to forge a wider base of support in parliamentary elections this month since his own party is only 1 year old. After his election victory, Macron quickly appointed 46-year-old Edouard Philippe, a conservative and the mayor of the port city Le Havre, as prime minister in a move to enlarge his political appeal and weaken his opponents. It was the first time in modern French politics that a president had appointed a prime minister from outside his camp.

Secondly, Macron also faces great challenges to inject new life into France’s moribund economy by delivering more jobs especially for young people and bring hope for those immigrants in depressed situations. According to the latest statistics, unemployment in France is at about 10 percent at the moment. However, the unemployment rate among the young working class (under the age of 25) is as high as 20 percent. If no more job opportunities can be created, these unemployed and depressed youth will turn out to be a strong force that may well work to destabilize French society and go against the administration of Macron.

Fighting against terrorism is another hard nut for Macron and many other European leaders. The seven innocent people who died in the London Bridge and Borough Market attack Saturday were the latest victims in a wave of attacks that have swept Europe and killed at least 309 lives since 2015. The security situation in France is even worse. On Jan. 7, 2015, masked gunmen stormed the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper that published a caricature of the Prophet Mohammad, killing 12 people including the editor. On the night of Nov. 13, 2015, when concertgoers were enjoying a concert in central Paris and soccer fans were watching a match between France and Germany at the Stade de France, a series of terror attacks occurred, killing 153 people and leaving the nation in mourning and the whole world in outrage. France has been under a state of emergency since the massacre. On April 20 this year, just days before the first round of presidential voting, a gunman ambushed three Parisian police on the Champs-Elysees, killing one and wounding two others.

Besides mounting domestic problems and terror attacks, there is also potential trouble from other European nations. Germany and France have traditionally been regarded as the most important driving forces behind European integration. However, some analysts warn that the two leaders have different prospects for the EU, which may possibly put the two countries at odds in the future. According to German magazine Der Spiegel, Macron has long wanted a European Union that gives Brussels more power, instead of seeing Berlin “taking the helm.” On the contrary, there is also some skepticism within Merkel’s government about Macron’s call for closer integration. Under these circumstances, the German chancellor recently had to soothe her party members by saying that Germany would not need to change its economic course just because Macron was elected.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)

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