The first round of the French presidential elections will take place on April 22, with a runoff election on May 6. These elections hold high stakes not only for the nation itself, but also for the future of Europe and transatlantic relations. Moreover, they come at a particularly difficult time when leaders across Europe must balance resolving the financial crisis with restoring economic growth. Five years after current President Nicolas Sarkozy was elected on a program of “rupture” and bold reforms, he remains a controversial figure and faces a strong challenge from Socialist candidate François Hollande.
On April 16, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings (CUSE) and the Heinrich Boell Foundation hosted a discussion previewing the elections and the current state of France. Panelists included Christopher Caldwell of the Weekly Standard, Jonathan Laurence of Boston College and a Brookings nonresident senior fellow, Jonah Levy of the University of California, Berkeley, and Brookings Senior Fellow Justin Vaïsse, CUSE director of research. They took a closer look at the candidates and their platforms, the impact of wedge issues such as immigration and Islam, the politics of the euro crisis and the implications for U.S foreign policy and transatlantic relations. Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.
After the program, panelists took audience questions.
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
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For the first time, [the European Parliament elections] will be fought on European issues, not on national issues. [French President Emmanuel Macron and Italy's governing populists] represent two pure versions of what's going to be offered. [Europe is] now entering a phase where the political fight is in Brussels. It is now a place where you have parties and platforms, and the direction might shift very much if a new party wins.