Between Ankara and Tripoli Macron redraws the foreign policy of France

Originally published in the Greek weekly newspaper “Paraskinio”, issue 597, p. 40, on Sept. 23, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron is one of the most recently elected presidents in the world. Since taking office, the young president has demonstrated his influence within his country with his controversial and tough statements, as well as his confrontation with the Chief of Staff of the French Army which led to the latter’s resignation from his position. His success in winning the overwhelming majority in the parliamentary elections has increased the confidence of the French president who has begun to turn his attention outside France.

The European scene has seen, in recent years, especially since the American presidency of Donald Trump, a growing dexterity from the control of American power. At the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the lead in European actions on the Russian, Ukrainian, Iranian and Turkish files. This German hegemony was one of the main reasons behind the United Kingdom’s sudden departure from the European Union. But the young French president has a different view. After his consolidation in France, Macron began to move. His recent visit to Athens was seen by many observers as nothing more than a visit of protocol. However, its immediate effect was evident through the statement by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, following the departure of Macron, in which he expressed the importance of maintaining the EU-Turkey accession talks. This statement is in stark contrast to the current view of the German leadership, which Angela Merkel confirmed during the television debate with Martin Schultz, stressing that one of her most important goals is to stop talks with Turkey on accession of the latter to the Union.

The Greek Prime Minister’s statement was the best choice for the Greek side. The paper used by Turkey against the European Union, the refugees, will mainly affect Greece in case of cancellation of the agreement signed in March 2016 and was the main reason for stopping the flows of refugees. As a high-level source pointed out, Macron is behind Alexis Tsipras’s statement. Of course, other Western countries, such as Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Poland, have the same position as far as Turkey is concerned. The same source also assured me that the French president is moving towards forming an alliance within the European Union under his leadership in view of German influence over the coming period. Macron, who has confirmed in a press statement that he is in constant contact with Turkish President Erdoğan, considers it to be in the interest of the Union to maintain positive relations with Turkey even if it does not join the Union.

With regard to North Africa, France has been involved in the conflict in Libya since the beginning of the revolution. The French President discussed with US President Trump, during his visit to Paris, the Libyan file and managed to secure his full support in the effort to find a solution to end the conflicts in the region and to conduct relevant contacts with the countries involved, mainly with Russia. Indeed, France has begun to play a more important role by inviting the parties to debate in Paris. Macron considers one of his most important priorities to end the Libyan conflict as soon as possible and at the lowest possible cost.

Despite the intense activity of the young French President in the early days of his presidency, it is certain that conditions favor him. Germany is busy with its internal elections and the US suffers from a crisis of internal confidence and natural disasters, events that contributed significantly, giving him more weight than he had. Will the young president be able to follow the international influence wall later?