In Brussels, Macron strives to limit the decline of French influence

Valérie Hayer, head of the Need for Europe list, during the electoral evening of the presidential majority for the Europeans at the Maison de la Mutualité. In Paris, June 9, 2024. JULIEN MUGUET FOR “THE WORLD”

Between denial and perseverance, Valérie Hayer achieved her goals. After the poor performance of the Macronists, of which she was the head of the list in the European elections, on June 9, the MEP was reappointed as president of the liberal Renew group in the Parliament of Strasbourg, Tuesday June 25. For fifteen days, she fought to keep this position, which she has held since, in January, her predecessor Stéphane Séjourné was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Within the centrist group, where the French delegation remains the largest, the liberal wing of the Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe (ALDE), which brings together a large majority of the troops, contested its renewal. But Sophie Wilmès, the former Belgian Prime Minister, who joined the benches of the Strasbourg Hemicycle and whose candidacy was even supported by Paris, did not want to commit right away.

For a time, Portuguese elected official Joao Cotrim Figueiredo considered running against Valérie Hayer, but, finding on Monday that he did not have the required support, he finally gave up. Valérie Hayer was able to convince certain delegations to stay by her side. Others, like the Slovaks and the Dutch of D66, judged its potential competitor too right-wing. “The Irish will probably obtain the first vice-presidency of the group”adds a Macronist source.

In minority in the European Council

In Paris, while polls predict a surge of the far right in the early legislative elections of June 30 and July 7, we welcome the victory of Valérie Hayer. Emmanuel Macron, losing influence in the community sphere, wanted the group to remain led by a Frenchman. The presidents of the Christian Democrats of the European People’s Party (EPP), the Social Democrats (S&D) and Renew – the parliamentary majority on which the Commission should rely to pass its legislative projects – are, in fact, the interlocutors natural resources of the community executive.

After having largely influenced the European agenda since 2019, France knows that the upcoming legislature can only be less favorable to it. At the European Council table, where twelve of the twenty-seven heads of state and government belong to the EPP and where the Dutchman Mark Rutte and the Belgian Alexandre de Croo are leaving, the French president is today largely in the minority .

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In the European Parliament, the Renew group has lost elected representatives – it now has 74 out of a total of 720, compared to 103 before June 9 – and, within it, the French are only thirteen, compared to twenty-three in the previous legislature. Worse, where Renew was the third group in the European Parliament, it was overtaken by the sovereignist right of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), dominated by Fratelli d’Italia, the post-fascist party of the president of the Italian council, Giorgia Meloni. “We are weakened, in a Parliament where the barycenter is further to the right and where the extreme right has progressed”summarizes a European diplomat.

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