ANSAR MAHMOOD BHATTI
Whether it is the winds of fortune or poor sailing of his opponents, Emmanuel Macron is the new French president. Surprisingly, Macron did quite well in the second round and defeated Le Pen with a clear margin. Although his win was evident right from the very beginning of the election campaign, however, the margin with which he defeated his rival unequivocally speaks volumes for the disapproval of Le Pen’s ideas of France’s pulling out of the European Union.
We will recall, Le Pen dealt a crippling blow to the European Union by announcing she will hold FREXIT referendum to decide whether France will remain part of the Union if she is elected the president. Although her chances, as opinion polls suggested, were fairly low, yet she could have posed a serious threat to the European Union. Her defeat is in fact a breather for pro-EU people and a message for the EU-skeptical campaigners that being a founding member of the European Union, France would always do its utmost to protect and preserve the existence of the alliance.
After the bad experience of Brexit, Europeans feared that another blow to the Union in case Le Pen wins the elections will torpedo the entire EU project, thankfully for them it did not happen. There is no denying the fact that there is no dearth of EU citizens who are not comfortable with a number of EU systems such the single currency, Euro. The EU mandarins will have to find a way out to deal with this problem, which seems to have taken a heavy toll on all and sundry in financial terms.
The unabated influx of migrants is another irritant for the native Europeans who appear very wary of this. This influx has not only cut job opportunities for the natives but at the same time brought serious security issues as well. Many European countries are faced with grave security challenges and in some cases scores of precious lives have also been lost. That is probably a grey area, which the nationalist leaders tend to exploit in their election drives. In the recently held elections in the Netherlands where Geert Wilders, well known for his anti-immigrant views and Islamophobia, built the entire edifice of his campaign on hatred towards Muslims, which was rejected by the Dutch voters. The result calmed the fears that Netherlands would be the next to fall to the hard-right populist cascade.
Such forces that seek divisions, though small in number, nevertheless have the potential to create a bigger nuisance. The European Union leaders must take stock of these trends besides addressing genuine concerns of others regarding certain EU laws and systems, which according to the people, have made their lives fairly miserable.
EU as a whole is a unique idea, which the founding nations need to revisit and take along other members in order to preserve and protect the existence of this bloc. The Schengen visa regime is a marvelous arrangement that allows Schengen visa holders to move freely in over two dozen countries yet this system needs to be made more efficient and reliable. The member states, and particularly those that are not part of EU but form part of Schengen, will have to plug loopholes in their visa systems that sometimes allow misuse of this facility.