EU leaders thrilled to welcome President Macron | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 08.05.2017
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EU leaders thrilled to welcome President Macron

EU leaders have expressed joy and relief at the election of President Macron in what is being hailed as a victory for Europe. But despite the win, he still faces a great deal of anti-EU sentiment at home.

When Emmanuel Macron took that long dramatic walk to give his victory speech in front of the Louvre, it wasn't the French national anthem that was playing over and over. It was the European Union's adopted anthem, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." It was a very bold step, a rejection of Marine Le Pen as forceful as the vote count.

EU leaders rushed to welcome the new French leader with open arms. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sent congratulations to Macron, expressing happiness the French "have chosen a European future." In a letter to Macron he addressed by hand to his "cher ami", Juncker notes that Macron succeeded in promoting European values diametrically opposed by his opponents and that he looks forward to fruitful collaboration on protecting "all citizens."

New esprit for Europe

Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini took up the refrain "Vive la France, Vive l'Europe" with a picture of her beaming side by side with Macron at the World Economic Forum.

"After months of prophecies on thefar right's inevitable rise, on the European Union's dissolution and the British referendum marking 'the beginning of the end,'" Mogherini wrote in her blog, "Voila, France has elected as president the candidate who more than anyone else has chosen the European pride and identity as his own flag."

European Council President Donald Tusk congratulated the French people, in addition to their new president, and went straight for the jugular of what is seen as a Russian-directed last-minute attempt tosway the vote for Le Pen.

"Congratulations Emmanuel Macron," Tusk tweeted. "Congratulations to French people for choosing Liberty, Equality and Fraternity over [the] tyranny of fake news."

Tusk was referring to the last-minute dump of private email conversations and other information from the Macron campaign, stolen and exposed by suspected Russian hackers and propagated online by far-right activists in the United States.

Macron had banned Russian-government information outlets Russia Today and Sputnik from being part of his campaign pool, much to the consternation of Moscow.

After a "loss" with gains, Le Pen looks ahead

Macron's win is the third European nail-biter in which populist parties failed to win top positions. Austria's presidential election last year took three rounds but ultimately resulted in pro-Europe Green candidate Alexander Van den Bellen being elected. In the Netherlands in March, far-right nationalist Geert Wilders won fewer seats than expected.

Frankreich National Front - Marine Le Pen (picture alliance/dpa/I. Langsdon)

National Front candidate Marine Le Pen dances at her election headquarters after losing to Emmanuel Macron but still showing record gains for her far-right party.

Le Pen fans don't seem daunted, however. The candidate herself danced at her election headquarters after the results made clear she'd lost the race but won more than 10.6 million votes, a record for the National Front. European Parliament member Nigel Farage, the former head of the UK Independence Party and a leader in the Brexit campaign, is urging Le Pen to start preparing a challenge for the next presidential contest. "Macron offers five more years of failure, more power to the EU and a continuation of open borders," Farage said. "If Marine sticks in there, she can win in 2022."

And the EU should not presume it will be all smooth sailing with its favored candidate installed at the Elysée. Macron has always acknowledged the bloc has its faults. In his acceptance speech he pledged to work hard over the course of his presidency to remedy Le Pen voters' reasons for dissatisfaction. The determined Macron campaign, so admired in Brussels today, may now turn its focus to changing the EU itself. 

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