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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EU election uncertainty looms over celebration of global unity in France

President Biden’s state visit to France, which commemorated the 80th anniversary of D-Day, coincides with a volatile moment as the EU goes to the polls with the far right poised to surge.

PARIS (CN) — President Joe Biden rounded out his state visit to France after a multi-day trip that spanned from Paris to Normandy, brought together 25 global heads of state, and promoted cross-border cooperation. While leaders used the the 80th anniversary of D-Day to focus on the importance of alliances, democratic values and peace, the visit coincides with a volatile moment in European politics that could determine the continent’s future.

The European parliamentary elections could cast a shadow over this global show of unity. A big win for the far-right, expected in France and continent-wide, could impact Europe's support for Ukraine moving forward.

On Sunday, voters across the European Union will determine who will be elected into the European Parliament. Each country is allotted a certain number of delegates, depending on its size, and holds individual elections to determine who gets a seat.

“The impact at the European level, if the extreme right becomes very strong in the European Parliament — but not only the French extreme right but the European extreme right — would have a stake for Russia and Vladimir Putin,” Pierre-Stéphane Fort told Courthouse News. The investigative journalist wrote Le grand remplacant, a book about French far-right leader Jordan Bardella

“We know the votes of the far right, French and European in general, are pretty favorable toward Putin, in any case the [French far right] has always been favorable toward Putin and Russia,” he said.

On Saturday, Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron met under the Arc de Triomphe to kick off a parade down the Champs Elysées. The two have been promoting the historical and future relationship between the two nations over the past few days.

Bagpipes played ahead of the event. The procession was shut off to the public and roads were blocked, but people hung around the police barricades to try to catch a glimpse of the action. One man on a bike groaned when the police told him he’d have to circle around the entire perimeter.

People walked around the security perimeter set up by the Arc de Triomphe. (Lily Radziemski/Courthouse News)

About an hour before the ceremony began, horses lined up on the Avenue Marceau — one of the streets that jets off of the Arc de Triomphe's massive traffic circle — drawing a crowd.

George Baldini traveled from the United States to France for the D-Day anniversary. He attended the Normandy American Cemetery commemoration a few days earlier. The cause hits close to home; his mother’s family had to flee Spain under Franco’s oppressive regime.  

“We need to do this, and recognize this, at this milestone date to remember what we fought for, fighting authoritarianism and dictatorship,” he told Courthouse News. “It’s very symbolic for the EU and it shows support for what’s happening in Ukraine.”

Outside of the security perimeter, onlookers admired horses stationed on the Avenue Marceau. (Lily Radziemski/Courthouse News)

This message was clear throughout Biden’s state visit. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to Paris, attending the international ceremony at Omaha Beach and meeting with Biden and Macron. The message of unity was strong on the world stage; on the European one, the discussion is more geared toward the fractures that could arise after this weekend.

Others standing around the parade barricades didn’t have confidence in the success of the elections. One man, who asked not to be named, looked over the fence at the ceremony, shaking his head.

“This isn’t going to change anything at the political level,” he told Courthouse News, referring to the parade. Bagpipes played in the background as he pivoted to discussing the elections, and how things have just “gotten worse and worse.”

“The elections won’t change anything, it’s always the same,” he added. “I’m too disgusted to vote.”

Police blocked off the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysées in Paris. (Lily Radziemski/Courthouse News)

Another man, who also asked not to be named, shared a similar sentiment. He said that although he wouldn’t vote for the extreme right, he understands why people would; the country has poorly managed its immigration policy, medical assistance is lacking, and foreigners especially are taking advantage of welfare benefits, he said.

“Bardella came at a good moment,” he told Courthouse News. “Now in France, people aren’t listened to politically, so people don’t see concrete measures in their lives at the levels of security and medical assistance … . At a certain moment, there are limits.”

Critics including Prime Minister Gabriel Attal have called Bardella a pro-Putin xenophobe. But he’s leading the polls by a long shot; his party is expected to take over 30% of the vote, with Macron's coalition and the Socialists battling for second place with around 15% each. The biggest chunk of Bardella's voters are under the age of 30. Ultimately, Bardella's priority just isn't on Europe.

“For Jordan Bardella, it’s not an issue of European construction at all, they’re against Europe, the extreme right, always are, always have been,” Fort said.

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Categories / International, Politics

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