The EU is Trying to Resume Dialogue With Russia Through the French President

To establish Moscow-Paris-Brussels contacts won’t be easy

The new leader of France Emmanuel Macron after his victory in the presidential election turned out in the thick of things in world politics. He participated in the NATO summit on 24-25 May in Brussels, where he got acquainted with the U.S. President Donald Trump, another newcomer on the international stage. Then Macron participated in the G7 leaders meeting on May 26 in Italy. And on May 29 he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the Versailles historical exhibition opening, dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the visit to France of Peter the Great. The visit is considered to be the beginning of diplomatic relations between our two countries.

People expect a lot from the new French President in the international arena, in the first place, from his European partners. Macron’s victory allowed current European elites to preserve their influence in the EU, which staggered after the vote on Brexit and D. Trump’s win.

Brussels recognizes that the current format of European integration is in crisis now and needs reforming. However, European bureaucracy has a vested interest in the chosen way of unification in 1192 associated with the formation of supranational institutions, which justifies its privileged position.

Macron’s win gave confidence to the EU leadership. He made a top priority of his pre-election program to promote the European vector of the French foreign policy, while another candidate, Marine Le Pen, threatened to break off relations with Brussels and to abolish the Euro. The French voters’ support became a sort of instrument of legitimation of the chosen EU development course. It also added some political weight to the new French President in the eyes of his colleagues in NATO and G7.

Against this background, the interest in E. Macron and expectations that he will be a potential leader of the European processes has increased significantly. In fact, Macron, on behalf of the whole of Europe, in his personal meeting with Trump has expressed commitment to the Paris agreements on climate change, which the new American President has proposed to revise.

President Makron had to become a spokesman for the European position as the French foreign policy agenda is under development yet. Key institutions and expert centers prepare for new leadership their proposals on forming the main priorities in the international arena. But it is too early to talk about the creation of the new doctrine.

However, it is already clear that the European vector will determine the foreign policy of the Fifth Republic in the upcoming presidential five-year period to an even greater extent than it was under Francois Hollande.

Through this prism, we can consider the prospects of Russian-French relations. The visit of the Russian President caused a significant reaction in the expert community and in the press. The main theme of all the statements is an appeal to start a dialogue with Russia while maintaining a commitment to the values of the collective West and France as its inseparable part. It is emphasized that the approaches of the new French leadership are based on the results of the recent elections. According to many authors, this should strengthen the position of Paris in the eyes of Moscow.

At the same time, there is uncertainty in the forces not only in France but also in the EU as a whole, because the Russian side is perfectly aware of the crisis facing the European Union. Moreover, after three years of confrontation on the issue of settlement of the Ukrainian conflict, Europeans feel a loss of previous respect for Europe from Moscow. And it is not possible to talk with the Kremlin from a position of strength, especially when the European unity remains quite fragile.

Thus, the person of the French President is perceived in the EU as the most suitable candidate to establish contacts with Moscow. Despite the many differences at the bilateral level, mutual respect, accumulated during the years of active work in the cultural and humanitarian lines between Moscow and Paris, may become the basis for more constructive communication in difficult conditions of political confrontation. However, the meeting in Versailles showed that the dialogue Moscow-Paris, Moscow-Paris-Brussels will not be easy.

Moreover, it cannot be discounted that the new French President in the least degree, than all of his predecessors, connected with the previous political attitudes and is focused on the European and global elite. In this sense, the key for French policy concept of the national interest is associated in his interpretation in the direction of commitment of block values, when national boundaries do not play such an important role, as in the 20th century. Attempts of Europe and France to return to dialogue with Moscow could have a positive impact on the process of settlement of existing crises in the Middle East.

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