Macron Warns of Divided Europe at WWI Memorial
Leaders from around the world gathered in France this weekend to commemorate the centennial of the end of World War I. The war, which lasted four years from 1914 until 1918, cost the lives of some 9.7 million soldiers and 10 million civilians. French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a solemn Armistice Day ceremony and a three-day peace summit — the Paris Peace Forum — in the French capital.
The weekend’s events not only honored those who served and died but also recognized the liberal international order that was established at the end of the war — an order that is now being threatened. During his address at the Arc de Triomphe, Emmanuel Macron delivered a strong rebuke against the global tide of nationalism, calling nationalism a “betrayal of patriotism.”
Peter Baker and Alissa J. Rubin of the New York Times write that Presidents Trump and Putin have done the most to disrupt the postwar global system and said Trump “remains at the vanguard of forces that are redefining the Western political paradigm.”
Countries such as Poland, Italy, Hungary, and Turkey have elected populist leaders while nationalist movements are weakening established institutions in the UK, Germany and France. Macron’s speech warned against “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death,” implying that withdrawal and isolationist tendencies were the forces that led to WWI.
Following Merkel’s announcement that she will not seek re-election after 2021, Macron will lose a powerful ally and become isolated in an increasingly divided Europe. Mark Leonard, director of the London-based European Council on Foreign Relations says there is a clear “north-south division over the euro crisis and an east-west division over migration and Russia.”
Macron has repeatedly expressed his concerns this week about the fragility of the European enterprise 100 years after World War I and stressed the importance of preserving political integration. He has used the global stage to position himself as a potential European leader going forward, but the “resurgence of populist tribalism in Europe” has fragmented the continent to such an extent that filling the leadership void after Merkel steps down will prove to be a challenging task.
Furthermore, Macron’s track record so far has not been the most successful. According to a September poll by Ifop, his approval rating is at 29 percent — not even half of what it was when he was elected in 2017. On the international stage, Macron’s attempts to be recognized as a powerful and important stakeholder have been weak, having failed to keep the US in the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, and a UN refugee program.
More European leaders are adopting a “Trumpian” approach to politics and policy-making, further diminishing the Macron’s ability to become an influential European figure.
The 100th anniversary of the end of World War I recognizes the immense loss endured but also serves as a reminder of the danger that may lie ahead if nations become more isolationist and suspicious towards one another.