Morning after with Macron: US-French relations are looking up
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PARIS. Sunday's French presidential contest between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen drew interest among American political junkies as well as the public, because it was the first major election to test the limits of the “drain the swamp" message.

The European Union’s Brexit referendum vote, followed by the successful Trump coalition of disaffected once-Democrat  isolationists and "hold their nose Republicans" appeared to have set a rightward, anti-immigrant, protectionist trade, and go-it-alone defense trend.

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In the U.S., that message has been reshaped significantly since the election, and it is likely that Macron and Trump will see eye to eye on a host of issues: increase of military spending, going tough on Syria’s government, as well as support for NATO and the European Union. It is even likely that Macron will join the chorus of those weighing in to Trump to stay the course on the Paris climate agreement.  

 

The French election arrests the isolationist trend and bodes well for political centrism regarding global alliances related to security, trade and migration. Given the vital U.S. interest in all three, the French election matters.

The first lesson on the day after the election, is that even old-line liberals need to be re-packaged as young independents.

Marlise Simons, a New York Times correspondent who lives in Paris and has covered international organizations for decades, sees the value of the new blood. She told me, “This has been the most riveting and also momentous French election in  a long time…the French widely see this as an historic moment with its youngest president ever, even younger than the other youthful upstart, Napoleon, who before this week, was the youngest French leader thus far.”

The two candidates, she said, were both “outliers,” neither from a mainstream party: “The stakes are enormous: The outcome this time most likely will not just affect France, but the future of the European Union and its single currency, the Euro.” 

In reality, Macron was as connected to the old establishment as Hilary was to the entrenched Democratic Party. But is was a new face who cast a youthful glow on well-established principles of peace through dialogue and multilateral engagement.

France and Great Britain have been America's strongest allies in every way for over two centuries. With Britain halfway out of the European Union, France becomes the key U.S. partner to fight terrorism, manage the Western economy and stabilize the now dangerous refugee flows. Instead of leaving the EU to Germany's Angela Merkel, Macron represents a pro-American, but independent, leader of a country that claims as long and proud a tradition of liberty and democracy as we do.

On Syria, where the U.S. and Russia disagree over how to resolve the conflict, Macron will also strengthen the U.S. approach.

And, as for migration, there were key differences between the two candidates. Large refugee flows resulting from war, famine and climate, remain a hot topic for all countries, including the U.S., at a time when the world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II.

On the campaign trail Macron talked about more effective policing of immigration, important to Europe as a whole because of open borders within the EU. Le Pen talked about banning Muslims from entering France,

“France is about Bardot, not burkinis,” Le Pen said, referring to the famous actress and the confrontation between police and Muslim bathers this past summer.  

Countering violent extremism is probably the biggest gain for the U.S. and France, as a result of the Macron victory.

Several recent terror attacks in France have put counter terror high on the U.S.-France agenda: the truck attack in Nice, the Bataclan attack in Paris and the recent Champs Elysee shooting make French terrorism high  on everyone’s agenda and France and the U.S. have strong cooperation in this area.

Last week, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration warned truck companies to exercise caution in their rentals, in order to be vigilant about the threat of vehicle ramming attacks, based in part on intelligence and in part on coordination with French authorities.

Within the French counter-terror command in Paris, there are FBI and New York Police Department agents, conveying information in real time, and French police officers spend time in the U.S. to train. Because France is in many ways the epicenter, along with Brussels and several cities in Germany, of the “lone wolf” terrorist, cooperation in terms of lessons learned is vital.

There are, doubtless, challenges ahead for Macron including the French economy, his need for Parliamentary support, and the continuing migrant issue, but next Sunday’s inauguration is a new day for the survival of the European Union and the global defense and economic benefits that come with it.

The mood in Paris —  at the Louvre, on the Champs Elysee, and around the town in poorer neighborhoods —  was proud, and relieved that France has stemmed the flow of international isolationism and division. That bodes well for Americans and for the European Union.

Pamela Falk, former staff director of a House of Representatives Subcommittee, is CBS News TV & Radio Foreign Affairs Analyst & U.N. Resident Correspondent and holds a J.D. from Columbia School of Law.  She can be reached at @PamelaFalk.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.