The leaders of Germany, Spain and Portugal have publicly backed Emmanuel Macron in Sunday’s French presidential election runoff, calling on French voters to support “freedom, democracy and a stronger Europe” – and taking a swipe at Brexit.
In a highly unusual intervention in another country’s election, Olaf Scholz, Pedro Sánchez and António Costa said in an op-ed column in the leading French daily Le Monde that France’s second-round vote was “for us, not an election like any other”.
Although they did not mention Macron or his far-right rival Marine Le Pen by name, the centre-left German chancellor and Spanish and Portuguese prime ministers said they “hoped” the incumbent’s vision of “France, Europe and the world” would win.
The vote was a choice between “a democratic candidate who believes France is stronger in a powerful and autonomous EU, and an extreme-right candidate who openly sides with those attacking our liberty and our democracy,” they said.
The EU needed a France that remained “at the heart of the European project”, they said, continuing to “defend our common values” in a “strong and generous Europe”. “We hope the citizens of the French Republic will choose it.”
A longstanding Eurosceptic, Le Pen, who, polls suggest, is trailing Macron two days before the deciding vote, has dropped her pledge in previous elections to abandon the euro and leave the EU. But much of her current platform would imply breaking EU and single market rules, experts say, leading to a “Frexit in all but name”.
In a dig at Britain’s decision to leave the bloc, the three leaders said “Take back control” had been “the Brexiteers’ promise”, but that Brexit had instead “disrupted Britain’s transport and supply chains, caused a collapse in its foreign trade and seen inflation rates generally higher than in the eurozone.”
Those in the UK who were supposed to be “the first beneficiaries of leaving the EU – workers, young people and the vulnerable – are those who have ultimately suffered the most,” they wrote.
The leaders said the election outcome was crucial “for France and for all of us in Europe” because of Russia’s war on Ukraine. “Populists and the far right in all our countries have made Vladimir Putin an ideological and political model,” they wrote, referring to past admiring remarks by Le Pen about the Russian president.
A spokesperson for Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally) said that outside interventions in elections were rarely welcomed by voters or effective, adding that there were other EU governments that shared her vision for an “alliance of sovereign nations”.
An emotional appeal by Barack Obama to British voters not to back Brexit was widely criticised by Leave campaigners, with some suggesting the then US president’s remarks may have actually helped their cause.