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Foreign policy: Where France’s candidates stand

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PARIS: The foreign policy positions of the French presidential contenders are perhaps their starkest divide, with centrist Emmanuel Macron urging close cooperation with international institutions and the far-right Marine Le Pen championing France-first nationalism.

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Here is how France’s relationship with the world could change depending on who clinches the presidency on Sunday:

European Union
France’s future in the European Union was a central battleground during the campaign.

Le Pen’s disdain for Europe runs deep. She has predicted the EU “will die” and has vowed to hold a “Frexit” referendum on France’s membership in the bloc.

She has also long wanted France to drop the euro single currency and return to the franc, as well as leave the Schengen area, Europe’s visa-free travel zone.

Macron, a former economy minister, wants to reform as well as bolster the EU. He even paid a visit to Europe’s most powerful leader, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, during the campaign.

POLL FRONTRUNNER This file photo taken on April 12, 2017 shows French presidential election candidate for the En Marche! movement Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux sitting on a chairlift on their way to the mountain top for a lunch break during a campaign visit in Bagneres de Bigorre on April 12, 2017. AFP

He is for setting up a separate budget for the eurozone — the 19 countries that use the common currency. He also proposes giving the eurozone its own parliament and finance minister.

Brexit
Macron has indicated he would not give Britain an easy ride in the divorce negotiations.

“What the UK is experiencing is that Brexit is not a walk in the park,” he said on a campaign stop in southwest France on Thursday.

Le Pen, on the other hand, has applauded Britain’s decision to quit the bloc as an act of “retaking control of its destiny.”

Russia
Ties with Moscow would likely be a key part of Le Pen’s foreign policy, both in the battle against terrorism and as a partner that shares nationalist ideals.

Her big international coup during the campaign was a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, when she said he represented a “new vision” of the world.

She has called for closer ties with Putin and approved of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 which saw the United States and the European Union impose sanctions against Russia.

Macron opposes a unilateral lifting of the sanctions and, unlike Le Pen, has insisted that Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go.

United States
Le Pen was the first French political leader to congratulate US President Donald Trump on his shock victory in November. The real estate mogul’s anti-establishment appeal resonates deeply with core ideas of Le Pen’s National Front party.

However, she said she was “surprised” that Trump, after campaigning as a non-interventionist, ordered air strikes in Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held area.

Macron has said he wants to work closely with the United States, especially on intelligence sharing and combatting terror. However, he urged Trump not to go back on former US president Barack Obama’s commitments to fight global warming.

Middle East and Africa
As a candidate Macron visited Lebanon and Algeria, where he called France’s colonial past in the north African nation a “crime against humanity”. His right-wing rivals in the race accused him of insulting France.

Le Pen, who has met few top foreign officials since taking control of the FN in 2011, met her first head of state, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, in Beirut in February.

She also made a surprise visit to former French colony Chad in March to visit French soldiers deployed against jihadists and where she met with President Idriss Deby.

AFP

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