Macron’s ship is taking water once again, but Le Pen gives him a hand  

The story of hallmark immigration law halted President Emmanuel Macron in his tracks and shown how difficult it will now be to govern France without an overwhelming parliamentary majority. First, the law labelled shameful by the left was rejected by the National Assembly, then, its new, toughened version was adopted – thanks to Marine Le Pen’s party. What comes with the new law amid new EU regulations? And what is the actual difference between ‘democratic’ Macron and ‘far right’ Le Pen when it comes to migration?

On 11 December, lawmakers from the far-right, far-left, and moderate parties cast votes against the proposed new legislation on migration. The right said the measures weren’t harsh enough, the left claimed they were too oppressive. On the first day of the bill’s passage in the National Assembly, a group of conservative and far-right lawmakers banded together to oppose it. The Greens’ motion was approved by a slim margin of two votes. 

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who had been said to be a potential future president candidate for the Macronist camp, announced his resignation after the loss. A staunch immigration conservative, he had backed the draft bill wholeheartedly. Macron, however, turned down his resignation.

Macron’s administration had spent months laboriously crafting this fresh set of measures aimed at curbing immigration, so its rejection came as a particularly big surprise. It was repeatedly delayed after the legislative setback of the previous year, each time increasing the stakes for Macron’s administration. Concurrently, ongoing terrorist strikes, among them those most notable in the Paris area, the Northern French region, and the Grenoble region have further complicated matters for the administration. 

With the law rejected, Macron’s ship started taking water once again. But here come…

New Far-Right Allies 

Yes, Marine Le Pen. We can rejoice in ideological progress, an ideological victory – she declared the revised bill was voted. What used to be just a part of her party’s platform, is now enshrined in French law. Still, as the Rassemblement national had already said that it would either abstain or vote against the measure, their final standing with Macron was a very unexpected move. In this way, the toughened law, accepted already by the Senate, passed through the lower parliamentary house with 349 votes in favour and 186 against. And yet this unexpected alliance was not welcomed by everyone around Macron. Aurélien Rousseau, the health minister, announced his resignation at the same moment as left-wing groups accused Macron of caving in to the extreme right.

The new measure targets more than just criminals and undocumented migrants, like the previous one, the one rejected on 11 December did.

The new law delays immigrants’ access to social benefits and makes it harder for them to bring family members to France. Any new migrants wishing to apply for benefits will have to stay longer in France and prove that they are law-abiding, well-integrated members of the Republic’s community in order to be enrolled into social programs. The minimum period will be 5 years, and 30 months in case of those having a job. The family members whom they would like to bring to France will need to prove they speak French.

It also outlaws holding children in correctional facilities: they are going to be deported to the country of origin if they are found guilty of a crime. The same goes of course for adult immigrants with criminal record. Furthermore, a contentious clause separates residents from immigrants—even those who are lawfully residing in France—when deciding who is eligible for benefits.

Macron’s Stars 

are fading…The administration had anticipated that Le Pen’s National Rally and Melanchon’s far-left France would decline to join forces in opposition to Macron’s alliance. But as more analysts point out, their strategy of divide and conquer backfired, and the vote demonstrates that, given the composition of the National Assembly, it was in the end very hard to come to an agreement on a subject as polarising as immigration. 

The French president saw the loss as a harsh wake-up call and a terrible return from high-level foreign diplomacy to local politics. He had largely given his Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne the task of managing the government on a daily basis in an effort to protect himself from the unrest that came when he was put in a position to rule without a certain majority. During their terms in office, former presidents Charles de Gaulle and François Mitterrand both decided to call new elections in response to uncooperative or unruly legislatures. Macron, however, seems to have chosen to rule with an unstable government which can sometimes count on far right friends.

And when it comes to Macron’s position on the European level… not long ago Donald Tusk was sworn in as Poland’s new prime minister. Earlier in December, he was acknowledged by Politico, and not only, as the most powerful person in Europe right now. It was just two weeks before Macron’s defeat. What’s more, last European summits are showing that power of France is going somewhere away, with Meloni and Orban, apart from Tusk, being on the frontline of issues, and not Macron, who always wanted to champion the European leadership.

This might be at the same time a problem for Macron, the situation that will be exploited by the left and the right, but also a chance, if Donald Tusk will take up the reigns of the European project with cooperation of Macron, however how it will go? We have to wait and see.   

New Anti-Immigration Regime

When it comes to migration after years of deliberation regarding the revision of its antiquated asylum regulations, the European Union has finally reached a consensus on reforms that will balance the cost of harbouring migrants and refugees and restrict the influx of new individuals. Following a night of negotiations, envoys from member states, the European Parliament, and the European Commission “arrived at an accord on the fundamental political aspects” of the Pact on Migration and Asylum, according to a statement released by the Spanish presidency of the EU on 20 December.

It pushes for accelerated deportation for rejected asylum seekers, expedited screening of irregular arrivals, and the establishment of border detention centres. Additionally, a solidarity mechanism is proposed to alleviate the strain on Southern countries grappling with massive migrant influxes. Prior to its probable 2024 ratification by the European Council, which represents the 27 member states, and the European Parliament, the accord remains to be formally authorised.

This agreement will set back European asylum law for decades to come. Its likely outcome is a surge in suffering on every step of a person’s journey to seek asylum in the EUsays Eve Geddie. Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. NEverthelless this stance on anti-immigration policies might come handy for Macron’s future battle for imposing strictly French measures. 

In November 69% of French voters marked their disapproval of Macron’s government actions. The question about stability of France is once again looming on the horizon, after last year’s violent strikes and the revolt in the banlieues in June and July. What Macron will decide later? Is Darmanin going to be new Macronist presidential candidate… because there is no one else? 

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