Who’s in and who’s out in Macronia — and what it means for the EU

EuroActiv Politico News

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron’s political world has been upended following his failure to win an absolute majority in parliament.

Some familiar faces of la Macronie, like would-be environment minister Amélie de Montchalin, are gone, casualties of ballot box defeat. Others, like former Europe minister Clément Beaune, have just managed to hang on by winning their contests, which Macron had set as a precondition for holding higher office.

As the president prepares to share some of his power — a first for the 44-year-old centrist — there is still plenty of uncertainty about the final composition of his government. Top jobs remain to be filled; those in place could still be swapped out. A government reshuffle looms as a distinct possibility.

The remit of various lawmakers could be expanded, or drastically narrowed, depending on what sort of agreement Macron strikes with other groups.

But much is already known. To help navigate the new landscape of power in France, POLITICO has combed through the new list of lawmakers to show who’s likely to count in the new government, how they could be influential, and what this means for EU policy.

Who’s in?

Macron’s EU man. Fresh-faced European affairs junior minister Clément Beaune gambled on a constituency that was not a safe seat for Macron’s party, and almost paid the price by losing his job. He managed to overturn a first-round result in which he finished in second place, and pulled through in the runoff with 50.7 percent of the vote. If he had lost, he would have had to resign, as is customary for ministers since the Sarkozy era. As it stands, Macron’s close ally is likely to keep his job. He’s been the president’s top lieutenant in Brussels for years, and a major figure in France’s rotating Council presidency, which will come to an end this month. Recently, he’s vilified opposition leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon for his pledge to “disobey” EU rules.

The rest of the crew. Just like Beaune, other ministers with a seat in parliament will have far more power as Cabinet members rather than as regular lawmakers. Trade minister Franck Riester was among the ones who cruised to re-election and therefore kept his job. He will continue to push France’s concerns on concluding new trade deals, a position which is becoming increasingly unpopular in Brussels. After having been the government’s spokesperson, Gabriel Attal will also keep his job in government as junior minister for public finances. But don’t expect him to lead negotiations on key EU files such as reforming the bloc’s public spending rules; Economy and Finance minister Bruno Le Maire (who didn’t run for re-election in the parliament) will still be the point person for Macron’s economic policy. Junior ministers for industry and digital have yet to be appointed. Also keep an eye on Aurore Bergé, as she will lead the parliamentary group of Macron’s La République en Marche party. She’ll be responsible for making sure that Macron’s MPs vote consistently, and on Yaël Braun-Pivet, also from Macron’s party, who is most likely to become the next president of the National Assembly.

Amazon’s nemesis. In Alma Dufour, e-commerce giant Amazon has one of its worst enemies in Europe. Since Macron first came to power in 2017, Amazon has seen both a huge increase in its footprint in France and a torrent of negative press, thanks in no small part to Dufour. She led the Amazon task force of climate activist group Friends of the Earth, which claims to have forced the company to annul or abandon five major projects in France in the last five years, the most recent being successfully blocking a warehouse near the eastern city of Belfort. The 32-year-old Dufour will now switch from barricading government buildings with Amazon delivery boxes to sitting in parliament, having won her first election just six months after getting into politics, under Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s NUPES alliance. In the last five years, France has lobbied actively for more stringent competition and product-safety rules in the EU, but Macron is also the face of Choose France, an initiative to attract foreign investment. Dufour intends to have her say on whether Amazon will choose France or lose France.

The “ecofeminist.” Green lawmaker Sandrine Rousseau is likely to make her voice heard on environmental and gender-equality issues. The “eco-feminist” lawmaker, as she describes herself, is a fierce critic of Macron’s energy policy and wants France to gradually phase out nuclear energy. Rousseau notably criticized Macron’s decision to build new nuclear reactors. Under Macron, France has been a fierce supporter of nuclear energy and led a group of countries that pushed for the inclusion of nuclear energy in the EU’s green investment taxonomy. Left-wing lawmakers such as Rousseau and Julien Bayou will put that approach into question.

The industrial strategist. France’s conservative party, the Republicans, faced a crushing defeat in the presidential election but managed to maintain its presence in the National Assembly. The role of the Republicans and Olivier Marleix could prove to be decisive should Macron decide to seek support among right-wing MPs. Marleix, a former member of Nicolas Sarkozy’s Cabinet at the Elysée, will head the Republicans’ parliamentary group and is likely to be vocal on industrial policy files. In his previous term, he co-drafted a parliamentary report on France’s industrial policy where he called for EU competition rules to take into account industrial policy goals, somewhat in line with Macron’s priorities. He notably proposed softening Brussels’ competition rules on mergers and state aid, to reform France’s foreign investment screening and give lawmakers a say on it. He’s also the author of a book titled “Les liquidateurs” in which he slams Macron for having sold off strategic industrial assets to foreign buyers.

The patriot. Jean-Philippe Tanguy, Marine Le Pen’s former campaign director, could be among the loudest opponents of Macron’s economic agenda. Tanguy embodies Le Pen’s thinking on EU affairs and her protectionist approach to economic issues. Speaking to POLITICO, he slammed Brussels’ sanctions against Russia, in particular the oil embargo, claiming that current sanctions will hit European economies while making Moscow “richer.” Uncertainty looms over who will chair the very influential finance committee in parliament. Both NUPES and Le Pen’s National Rally argue they have the right to that post. Given his interest in economic files, Tanguy could be Le Pen’s most obvious choice given the opportunity.

Who’s gone?

The one-month minister. Macron pledged to make the green transition a key priority of his second term and Amélie de Montchalin was expected to be instrumental in putting the president’s plan in motion as minister for ecological transition and regional development. Although she didn’t have strong green credentials, de Montchalin has been a loyal ally to Macron. She was put in charge of EU affairs in 2019 — when she contributed to convincing EU countries to back the 2050 climate neutrality goals. At the head of a large portfolio, she would have had to defend France’s position in difficult negotiations on the Fit for 55 climate legislative package. But, with 46.64 percent of the votes, de Montchalin lost her parliamentary seat Sunday to NUPES candidate Jérôme Guedj — a member of the Socialist Party.

The loose cannon. Big Tech companies and EU rulemakers alike need no longer fear Laëtitia Avia. She was the mastermind of the 2020 hate speech legislation, the “Avia Law”, that would’ve forced platforms to remove flagged content within 24 hours, with a long list of potential infringements. It was struck down by the Constitutional Council, but parts of it live on in legislation that came into effect last August, the so-called “separatism law,” The parts that she worked on anticipate the arrival of the Digital Services Act, forcing more cooperation between platforms and regulators. The law was tweaked after more frowns from Brussels, and while there may be some sighs of relief among EU leaders that she was soundly beaten in Paris, they also lost someone who was willing, at least, to lead the charge on reining in online platforms. In an interview with Le Parisien after her defeat on Sunday, she celebrated having “had the chance to introduce a law with my name on it, which has now gone all the way up to the whole of Europe.” We wouldn’t put it quite like that.

The budget man. A highlight of France’s parliamentary work is of course the approval of budget law. Last year Laurent Saint Martin from Macron’s party was in charge of the mammoth text and had to deal with massive expenditures including post-pandemic investment plans. 

Beijing’s friend. Franco-Chinese economic diplomacy has lost its number one representative. Buon Tan from Macron’s La République en Marche party lost his reelection bid. Buon Tan had a prominent role in French parliamentary work on China while facing allegations of being an executive member of several organizations directly linked to China’s communist party. Speaking with POLITICO, Buon Tan explained that it was possible someone registered him with those organizations without his consent. The lawmaker has been the co-author of a parliamentary report calling for deeper economic ties between Europe and China. Buon Tan was a supporter of EU-China investment — which was put on hold last year due to diplomatic tensions between Brussels and Beijing – and called on Brussels to resume talks with Beijing on the frozen deal.

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