Emmanuel Macron

Who is Emmanuel Macron? What are his views, beliefs and objectives? Where does he want to take France? Is Macron Europe’s great reformer?

Emmanuel Macron experienced a meteoric rise to power in 2017, when he was elected president of France. Briefly Minister of the Economy and Industry in the Hollande government (2014-2016), Macron was globally unknown to the French public when he announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2016. Running on a centrist platform with his party,  En Marche!, Macron successfully rose above the traditional left/right political divide, upending the traditional balance of power in French politics. 

As the president of France, Emmanuel Macron is best described as a social-liberal. His political ideology is in continuation of Third Way politics, the political ideology that seeks to bridge the divide between left and right politics. As a centrist, liberal President, Macron has followed the ideological steps of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder, and has positioned his political movement as a renewal of French political life. Personally, the French president seeks to portray himself as France’s great economic reformer, as a statesman who will bring France back to the forefront of international politics, and as the European visionary who will complete European integration. 

However, Macron’s sense of a higher purpose has put him at odds with parts of the French population. Strikingly, French political opposition has labelled him the “President of the Rich”, and his political essay “Révolution” outlining his project for the country was criticized for “ignoring” the interests of the working class. Macron outlined his vision for the future of the European Union in the “Speech of the Sorbonne” (2017), but his proposals have not been met with the expected German cooperation. On the international stage, Macron has had to contend with an increasingly volatile US, counterterrorism in the Sahel, and defending the Paris Agreements in environmental politics. 

The following profile will outline Emmanuel Macron’s political project, his successes, his failures and what the future holds for the French president. 

Early Influences

Macron was born in Amiens (North of France) to a middle-class Catholic family, although he is personally agnostic. When he was 15, Macron was involved in a romantic relationship with his French teacher, Brigitte Trogneux, who eventually became his wife. Their age difference of 25 years and enduring love despite being separated for extended periods of time are defining elements of Macron’s personal life. 

Macron completed elitist studies, first at the best French high school and university preparation at Henri IV, then majoring in civil service at Sciences Po, and philosophy at Paris-Nanterre. He finally entered l’ENA (l’Ecole Normale Supérieur) in 2002. L’ENA is the school that trains France’s best civil servants, and students who graduate are contracted to work for the government for the next 10 years. L’ENA is commonly associated with being a key launching pad for the presidency and is considered an extremely elitist school in France. Parts of the French political class have called for l’ENA to be disbanded, as it’s seen as creating an elitist circle that’s out of touch with the people but poised to govern the country. Macron’s academic path was often criticized throughout his political career, as opponents pointed to his studies as proof of his elitism and being out of touch with the “common” French people. 

Throughout his early life, Emmanuel Macron was openly socialist, specifically viewing his beliefs as centre-left. In 2002, he looked on with disappointment as socialist candidate Lionel Jospin lost in the first round of the French presidential elections to extreme-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen. Macron realized that the French left was too lax on matters of internal security/immigration, not only from an electoral standpoint but also from an ideological one. This realization would have a strong part to play in his presidential decisions towards immigration. Macron was a member of the socialist party from 2006 and 2009 and supported Francois Hollande’s presidential campaign from the beginning in 2011 to Hollande’s election in 2012. The strong belief in Hollande’s project, and Macron’s subsequent frustration with the lack of deep reforms would also play an important part in the elaboration of his liberal socio-economic policies as French president. 

Having completed his studies, and bound to l’ENA’s contract to work 10 years for the French government, Macron became an inspector in the Inspection Générale des Finances (General Inspection of Finances), a branch of the Finance Ministry, a post he occupied until 2008. He specialized in fiscal evasion and economic equality between generations. This job gave Macron a strong understanding of France’s economic governance and gave him key experience in governmental proceedings. 

In 2008, he left the ministry to work in private banking at Rothschild & Cie Bank, as a specialist in the acquisition and sale of large companies. He assisted with the acquisition of Cofidis by Crédit Mutuel Nord Europe, as well as Nestlé. He made between $2 and $3 million euros during this period. He was motivated to join the private sector because of Nicholas Sarkozy’s election in 2007 (which he opposed), and also because he wanted to accumulate wealth to enter politics, with the ultimate goal of running for the presidency. This experience in banking would further damage his reputation with the French extreme-left and parts of the working class, who doubled down on their opinion of Macron’s elitism. These sections of the French population have notably accused Macron of implementing socio-economic policies that only benefit the rich, in their view – his “banker friends”. Although Macron has ardently tried to combat this point of view, focusing on his socialist influences and centrist policies, he has had a hard time defending his liberal points of view.

Rise to Power

Emmanuel Macron rose to prominence as a candidate for the 2017 French presidential elections. Strong off his political experience as a close political advisor and Minister of Economy and Industry under Francois Hollande (French president from 2012-2017), professional experience as a banker with Rothschild & Cie Bank and education at l’École Normale Supérieure (ENA, France’s school for top civil servants), Macron created his own political party in April 2016 named La République en Marche, more commonly called En Marche! (Republic on the Move). Macron had a longstanding project to run for the French presidency, but his move to run in 2016 was motivated by ideological discord with the socialist Hollande government, which rejected his overly liberal proposals. Furthermore, Macron saw an opportunity to position his party as the renewal of French political life, as the French political climate was veering to the extremes and the traditional left-right parties were dwindling in popularity. 

En Marche! was created by Macron as a centrist party designed to rise above the left-right divide in French politics. The party drew from Macron’s attachments to socialist ideals and experience from Hollande’s socialist government, but also from Macron’s belief that deep liberal economic reforms had to be implemented to restart French competitiveness and economic growth. Macron’s politics have often been compared to Tony Blair’s Third Way, which sought to unite right and left through liberal policies. En Marche! is a strongly pro-European party, arguing for stronger European integration through key reforms inside the European Union’s financial and security sectors. Macron also embraced international governance, notably aiming to make the Paris Climate Agreement a central aspect of his environmental policy. Through his new political party and centrist politics, Macron fashioned himself as a great reformer, both on the French domestic scene but equally on the European scene. His promise not to back down from implementing reforms when faced by the powerful French unions (as previous governments had been forced to) made him highly popular. 

Having secured the backing of most French media, Macron quickly became a leading candidate in the French political elections, eventually defeating the Front National’s Marine Le Pen (extreme right party in France) with 66.1% of the vote. However, many voters voted only against extreme-right candidate Marine Le Pen, and therefore not directly in favour of Macron or his program. His lack of overall support from the French is seen by the results of the first round of the presidential elections, where he obtained 24% of the vote, while Hollande had obtained 28% in 2012 and Sarkozy 31% in 2007. Macron’s election generated enthusiasm in France, notably in the way of the new president’s reformist ambitions, but also distrust of his liberal politics and past as a banker. 

David Salinger

R&A Editor in Chief