There was a time when France and Germany were used to clashing in Europe. Looking at history, we see that these two countries saw each other as opponents. There was fierce competition between France and Germany, with significant rivalry in the fields of science, technology, arts and culture. Especially from the Franco-German War in 1870 until the end of World War II, endless rivalries and clashes took place between them.
However, this fierce rivalry between France and Germany is now a thing of the past. After the end of World War II, the ice began to melt between Germany and France, culminating with the Elysee Treaty in 1963. The treaty signed between former French President Charles de Gaulle and the former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1963 gave a new shape to European politics. Since then, a common culture between France and Germany has emerged. This mutual coexistence of France and Germany is an extraordinary example in Europe. The leadership of both countries in the creation of the EU has been impressive. Even the closely associated roles of France and Germany during the Cold War were unforgettable. Thus, for 6 decades, France and Germany have successfully led the EU and NATO. As a result, France and Germany have the most influence in Europe.
The political scheme of these two Maginot Line countries is such that what is happening in France is happening in Germany, what is happening in Germany is happening in France. They have been linked by common political relations for 6 decades.
We need to know these facts to understand the upcoming political situation in France and Germany. Because national elections are going to take place in Germany this year and in France next year, which are very crucial for Europe. The future of Europe depends on the elections of these two countries. In addition, the political situation in the transatlantic region also strongly depends on these two general elections.
Nevertheless, analysts believe that these two elections will be very difficult for European politics. Because far-right, populist and racist politicians are emerging in France and Germany. Along with anti-Semitic attacks and xenophobia, neo-Nazis are also emerging. Critics see these incidents as signs of major political change in Europe.
If we look at Germany, we can see that Angela Merkel has been in power for 16 years. This is a rare case in Western democracy where a leader has been in power for 16 years. During her tenure she was a successful leader not only in Germany but also throughout Europe. Especially in the EU, she led on her own and Europe also saw the results. Merkel’s accomplishments are almost entirely due to the EU’s coexistence with the US.
But Merkel’s popularity has waned in recent years. The main reason, according to international relations analysts, is Merkel’s liberal immigration policy. This policy played a decisive role in the rise of German far-right and populist leaders. Analysts attribute Merkel’s waning popularity to these liberal policies.
If we look back a few years, we see that 2015 was a volatile year for all of Europe. Millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees fled to Europe that year to escape terrorist attacks by ISIS. At the time, Germany was the only country to host the largest number of refugees and to distribute refugees to other EU countries.
Merkel’s liberal policy was first adopted by the Germans, but later became hostile to refugees. In this way, the populists emerged exploiting the anti-refugee hatred among the Germans. The far-right Alternative Fur Deutschland (AFD) party existed in Germany using the anti-refugee and anti-immigration movement. They later deployed xenophobia, an anti-Muslim and racist agenda that helped them gain popularity overnight. In addition, the neo-Nazis play a supporting role for these right-wing populist leaders.
Although Nazism has been dismantled, it once again rears its ugly head in Germany. Like Nazism, Neo-Nazism once again launches anti-Semitic and racist attacks against Jewish, Muslim and African immigrants. Even a neo-Nazi extremist murdered a liberal German politician in 2019. Additionally, far-right politicians such as Gauland, Meuthen and Frauke Petry advocate neo-Nazis for their political gain. So right-wing populists could lead to a political crisis in Germany. They even made a good figure in the recent elections. As a result, it will be a challenge for the CDU and CSU alliances in the next national elections.
However, I have already mentioned that what happens in Germany is also happening in France. The current political situation in France is no different from that in Germany.
In France too, far-right politicians like Germany have appeared. However, Marine Le Pen’s “National Rally” plays a major role in the spread of far-right ideology. Le Pen entered mainstream politics in 2015, a year when Europe was in turmoil, as I mentioned earlier.
We know that in 2015 the terrorists of Al Qaeda and ISIS carried out horrific terrorist attacks in France and that the terrorists were all North African immigrants. Also, the attacks that have been organized in France in recent years have involved immigrants. Moreover, when Syrian refugees started arriving in Europe in the same year, France hosted a large number of people.
These 2015 incidents helped Le Pen gain political advantage. Since then, it has dispelled xenophobia, anti-Islamic, racist and populist ideas among the French. Like the German AFD party, it is a staunch opponent of European unity. It even formulates an anti-EU agenda for the 2022 elections, like the 2017 elections. It includes a “ Frexit ” referendum like Brexit and the adoption of the franc as currency instead of the euro. This is how it deploys Euroscepticism in France, which is a “wake-up call” for the EU.
On the other hand, like Merkel, the popularity of French President Macron has plummeted. If he has made ultra-secularism a political tool, he is not gaining much ground. In addition, he is criticized for his failed role in preventing the Covid-19 epidemic. At the same time, anti-Semitic attacks and racial hatred are at their highest. And Marine Le Pen is taking advantage of all of this. Even in a recent survey, Le Pen is a bit ahead of Macron.
This is how far-right populist leaders in France and Germany influence Europe. As a result, there is a possibility of a huge upheaval in European politics.
In France and Germany, right-wing populists have not yet come to power. But if AFD or the National Rally holds the power, it will be a great test for the EU. Because in other parts of Europe, like Germany and France, the right has an impact on the political scene. For example, we can mention here Hungary, Austria, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway. Xenophobia, racial violence, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hatred have also increased in recent years. And one way or another, right-wing populists are involved.
Moreover, in these countries, a public opinion has formed against the EU in recent times. Even the verdict of the British people in favor of Brexit was a huge triumph for right-wing populists. This is exactly how right-wing populists in other parts of Europe want to reap benefits like the Brexit issue.
The moderates and liberals in Germany and France therefore have a big role to play in preventing the collapse of the EU. For this, anti-EU parties such as AFD and the National Rally in Germany and France must be dissuaded. Because if the right-wing populists hold power in these two countries, they will vehemently oppose European unity, which will make the future of the EU uncertain. In addition, Franco-German leaders have suffered a heavy blow on the issue of Brexit, which has created mistrust of the EU among Europeans.
In addition, political upheavals in Germany and France could affect not only the European region but also the entire transatlantic region. Because like Trump, right-wing European populists believe in conservatism and extremist patriotism, which conflicts with the ideology of the progressive Biden administration. Right-wing European leaders don’t like Biden that much, which is why. A political change in Germany and France would therefore have a significant impact on transatlantic relations.
Finally, we can conclude with a famous quote from Abraham Lincoln. He remarked: “Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people”. The future of Europe therefore depends on the votes of the Germans and the French. They will decide the fate of France and Germany as well as the fate of the EU.