Marine Le Pen has built her career bashing the European Union. This hatred for the bloc has come to form the bedrock of her current far-right bid for the French presidency (paywall). If elected, she promises to take France out of the euro zone, slash immigration into the country by 80%, and “return sovereignty” to France. Last week, she confidently declared in front of a crowd of her cheering fans that the EU “will die.”
Now, the EU is fighting back.
When, for instance, Le Pen mentioned in a March 21 French presidential debate that the euro had hurt the French economy, the European Commission took to Twitter to dismiss her claim, asserting that, “No, the euro is not responsible of the weakness of French competitiveness.” The tweet linked to a lengthy, data-heavy explanation of the perils of France leaving the euro zone housed on the commission’s website. The fact-checking crusade isn’t limited to a few tweets; it’s a full-blown communication campaign—called “Les Décodeurs de l’Europe” (link in French), or “Decoders of Europe”—to challenge a range of charges made by anti-EU politicians like Le Pen.
Does France put in more than it takes out of the EU? Has the recent record-breaking wave of migrants overwhelmed the EU? What percentage of French laws are imposed by the EU? The answers to these questions are all discussed on the site, along with an option for readers to submit questions and suggestions.
“The European Union, global village idiot! Really?”
“Stop these misbeliefs about Europe! Discover the Decoders of Europe”
“For the record, France’s net contribution to the EU budget is 5.2 billion euros (2015)”
“No, devaluation is not a miracle solution”
“Without Europe, the sovereignty of France is a fiction”
“Terrible misinformation by Marine Le Pen on the European budget. Breakdown of analysis here”
“Brussels dictates its economic policy to France. Really?”
The EU is wise to fear Le Pen, who leads her National Front party in EU parliament. Polls have consistently shown her securing enough votes to make it to the second round of the French presidential contest (there are two rounds; if a candidate fails to win more than 50% of the vote during the first round, then the two leading candidates compete in the second). Though polls show Le Pen leading the pack in the first round of voting, they show her losing to centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in the second. But with nearly half of voters undecided based on polling, and predictions of a low turnout—which has historically supported the far right across the world—a Le Pen victory can’t be ruled out just yet.
While the EU could, in theory, weather Brexit, officials aren’t confident that the bloc could survive a Le Pen victory. In January, Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, warned that a Le Pen win would be “a disaster” that would “destroy Europe.” Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the US, echoed Rajoy’s warning (paywall), suggesting Le Pen’s win would result in “the collapse of the EU, because the EU without France doesn’t make any sense,” adding that her victory would be followed by “the collapse of the euro and a financial crisis, which will have consequences throughout the world.”
The EU has held off the threat of a Le Pen presidency for over a decade. Next month, as the French go to the polls, the impact of its latest efforts will be abundantly clear.