Emmanuel Macron, France’s new pro-EU president, is so in love with Europe that he roused tens of thousands of supporters at his victory rally by playing the EU’s official anthem, “Ode to Joy.” But after months of fawning over Macron to get him elected, Europe’s leaders haven’t wasted a breath before starting to dog him.
A day after the political newcomer’s historic victory against anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, a diehard Macron supporter, castigated France for overspending.
“We have a real problem with France,” Juncker told reporters in Berlin, pointing out that between 53% and 57% of France’s GDP went to public spending. “The French spend too much money and spend it on the wrong things,” he said. High spending coupled with France’s relatively high debt levels are a sticking point for the EU.
Germany’s Angela Merkel, who has called Macron “brave and pro-Europe,” chimed in the day after he won to say the EU wouldn’t relax (paywall) its strict spending rules to accommodate French whims. “German support cannot replace French policymaking,” she said. Macron’s election led to renewed calls for the EU to loosen the bloc’s budget to support wayward economies like France. “I don’t see why—as a priority—we should change our policy,” she added.
The EU also promptly shot down Macron’s proposal for a “Buy European Act,” which would only give public contracts to companies with at least half of their operations in Europe. European Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen warned that the EU could not afford these kinds of “artificial rules.”
Martin Schulz, Germany’s Social Democratic candidate for chancellor, also weighed in, warning Macron not to blame France’s problems on Germany and its huge trade surplus. “We don’t need to feel ashamed of being successful. Our exports are the result of good work done here in the country,” he told business leaders in Berlin. Macron campaigned on a promise to reform the French economy and lower its deficit to meet EU standards. But he also called on Germany to spend more within Europe to lower its trade surplus, which he said hurts other European countries.
Good thing Macron has leaders singing his praises in other places—like Russia. After months of chumming with Macron’s far-right nemesis Le Pen, Vladimir Putin told the president-elect on Monday (May 8) that he wanted to put aside their differences and work together. “The citizens of France have trusted you with leading the country at a difficult time for Europe and the whole world community,” he said. The Kremlin said Putin told Macron in a congratulatory telegram that it was time to “overcome mutual mistrust and unite efforts to ensure international stability and security.”
The praise came on the heels of a massive computer hack of Macron’s internal campaign emails a day-and-a-half before the French vote, which cyber intelligence experts linked to Russian military intelligence. Macron’s campaign had already been complaining for months about troves of Kremlin-backed “fake news” stories aimed at discrediting him.
Unfortunately for Putin, when it comes to Russia, Macron will likely dance to the EU’s tune.