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The Future of Liberalism in Europe: Taking Stock After the French Election

Foreign policy experts suggested that French voters made a statement by rejecting nationalism and electing centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron to the presidency May 8. The result represented a strong French endorsement for the EU and globalization at a time when voters in Britain, the US, and throughout Europe have admonished their own political elites in a populist uprising. Panelists at Johns Hopkins SAIS discussed Macron's victory and what it means for the future of liberalism in Europe.

Antony Blinken explained the political divide as a matter of protectionism versus openness. Catherine Fieschi noted the Macron victory is an important signal to the rest of Europe, but is by no means decisive and the struggle for liberalism will continue. Constanze Stelzenmüller contrasted the Macron victory to the recent Dutch election in which the liberal candidate also won but used a hefty dose of populist rhetoric. The most important lesson, Stelzenmüller said, is that even when populists lose elections or fail to fix the problems they campaigned against, they have succeeded in permanently changing the debate.

Ambassador Daniel Fried said Macron's victory gives liberal parties a chance to come back, but only if they seize the opportunity. The rise of populism should be expected considering the economic struggles that have persisted, he said. James Traub stated that it is too easy for those in a place of privilege to judge others and we must keep in mind that many of these people have a profound sense of dislocation and anxiety about their place in the world. In Europe especially, Traub said, the problem of integration is a huge issue and that even if nations succeed economically, these identity problems will still be difficult to resolve.


Catherine Fieschi, Senior Contributor, Macro Advisory Partners Ambassador Daniel Fried, former Senior Career Diplomat, US Department of State Constanze Stelzenmüller, Robert Bosch Senior Fellow, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institute James Traub, Senior Fellow, Center on International Cooperation, New York University Moderated by Antony Blinken, Herter/Nitze Distinguished Scholar, Johns Hopkins SAIS, and and Managing Director of Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement

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