Immigration and Security Will be Important Issues for New French President

By Fayçal Benhassain | May 10, 2017 | 9:12 PM EDT

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron will take office on Sunday. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Paris ( – Ahead of his inauguration on Sunday, French President-elect Emmanuel Macron has underlined priorities including the economy, and dealing with immigration, security and international relations, especially with other European Union partners and the United States.

As referred to in his victory speech after last Sunday’s election, Macron says he wants French people to feel as secure as possible in a country that faced a number of terrorist attacks and concerns about immigration that helped the far-right National Front to win one-third of the votes cast.

Macron, an independent who left the Socialist party to form a centrist movement “En Marche,” defeated National Front leader Marine Le Pen by 66.1 percent to 33.9.

Mathieu Guidere, a geopolitics teacher at Paris University, said a key measure Macron is expected to take quickly is to establish a national council for internal security, answerable directly to the president.

“As Macron is very pro-American he probably took as an example the U.S. National Security Council,” Guidere said.

Domestic security depends on tackling problems of radicalization and immigration, the two being deeply intertwined, he said. Macron wants to recruit people who know these problems and who can offer solutions.

Radio France International correspondent David Thomson, who specializes in jihadism, said Macron’s desire to take concrete steps is evident.

“Macron can succeed if he surrounds himself with the right people, true experts in all these matters,” he said. “ And not to surround himself with false experts whose credentials come from their interviews with the media.”

Macron also intends to work on 80 priority security zones identified by President Francois Hollande in 2012 as areas with a high level of crime and a large number of people  wanted by police and intelligence services.

To do so he plans to increase the number of police forces, and to ensure they are better trained and armed. His goal is to establish within these priority security zones better collaboration between various government and security agencies.

Macron said repeatedly during the campaign that education, especially in disadvantaged city neighborhoods, is one of the keys to tackling these problems.

Improving education in these neighborhoods and giving more autonomy to heads of schools are seen as effective ways to fight radicalization.

“It is essential that these disadvantaged neighborhoods should not be as neglected as they have been until today,” Macron said while running for office.

Guidere called that a simple approach “that can bear great results.”

On immigration, Macron says all European countries must work together in a coordinated way to find good solutions to the problem. To improve security within France’s borders, he wants to work with E.U. countries to control immigration.

“For him it is a way to strengthen France in the fight against ISIS, but in the framework of Europe,” said Thomson. “All Europe will be stronger in this fight and have more ways to act.”

On broader foreign policy, Macron has indicated that he hopes to foster strong relationships especially with Germany and the United States.

Macron is widely viewed as pro-American, and while he has policy differences with President Trump he has expressed the will to find common ground for cooperation.

He has also suggested that a strong France will be in a better position to deal with other countries, particularly Russia.

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin congratulated Macron and urged him to “overcome mutual distrust” between Paris and Moscow, to fight together against “the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism.”

How quickly and effectively Macron will be able to act will be largely dependent on the results of legislative elections next month.

If his movement, whose name was changed one day after the election from “En Marche” to “La République En Marche! (“The Republic on the move”), fares well along with its allies, he will be able to move ahead with his program.

If not, Macron will have to govern in coalition with another party or parties and be restricted in what he can achieve. Still, the latest surveys put his movement in the lead, at around 26 percent, ahead of the center-right and the National Front at 22 points each.

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