The first round of the French presidential election is just 17 days away and incumbent Emmanuel Macron seems to be enjoying a solid lead. The latest public opinion polls have him winning the first round with around 28%, well above the 18% of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, the 13% apiece of leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon and far-rightist Eric Zemmour, and conservative Valerie Pecresse’s 11%.
In the second round, Macron is seen sailing back into office with 56% when going up against Le Pen, and more than 60% when he is up against one of the other three candidates.
Given Macron’s particularly close relationship with Greece – and especially after the signing of the recent defense agreement with the mutual assistance clause and the acquisition of French frigates and fighter jets by Athens – it bodes well for Greek interests that he should remain at the Elysee.
The truth is that all of France’s presidents over the past few years have supported Greece and forged close, personal relationships with their respective Greek leaders.
One does not need to go back to the personal friendship Valery Giscard d’Estaing had with Konstantinos Karamanlis, and the role he played in the process of restoring democracy in Greece in 1974, as well as in getting Greece into the European Economic Community in 1981.
In 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy was a pivotal force in supporting Athens’ position vis-a-vis the name dispute with Skopje at the NATO summit in Bucharest.
Next came Francois Hollande, who was a fervent supporter of Greece throughout his five-year tenure, and most importantly during the difficult summer of 2015, when he contributed to averting a euro Grexit.
Likewise, Macron has stood by Greece with the recent defense agreement, but also with his overall strategic imprint on developments in the Eastern Mediterranean: with his stance toward Turkey, the promotion of a European front against Turkish aggression and support for the partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.
The French president’s stance is even more important given his desire to have more clout in the French-German axis resulting from his five years of experience at the Elysee.
In these geopolitically and economically challenging times, maintaining a strong and enduring relationship with the country which has the strongest military force and second-strongest economy in Europe is nothing to discount. And the fact that a friend of Greece seems almost certain to continue as leader of this significant world player is a welcome added advantage.