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Beyond their domestic differences, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron's visions of the world and France's place in it diverge sharply, too – be it on Europe, NATO or the war in Ukraine. FRANCE 24 takes a closer look at the 2022 French presidential finalists' foreign policy stances before the deciding vote on April 24.

On Europe


On immigration


On remembrance


On counterterrorism in the Sahel


On the war in Ukraine




Text by Romain Brunet and Grégoire Sauvage
Editor Assiya Hamza
Translated by Tracy McNicoll
Copy editor Charlotte Wilkins
Editor in Chief Stéphane Bernstein
Design and developement France Médias Monde Graphic Studio
Editorial directors Vanessa Burggraf, Amaury Guibert and Thomas Fenton

All rights reserved © April 2022

On Europe

An unabashed Europhile, Macron has viewed the European Union as a central pillar of his diplomatic agenda throughout his five years in office. The incumbent sees the bloc as part of the solution for France on environmental and security matters alike.

Believing it acted as a shield for its members during the Covid-19 pandemic, Macron also sees Europe as a means to growing France's power. He wants to see the EU's energy independence and its military capabilities bolstered.

For Macron, Europe presents opportunities for the transition to cleaner energy through the European Green Deal, meant to take the EU to carbon neutrality by 2050.

The incumbent wants to take advantage of France's current turn as rotating EU president to shepherd reform of the Schengen Area, Europe's free-movement zone. Macron's goal is to strengthen the EU's external borders and align member states' rules on asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

In contrast to her 2017 campaign, when Marine Le Pen wanted France to exit the euro currency and the European Union altogether, the National Rally candidate's 2022 platform now advocates for remaining a member of the bloc to "reform (it) from the inside". She wants to affirm the superiority of members' national laws over European laws, which her detractors interpret as still amounting to "Frexit".

To reach her objectives, Le Pen wants to work with her allies in Hungary and Poland. Meanwhile, she deems the "Franco-German driving force of the EU quasi-fictional". Indeed, Le Pen has accused the incumbent Macron of not "defending France's interests" in the face of Germany. She has also reiterated her desire to break with all the military-industrial agreements that Paris has signed since 2017.

The far-right candidate insists nevertheless that she "harbours no hostility towards the German nation" and has called for "reinforcing" relations between the two countries in the areas of education and culture.

Le Pen also wants to France's contribution to the EU budget reduced by €5 billion and the European Commission's jurisdiction curtailed. She is no longer calling for France to leave the Schengen Area, the treaty-agreed zone of free movement within the EU, but she does want border controls re-established temporarily to force the negotiation of a new treaty.

On immigration

According to the Immigration and Demography Observatory, French immigration reached a high during Macron's five years in office. The country issued a record 255,675 first-time residency permits on average every year from 2017 to 2021.

Macron views immigration as "an opportunity" and regularly advocates for France's tradition of welcoming migrants and the right to seek asylum. The incumbent does however want the system revamped and deems the measures available for deporting undocumented migrants inefficient.

To raise the number deported, Macron wants those refused asylum to be issued with an Obligation to Leave French Territory (OQTF) systematically.

Moreover, Macron wants the conditions for issuing residency permits for longer than four years re-evaluated. Passing a French exam and being genuinely in the process of integrating the labour force should be prerequisites, he says.

If Macron wins re-election, he wants the process for examining residency and asylum applications accelerated and would have every refusal automatically initiate a simplified procedure for expulsion. The incumbent also wants to pursue his policy of sanctioning countries that refuse to take back their own expelled nationals. To be sent back to their countries of origin, foreign nationals need to have been issued with a consular pass and some countries are reluctant to grant them.

Stopping immigration remains a cornerstone of Le Pen's 2022 presidential platform. She wants to end family reunifications, do away with birthright citizenship and limit access to French citizenship to those naturalised on merit and assimilation criteria.

The National Rally candidate also wants all asylum requests evaluated abroad. She pledges to "systematically" deport undocumented or convicted foreigners.

"National preference" – already an existential point for party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front before his daughter Marine took up the torch and set out to rebrand it – is central to Marine Le Pen's platform. It pledges to give French nationals the edge over foreign citizens in securing housing or employment. Le Pen wants to inscribe national preference into the Constitution by means of a citizens' initiative referendum. Her goal is to bypass the Constitutional Council, which can only provide non-binding advice if a law is adopted by referendum. The far-right candidate wants to reserve social assistance for French nationals alone and to condition social benefits on five years of work on French soil.

Le Pen is also pledging to withdraw residency permission from any foreign national who has been out of work in France for a year and to do away with the State Medical Aid (AME) available to undocumented foreigners.


During his first campaign for president in 2017, Macron told an Algerian TV channel that colonisation was a "crime against humanity", angering a wide swath of the French political establishment, including far-right rival Marine Le Pen. Macron went on to temper his remarks amid the controversy.

During Macron's five-year term in office, the French presidency has made a number of symbolic gestures over France's colonial past, not least over French forces' actions during the Algerian War. But Paris has extended no apologies – a position that has provoked tensions with Algiers.

Macron's gestures of reconciliation over the Algerian War included recognising French forces' responsibility in the torture and murder of communist dissident Maurice Audin and Algerian nationalist Ali Boumendjel in 1957, repatriating the skulls of 19th-century Algerian resistance fighters killed during the early years of the French occupation, and asking forgiveness of the harkis, the Algerian nationals who fought alongside France in the Algerian War.

In a November 2017 speech at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, Macron also committed to making possible the return, temporary or permanent, of African heritage objects from France within five years. In November 2021, 26 artefacts looted during the colonial period were returned to Benin.

Macron's five-year term also included a rapprochement with Kigali in the wake of a report by the Duclert Commission, tasked by Macron with combing through France's archives on the 1994 Rwandan genocide. During Macron's official visit to Rwanda in 2021, he recognised France's "heavy and overwhelming responsibility" in the Tutsi genocide, although once again he stopped short of an apology.

Le Pen doesn't mention commemorative stances in her campaign platform, but her positions on such matters are known. As France last month commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Evian Accords that ended the Algerian War, Le Pen said she refused to "flagellate" herself in the face of Algeria. She also criticised the date chosen in remembrance, March 19, marking 60 years after the ceasefire between France and Algeria, arguing that "tens of thousands of harkis (the Algerians who fought in the war alongside France) were savagely murdered" after March 19, 1962.

While the incumbent Macron in 2021 took the step of recognising that the French army "tortured and murdered" the Algerian nationalist Ali Boumendjel in 1957, Le Pen slammed the sending of such messages as "disastrous signs of repentance, division and self-hatred". During her April 13 press conference on foreign policy, Le Pen promised an "uninhibited line that will be clear and understandable to Algeria" if she is elected on April 24. She also pledged "to maintain friendly relations" with Algiers.

Le Pen plans to make use of France's schools to impart French history as defined by parliament and the Education Ministry, opening the door to a rewriting of the existing curriculum.

On counterterrorism in the Sahel

France's military commitment in the Sahel has been a key element of French foreign policy since 2013, when Macron's Socialist predecessor, François Hollande, deployed troops to Mali to intervene against Islamist terrorists. France pursued Operation Barkhane under Macron with some success, but remained unable to contain the spiral of jihadist violence.

In February 2022, in the face of hostility from Mali's ruling military junta, France and its allies announced the withdrawal of their troops from the West African nation. Despite that setback, Macron wants to maintain a French military presence in the region and to reorganise the Barkhane force. Discussions are under way with neighbouring Niger and other states in the region to prevent the spread of jihadists towards the Gulf of Guinea.

Le Pen provided no specific line on counterterrorism in the Sahel, nor did she mention Mali, during her April 13 foreign policy press conference.

Her platform simply pledges to reinforce "strategic partnerships" with Chad and Niger. In February, she came out in favour of withdrawing troops from Mali "no matter the cost".

After Bamako expelled France's Ambassador to Mali in February, Le Pen proposed doing the same of Mali's ambassador in Paris. Mali has not had an envoy posted to Paris since February 2020, however. She also proposed "freezing all of the assets Mali's leaders hold in France" as well as the "development aid destined for Mali" and "the sum total of financial transfers, including individual ones, that leave France for Mali".

On the war in Ukraine

For weeks this year, Macron wavered between showing Russian President Vladimir Putin a firm hand and maintaining dialogue with the Kremlin strongman. The French leader was criticised for his balancing act, which saw no results with Putin, before or since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. The French president even inspired a verb in Ukraine: "To Macron", which colloquially means "Trying to explain to murderers that killing people is bad".

While US President Joe Biden has deemed Putin a "butcher" and explicitly accuses Russian forces of "genocide" over atrocities in Ukraine, Macron has appealed for prudence. The French leader has nevertheless called for an international inquiry with a view to gathering evidence on war crimes in Ukraine.

As for the prospect of Ukraine joining the European Union as a member, Macron is not in favour in the short term, but he does not want to shut the bloc's door on Kyiv, either.

Macron has also called on Europe to scale back its dependence on Russian fossil fuels. He advocates for nuclear energy as a means of establishing France's energy sovereignty.

Le Pen has said she is ready to deliver "defence elements" to Ukraine – implying non-lethal weapons – but not the heavy weapons that she says would make France a "co-belligerent" against Russia alongside Ukraine.

During her 2017 presidential campaign, Le Pen visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. This past February, she told CNN that there hadn't been a "Russian invasion" in Crimea in 2014 and that the region's residents themselves felt "Russian".

The far-right candidate is still paying off a €9 million loan contracted in 2014 with a Russian lender linked to veterans of the Russian military. To finance her 2022 campaign, she looked to Hungary, where President Viktor Orban is an ally, and borrowed €10.6 million from MKB Bank.

While Le Pen's adversaries regularly critique her ties with Russia, the candidate deems such imputations "particularly unjust". "I have always defended the interests of France alone," she says, noting "similarities" with her rival Macron; shortly after winning office in 2017, the incumbent hosted Putin himself at Versailles and did so again in 2019 at the Fort de Brégançon, the French presidential summer residence, as Macron sought to revive Europe's ties with his Russian counterpart.

Late in her 2022 campaign, Le Pen amended some of her remarks on Putin, giving up plans for a military "entente" with Moscow at this stage. She notably used the term "war crimes" on April 4 after hundreds of bodies were discovered outside the Ukrainian capital.


Macron has been very critical of NATO, but he still views the North Atlantic political and military alliance as useful, especially in the context of the war in Ukraine. After saying NATO was experiencing "brain death" in 2019, Macron wants better cooperation between the alliance's members.

Should he win a second term, Macron wants to bolster "coordination of our operations alongside our European allies with a European headquarters ... in collaboration with NATO and national command centres".

Le Pen is in favour of withdrawing France from NATO's military command. But if elected, she indicated during her foreign policy press conference on April 13 that she would keep France inside the Alliance. She also said she would not "renounce" applying NATO's Article 5, the rule that obliges member states to provide assistance to a NATO partner in case of attack.

Le Pen says she does not want to "submit to Moscow" or to China, nor does she want to "blindly follow the Biden administration", which she views as "too aggressive with regard to Beijing".

In contrast, Le Pen advocates for a "strategic rapprochement between NATO and Russia" after the war in Ukraine concludes. She believes it to be not only "in the interest of France and of Europe" but also worthwhile for the United States, "which has no interest in seeing a tight union emerge between China and Russia", Le Pen told assembled media on April 13.