France occupies a unique geopolitical position and can positively influence Europe’s trajectory, but first it must undertake significant domestic reforms, Jérémie Gallon, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative, said in a Facebook Live discussion on December 6.

Gallon joined Jeffrey Lightfoot, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center for International Security, to discuss their forthcoming publication, Spotlight France: Europe’s Swing State.

In the report, both authors argue that “what happens in France matters across Europe and it matters around the world.” Lightfoot and Gallon agreed that the future France decides to pursue, a pressing concern in light of upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in May and June of 2017, respectively, will set the tone for the rest of Europe with regard to rising populism, economic reform, and the integration of Muslim populations into European society.

Lightfoot described how, under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership, Germany has made great strides as a European leader. However, with the future of Europe in question, “Europe can best move forward with Franco-German leadership, and we feel that France is punching below its weight on the European scene because of its domestic weaknesses.”

Both authors agree that if France undertakes necessary social, political, and economic reforms, the country could set a positive example for the rest of Europe to follow. According to Gallon, “If France is able to implement this set of reforms, France will be a more credible partner for Berlin, for all the European member states, and be able to play a leading role for further integration in the European project, to strengthen the European defense capabilities, and at the same time be an innovator and a leader within NATO.”  

Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council. 

Related Experts: Jeffrey Lightfoot and Jérémie Gallon