Three elections across Europe in the past week have given the European Union reasons for joy, optimism, schadenfreude—and also plenty of cause for worry.
The joy came from Emmanuel Macron’s victory in Sunday’s second round presidential election in France. Although the independent centrist’s win was never really in doubt, the margin of victory—65 percent versus 35 percent for Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far right—will buoy an EU that has been buffeted by waves of populism since the 2008 economic crisis, culminating last summer with Brexit, the U.K.’s stunning decision to leave the bloc. The EU establishment had all but publicly endorsed Macron over his rival, who had vowed a Brexit-style referendum should she win; nor did a hack late Friday of documents purportedly from Macron’s campaign—some genuine, others not—derail his campaign.
The EU’s reason for optimism is the performance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party in a key state election Sunday. Her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) defeated the governing center-left Social Democrats (SPD) in Schleswig-Holstein. With each passing state election and poll, Merkel looks more assured of comfortably winning re-election in the fall. The 62-year-old chancellor has governed Germany since 2005; a victory would give her another four-year term and keep her in office until 2021. This didn’t seem possible a year ago, when amid the refugee crisis that had engulfed Europe and in particular Germany, it wasn’t clear if Merkel would even seek re-election. But as the Western, globalized order established after World War II appeared to crumble after Brexit and Donald Trump’s election in the U.S., Merkel was firm, doubling down not only on her decision to bring in refugees, but also on the European project, which she will now likely have to reconfigure with Macron.