May 2014


France & the European Elections


As France was set to hold European Union elections on May 25, the French-American Foundation hosted a panel of experts in New York to discuss the key factors contributing to these elections both within France and throughout the European Union. Defined historically by low voter turnout in France, the European Elections present an opportunity for France’s National Front, two months after the far-right party gained control of a record 11 towns in municipal elections in March. Why is the far right continuing to gain momentum, as in a number of fellow nations across Europe? What opportunities do the European elections present for smaller parties, such as the National Front and Europe Ecologie, that local and national elections do not? What does France’s low voter turnout - 59.4 percent in 2009 - say about French opinions toward the European Union, the true power of the European Parliament, and the state of the European Union? What are the key issues being addressed in the 2014 European elections, and how will the results of these elections impact France’s and Europe’s future?

Panelists include Christiane Lemke, Max Weber Chair in German and European Studies, New York UniversityMartin Schain, Professor of Politics at New York University, and Emmanuel Saint-Martin, Correspondent at France 24 and Founder and CEO of French Morning.

Video interviews with Foundation panelists

Prior to the event, Martin Schain and Christiane Lemke joined the French-American Foundation for brief interviews to discuss some of the issues surrounding the upcoming European elections.

Martin Schain

1. The National Front saw a noticeable coup in the French municipal elections in March, increasing their territory by winning 11 new mayor-ships across the nation. This has led to much speculation of further success in the European elections. You have done quite a bit of work on the Far Right in Europe, notably your 2002 publication, Shadows Over Europe: The Development and Impact of the Extreme Right in Europe. How do you explain the success of the National Front in France, and how do you anticipate this translating into the upcoming European elections?

2. In 1985, you published French Communism and Local Power. We’ve seen the European elections prove an opportunity in France for fringe political parties that may not be as successful in national elections – the Greens (EELV) and the far-right National Front. Historically, these parties have found their success at a very local level, but now they are also finding a voice at the expansive European level. How do you explain this, and what does this mean for the European Parliament?

3. How does the fact that the electoral process to develop the European Parliament is relatively uninformed impact the eventual functioning of this parliamentary body?

Christiane Lemke

1. You focus on Europe as a whole but have a particular focus on the politics of your native Germany. What is the German perception of the European Parliament and the importance of European elections?

2. This seems very similar to the situation in France, where there is minimal interest and very low voter turnout. As the two largest economies in Europe, do France and Germany see these as less important because of their prominence within the European Union? Do the European elections incite greater interest in smaller EU nations?

3. You’ve just alluded to one of the subjects your colleague Martin Schain is speaking on today, which is the rise of the far right in France. We’ve seen in recent European elections a greater representation of fringe parties, including the far right but also the Greens and other leftist parties. How does the political representation in the European Parliament compare to that at the national level, and does this allow for a true representation of political values and parties from Europe?

4. You mentioned earlier that there’s a disinterest among young Europeans. What initiatives should be implemented to engage younger Europeans?


Christiane Lemke

Max Weber Chair in German and European Studies, New York University
Christiane Lemke is currently holding the Max Weber Chair in German and European Studies at New York University. She is a Professor of Political Science at Leibniz University Hannover, Germany, where she is Director of the International Relations and European Studies Unit. In addition, while on leave from Leibniz University Hannover from 2006 to 2007, she served as Director of State Parliament in Lower Saxony, Germany. Professor Lemke received her Ph.D. from the Freie Universität in Berlin and went on to earn her Habilitation venia legendi in Political Science from the same institution.

Lemke spent her academic career partly in Germany and partly in the United States. Aside from her tenure at the University in Hannover and earlier at the Freie Universität Berlin, she has been Visiting Professor as well as Visiting Krupp Chair at Harvard University, and DAAD-Visiting Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2000, she was co-organizer of the "International Women’s University“ held in Germany. Christiane Lemke has published widely on European affairs and politics of the European Union, as well as on international relations. She is also a frequent commentator on the U.S. elections for German and Swiss media, and she observed the 2012 elections in the United States.

Her publications include: Internationale Beziehungen: Grundkonzepte, Theorien und Problemfelder, third edition, Munich/Vienna: Oldenbourg Publishers, 2012 (International Relations. Concepts, Theories, and Core Issues); Richtungswechsel. Reformpolitik der Obama-Administration, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag 2011 (Change. Reform Politics of the Obama-Administration). She is the co-editor of Europäische Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik, Münster: LIT Publishers 2010 (European Foreign and Security Policy); and Menschenrechte und Migration, Münster: LIT Publishers 2009 (Human Rights and Migration). Most recently, she edited the volume Germany in Europe: Powerhouse at the Crossroads, which appeared as Center for European and Mediterranean Studies Working Papers at NYU (2013). You can follow her blog at

Emmanuel Saint-Martin

Correspondent, France 24 & Founder & CEO, French Morning
Emmanuel Saint-Martin is the New York correspondent for France 24, a news channel. He is also the founder of French Morning, a webmagazine for the French American community with 5 editions in the US. He has lived in New York for 10 years. Before that, he was a correspondent with the news magazine Le Point. He has published several books, including L'Arrogance Française (2003) and Et surtout n'en parlez à personne; l'Affaire Madoff.

Martin Schain

Professor of Politics, New York University
Martin A. Schain is Professor of Politics at New York University. Among other books, he is the author of The Politics of Immigration in France, Britain and the United States: A Comparative Study (Palgrave, 2008), French Communism and Local Power (St. Martin's, 1985), and co-author of Politics in France (Harper-Collins, 1992). He is co-editor and author of Comparative Federalism: The US and EU in Comparative Perspective (Oxford, 2006) and Shadows Over Europe: The Development and Impact of the Extreme Right in Europe (Palgrave, 2002). Professor Schain is the founder and former director of the Center for European Studies at NYU and former chair of the European Union Studies Association. He is co-editor of the transatlantic scholarly journal, Comparative European Politics.


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