While the French right has turned the upcoming parliamentary election into an anti-Macron referendum, the centrist has framed it as a battle to save the bloc from anti-EU nationalists. Mr Macron said in a joint interview published in several regional newspapers on Tuesday: “I cannot be a spectator, but a key player in this European election, which is without doubt the most important since 1979 because the Union is facing an existential risk.” As head of state, he continued: “It is my responsibility to stop nationalists from breaking Europe apart.
“I am seeing for the first time the existence of a connivance between nationalists and foreign interests, whose sole objective is to dismantle Europe.
“Far-right lobbyists like former White House strategist Steve Bannon, close to the US government, are saying so.”
“And the Russians have never been as intrusive as they are now, helping to boost and finance extremist parties.”
His comments were a scarcely veiled reference to claims far-right chief Marine Le Pen is the “Trojan horse” of eurosceptic forces in the US and Russia, and has benefited from their support.
Calling himself a “French patriot and therefore a European,” Mr Macron urged people to head to the polls, saying that “deciding not to vote means giving your voice to those who want to destroy Europe”.
The European project defended by Mrs Le Pen’s Rassemblement national (RN), will “weaken France and divide Europe,” he continued.
The RN, formerly known as the Front National, is currently the biggest French party in the EU parliament.
Mr Macron has repeatedly framed the EU vote as a contest between eurosceptic forces dreaming of sovereignty and progressive liberals determined to build a stronger, more competitive Europe.
The French leader’s warning comes as his République en Marche (REM) party remains stuck in second place in polls, behind Mrs Le Pen’s RN.
The far-right RN is expected to top the EU election with 23.5 percent of the vote, just ahead of the ruling REM, which is expected to garner 23 percent, an Ipsos Game Changers poll released on Monday found.
Conducted for Le Monde newspaper, political research centre Cevipof and the Jean-Jaurès Foundation between May 14-17, the poll of 9,610 people showed the centre-right Les Républicains coming in third place with 13 percent of the vote.
With less than a week before French voters elect their representatives for the 751-seat parliament, the election is becoming both a referendum on Mr Macron’s first two years in office a vote of confidence in the EU.
An ardent europhile, Mr Macron is hoping to convince the French, namely the disillusioned working-class, he can still reform the EU into a bloc that better protects its workers, its borders and the environment.
But coming second to Mrs Le Pen’s party, as polls suggest, will hurt his ambitions both at home and on the European stage. It will also cost him influence over EU policymaking and credibility with other EU leaders.
Frustration over sluggish economic growth, security threats posed by jihadists and a backlash against illegal migration across porous EU borders have boosted support for far-right nationalists in many member states.
Poised to score major wins in the upcoming vote, the RN and other eurosceptic anti-immigration parties in other EU states are planning to join forces in the EU chamber in an effort to expand their influence in Brussels.