The continent-wide vote is already causing turmoil, as the bloc’s europhile progressives prepare for a battle against their populist rivals, who are bent on shaking up the status quo. M Griveaux said: “Opposition parties – the Rassemblement national, La France insoumise and Les Républicains – have a joint programme.
“They’re saying: ‘We need to sanction M Macron, we need to beat the president of the republic, we need to turn these elections into a referendum against the president’. But [M Macron] is not the focus of the election!”
M Griveaux, who quit the government in March to run for Paris mayor in 2020, told the news channel BFMTV: “They’re only addressing domestic issues, slamming the government and blaming the president… I’m sorry, but that’s not what I call a European election campaign – it’s a referendum against M Macron.”
The parliamentary elections, which will be held in France on May 26, are “the most important since 1979,” M Griveaux said, “because “Europe is turning a corner”.
He said: “Either we stop [the European project] or we continue.”
The Macron ally also hit out at right-wing leader Marine Le Pen, saying that domestic problems “fuel the Le Pen machine”.
Mme Le Pen is M Macron’s nearest rival, with her RN party poised to win the most seats in the EU parliament with 22 per cent of the French vote, just ahead of the president’s La République en Marche (LREM), an Ipsos poll released on Sunday found.
It was the first time the RN – formerly the Front National – overtook the young centrist’s LREM in an Ipsos survey ahead of the EU election, although other polls have shown the nationalist party in pole position before.
M Macron’s LREM party would garner 21.5 percent of the vote, the poll of 1,500 people conducted on May 2-3 for France Television and Radio France showed.
Frustration over sluggish economic growth, the ongoing terror threat and a fierce backlash against migration across open EU borders have triggered a surge in support for nationalists in many member states, and turned the EU vote into a heated contest between pro-EU globalists and anti-immigration eurosceptics.
Europe’s migration problem in particular has emerged as the top voter concern, with many conservatives calling for stronger EU borders.
The leader of the Les Républicains party list François-Xavier Bellamy, M Macron’s main right-wing opponent, blasted the government’s lax migration rules, and called for “a real strategy to combat illegal immigration”.
“Unlike M Macron, we don’t want Europe to impose migrant quotas on member states,” Mr Bellamy told La Provence newspaper on Monday, as he called for a “double EU border”.
“We need to rebuild the national community and put an end to the mass immigration that has divided our country,” he continued.
The EU has pursued a common migration policy since 2015, when more than a million refugees and migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, entered the bloc, putting a heavy burden on frontline states like Greece and Italy.
The Czech Republic and central European countries like Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have long opposed the Brussels-prescribed quota system to re-distribute asylum seekers.
The idea was officially dropped at an EU summit last June, and replaced with agreements to share out refugees on a voluntary basis and other measures to deal with asylum requests.