We Germans should have noticed that something wasn’t right. Impatience and indifference had crept into the Franco-German relationship. You, dear women and men of France, have often told us that you weren’t happy, that you were unsatisfied. The normal wear and tear, we kept thinking. And now, quite honestly, we’ve been struck by a bolt out of the blue – 43 percent of you voted in the first round of your presidential elections for a euroskeptic candidate. And that, you must admit, was also a vote against us Germans.
So you want to abandon us. Yes, that’s what you have to call it. A President Le Pen would push toward Frexit, France’s exit from the EU. And that would be the end of any common policy. Ms. Le Pen will bid adieu to those values that until now have been the foundation of our friendship. We mean specifically her intention of changing the constitution to give French citizens preference over foreigners in the search for housing and work, which would violate the European right to free movement. Dear French: If that happens, how are we supposed to keep trusting one another?
Things have gone too far between us, but we’ve only just realized it. We can’t go on without you. Please don’t go. Don’t abandon us. We need you.
By "we", of course, we don’t mean every single German. There are those among us who couldn’t care less about France. Some Germans find you arrogant, find your cuisine over-elaborate, your national pride quirky. That’s all a matter of taste. But the Franco-German friendship is not a matter of taste. Nor of merely liking each other. The peace between our countries is the proof that peace among archenemies is possible. Sorry, if that sounds pathetic but it’s on our minds. When people here discuss Syria and the hopelessness in the wider Middle East, sooner or later someone says: But Europe managed! In Europe foes became friends.
So can we focus for a moment on this sentiment and describe how we feel right now as you are making your decision? We have a couple of objective arguments that we hope will persuade you to stay.
In many countries, even in Europe, authoritarian politicians are gaining strength. How are we supposed to stand up against them without you? You are the land of enlightenment and human rights. You coined the rallying cry, "Liberty, equality, fraternity." Your country was the place of refuge for Heinrich Heine and Kurt Tucholsky, for Paul Celan and Milan Kundera. Even in today’s Paris, the traces of Russian, Romanian, Armenian and Polish exiles can be seen. Not to mention your Jewish community. So yes, it frightens us that a woman who attacks her opponent, Emmanuel Macron, as a rootless Rothschild banker, an enemy of the people, could become president. A woman who uses anti-Semitic clichés as though Europe had no past.
Of course, France is also a land of colonialism and collaboration with German occupiers. A Le Pen Presidency would remove this dark chapter of French history from schools. Perhaps it is her revenge for French writers and intellectuals, like Jean-Paul Sartre, who gave a voice to anti-colonialism, anti-racism and anti-fascism, a voice that was heard around the world. We Germans have always admired that about you. Your polemics are much more biting. While we negotiate, you push your conflicts to the brink. Your revolution of 1789 was the model for modernity. And in 2017, the alternatives are more clearly defined in France than elsewhere: openness versus isolation. That’s what this is about. For the first time the question of how to deal with globalization is up for election with such clarity.
That is suspenseful and even exciting. Except – please think about us, too. We have just been badly disappointed by our big brother, America. Not you too! We need somebody we can look up to a bit.