European politicians reacted with tangible relief to the first-round victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election, as the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, broke protocol to personally wish the independent candidate well in the next round.
A commission spokesman tweeted that Juncker had congratulated Macron for his result at the first round and wished him good luck for the rest. The commission usually avoids commenting on ongoing national elections.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, described Macron as a “patriot and European” who he felt confident would win out in the runoff round with Marine Le Pen on 7 May. “France must remain European,” he said.
Le Pen has spoken of “liberating” France from the EU and calling a referendum on the country’s membership of the euro.
Macron topped Sunday’s first round with 23.75% of votes, slightly ahead of Le Pen with 21.53%. He is widely expected to enjoy a comfortable victory in the next round, after endorsement from the republican and socialist candidates, FrançoisFillon and Benoît Hamon.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has yet to comment but her chief of staff, spokesman and foreign minister signalled similar delight in Berlin at the result.
The German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said: “I am certain that Emmanuel Macron will be the next president of France. Great for Europe.”
Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted: “The result for Emmanuel Macron shows: France AND Europe can win together! The middle is stronger than the populists believe!”
The chancellor’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, wished Macron “all the best” in the runoff against Le Pen. “Good that Emmanuel Macron was successful with its course for a strong EU + social market economy,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Merkel’s main opponent in Germany’s September election, Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat candidate, said he hoped Macron would win the second round with a broad majority to defeat the “anti-European and openly racist candidate Marine Le Pen”.
“We cannot underestimate the mobilisation required to ensure that Macron also wins the second round … That’s what has to happen now,” Schulz told reporters.
Russia, which had been seen as a keen backer of Kremlin-friendly Le Pen, said it respected the result of the first round and hoped for better ties with Paris whoever won the second round.
“We respect the choice of the French people. We are in favour of building good and mutually beneficial relations,” said the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
The US president, Donald Trump, who had suggested the recent terror attack in Paris could have an impact on the vote, had yet to comment.
The European Jewish Congress, noting that Monday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, said it was regrettable that more than one in five voters had chosen Le Pen in the first round.
“We call on all Democrats to rally together to prevent Madame Le Pen from winning in the second round, which would be a prize for extremism and intolerance and a dark day for France,” said Moshe Kantor, the ECJ president.