‘Great for Europe’: reaction to Macron’s first round success in French election

European commission president breaks protocol to join chorus of congratulations as Macron leads Marine Le Pen after first French vote

European politicians reacted with tangible relief to the first round victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election, with European commission president Jean Claude Juncker breaking 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 on-going 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 run off round with Marine Le Pen on 7 May. Barnier added: “France must remain European”.

Le Pen has spoken of “liberating” France from the EU and calling a referendum on the country’s continued membership of the Euro.

Macron topped Sunday’s first round with 23.9% of votes, slightly ahead of Le Pen with 21.4%, according to the latest calculation of the vote. He is widely expected to enjoy a comfortable victory in the next round, following endorsement from the republican and socialist candidates, François Fillon 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.

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 run off 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.

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In the UK, Downing Street did not comment. However the former chancellor George Osborne tweeted: “Congratulations to my friend Emmanuel Macron. Proof you can win from the centre. At last, the chance for the leadership that France needs.”

The former leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, tweeted: “Macron speaking with EU flag behind him. Says it all.” 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.