June 11, 2024

‘Tech is not a priority for the far-right’: Why Macron’s snap election is worrying the startup nation

The rise of the far-right in France is raising concerns that future policy will be less startup-friendly

Last week saw hundreds of millions of European citizens go to the polls to elect the EU’s next parliament. The outcome of the election in France has caused political turmoil — and raised questions for the country’s tech ecosystem.

With more than 30% of the vote, the French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) outperformed president Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance group, which scored 15%. Within a couple of hours of the results, Macron called for a snap parliamentary election, citing the need to give citizens “the choice of our parliamentary future”. 

The vote will take place in two rounds, scheduled on 30 June and 7 July, which could see the French Parliament switch to a far-right majority. 


With the president required to appoint a prime minister from the majority party, the RN is readying for its best-case scenario — and has already declared 28 year-old party leader Jordan Bardella as its candidate for the role.

That prospect is raising concerns among France’s ‘startup nation’ — a term that was coined by Macron when he was first elected in 2017 and has increasingly come to be seen as his legacy.

Proactive support

Government policy in the past seven years has given the tech sector a big leg up. 

Macron pushed a number of tax reforms in 2018, encouraging wealthy individuals to invest their capital, and also launched initiatives like ‘Choose France’ to convince international investors to back French companies. 

The method seems to have worked: funding for French startups has increased significantly in the past five years, quadrupling between 2017-2022 to more than $15bn, according to Dealroom data.

Some doubt that the RN will be as strong an advocate for the tech sector.

“I don’t think that tech is a priority topic for the far-right,” says Hugo Weber, vice president of corporate affairs and impact at French unicorn Mirakl.

“I don’t think that their reading and understanding of business models in tech is sufficient to take on these topics.”

“This is a misunderstanding of Jordan Bardella,” says RN parliamentarian Aurélien Lopez-Liguori, who specialises in digital affairs. “He has absolutely assimilated these issues.”

Heightened protectionism

The RN’s position on tech has a strong focus on digital sovereignty, calling for the protection of European data, the emergence of local players and a better application of European and French laws on Big Tech companies. 

This includes increasing public procurement of technologies that are made in France and tightening restrictions around foreign investments in key sectors.

“We want to control foreign investments, just like in nuclear or defence, to ensure these companies don’t leave the country,” says Lopez-Liguori.


This is not a particularly out-there pitch, with tech sovereignty a central topic of discussion in Brussels policy-making circles. However, some worry that the far-right party’s more protectionist economic policies show a misunderstanding of how this can be achieved.

“Tech requires international collaboration, access to global talent and access to global markets,” says Weber. “I don’t see how exacerbated protectionism can enable that.”

“There’s a lack of a global vision,” adds Marianne Tordeux-Bitker, director of public affairs at European startup and VC lobby France Digitale. “Sovereignty must include a global dimension.”

A centrepiece of the RN’s proposed reforms is limiting immigration, by giving priority to French citizens when it comes to accessing jobs or implementing stricter conditions to obtain residence permits.  

As part of the European elections, the party also called for the introduction of national border checks within the Schengen Area to limit the free movement of people to residents of Member States. 

Weber says this sends the wrong signal to a sector that relies heavily on international talent.

“Tech companies need resources and skills that are not always available in France,” he says. “We are living in an ecosystem that is fundamentally global.”

But the RN says it wants to control immigration in a more targeted way and that skilled workers will still have a place in the country’s tech ecosystem.

“We aren’t talking about the same immigration, we refer to mass immigration,” says Lopez-Liguori.

European collaboration

The RN’s vocal scepticism of several EU institutions is also causing concern that its rise to power could signal a shift away from collaborating with the rest of the bloc.

“The EU today is destroying Europe,” Bardella recently said in a televised debate.

While the RN has dropped its proposal to put a French exit from the EU to a referendum, it remains committed to reducing France’s contributions to Brussels and coming out of the European electricity market.   

For Tordeux-Bitker, this comes at a time when strong European collaboration is critical to create a European tech sector that has a chance of competing against leading economies like China and the US.

“We are at a time where we must have the highest level of ambition in Europe, because we are fighting against players… that we shouldn’t necessarily delegate our future to,” she says.

“What I’m worried about is that there will be a downgrading in the level of ambition.”

Lopez-Liguori says that if there is only one topic where the RN advocates for European collaboration, it is when it comes to innovation.

“We’ve understood that there is a scaling effect that requires collaborating with the 27 countries,” he says. “We are for European collaboration when it comes to strategic topics.”

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet is a reporter for Sifted based in Paris and covering French tech. You can find her on X and LinkedIn