Emmanuel Macron’s victory speech on Sunday night was a typically French affair. Surrounded by supporters waving the tricolour, in the shadow of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, he declared that he would be “the President for all,” even the two in five voters who backed his far-right challenger, Marine Le Pen. And yet, with the EU’s anthem, Ode to Joy, blasting out over the speakers and the stage bathed in yellow and blue light, it is hard to imagine Macron’s ambitions begin and end solely with leading France.

Since the departure of veteran German Chancellor Angela Merkel in December, Macron has positioned himself as the de facto big beast of Brussels and, having secured another five years in office, that status is now locked in. Nowhere has he been more visible than in high-stakes talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the only Western leader in regular contact with the Kremlin.

“We have a lot to do and the war in Ukraine is here to remind us we are going through tragic times where France must make its voice heard,” Macron declared, as he celebrated his historic win.

His focus on foreign policy, however, was exploited throughout the acrimonious campaign, as rivals painted him as overly ambitious on the world stage and out of touch with the needs of ordinary people back home. Le Pen, who had previously praised Putin and taken millions of Euros in favourable loans from Moscow banks, attacked Macron’s readiness to place restrictions on Russian oil and gas. “I do not want French people to suffer the consequences of sanctions,” she insisted, arguing the country’s own wellbeing should be put first. Given rising fuel prices helped birth the long-running “gilets jaunes” protests at the start of Macron’s first presidency, the issue had the potential to be a major thorn in his side.

This tension has become a key hallmark of Moscow’s propaganda in recent weeks, arguing that the West will go into meltdown without raw materials from Russia. State media has been quick to report on protests over prices at the pump in Spain, and online news channels have even claimed Britons are giving up their pets to rescue shelters because of the rising cost of living. The message is clear – the rest of the world cannot afford to stop us doing whatever we want to do.

Winning a second term, the maximum allowed under the terms of the constitution, could free Macron from some of those concerns, and there has been speculation that the EU was waiting for the outcome to roll out a new package of measures, backed by French diplomats. Having brought in a ban on Russian coal earlier in April, with a four-month transition period to find alternative sources, oil is said to be next on the agenda. Citing officials in Brussels, The New York Times reports the plans were kept under wraps to avoid rising fuel prices bolstering support for Le Pen.

However, if Macron is aiming to bring unity, it will be an uphill struggle to convince all 27 EU member states to make the move, given their dependency on cheap imports. When Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was re-elected for the fourth time just a few weeks ago, experts feared his continual support for Putin and opposition to sanctions would prove one crack too many in the West’s solidarity with Kyiv. The veteran strongman has previously described oil and gas sanctions as a “red line,” warning “it will kill Hungary.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has, as a result, said Orban is “opposed to the whole of Europe, to all civilised countries” and accused Budapest of a failure in “moral leadership” by opposing economic measures and barring the transit of weapons. In recent days though, his frustration with other EU nations has become more palpable. Germany, the bloc’s largest economy and a major defence industry player, has been stubbornly reluctant to embroil itself in the crisis, given its dependence on Russian energy.

On Friday, Germany’s central bank – the Deutsche Bundesbank – declared that embargoes on gas imports alone could shrink the economy and cost £138bn in lost industrial output, particularly from the chemicals industry which cannot readily substitute gas out for alternative fuels. “In addition, the inflation rate would be significantly higher for a longer period of time,” the Bundesbank report reads. But, by its own admission, the overall impact would likely be less significant than seen during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With a war raging on the other side of the continent, convincing Germans, Hungarians and any number of European nations to bite the bullet and help stop Putin’s plans in their tracks will be Macron’s next great challenge. Not all of his counterparts, however, will have the same freedom to act without fear of being booted out at the next election.