11:00 p.m. in Paris
"At first, Berlin did not take Mr. Macron seriously. When he visited the German capital in January, he did not win an audience with Chancellor Merkel." That's about to change: Read our full analysis of why Berlin is lining up behind Mr. Macron ahead of May's run-off election.
We're closing down our live blog for the evening. Thanks for joining us and check back for more on the aftermath of France's first-round vote on Handelsblatt Global this week.
10:45 p.m. in Paris
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has joined the praise for Emmanuel Macron coming out of Berlin. Like other politicians here, she's making clear that France's neighbor has a favorite when it comes to France's presidential run-off in May. "Good that Emmanuel Macron was successful with his course for a strong EU and social market economy. All the best for the coming two weeks," her spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted Sunday night.
10:00 p.m. in Paris
Martin Schulz will no doubt be hoping to repeat Emmanuel Macron’s success in Germany’s own federal elections set for September. For now, the Social Democratic party leader called on his own supporters to back the French centrist in the presidential run-off set for May 8.
“The mobilizing power of the Front National is strong,” Mr. Schulz warned in an interview with German public television station ZDF, referring to the party of Marine Le Pen, who will be Mr. Macron's challenger in the run-off. “This is why all pro-Europeans and Democrats are called upon to mobilize for Macron…I will certainly be doing my part.”
9:38 p.m. in Paris
Foreign ministers are supposed to be cagey, diplomatic and hedge their bets. Not so Germany’s Sigmar Gabriel, who made no bones about who he would rather see win France’s run-off presidential election next month.
“I’m sure [Macron] will be the next French president,” Mr. Gabriel told journalists Sunday night during a visit to the Jordanian capital Amman. “He was the only pro-European candidate who didn’t hide behind preconceptions about Europe.”
9:23 p.m. in Paris
France’s mainstream parties lost on Sunday. Yet ahead of a run-off election that will pit the pro-EU Emmanuel Macron against the anti-EU Marine Le-Pen, the mainstream is quickly closing ranks. Losing candidates Francois Fillon of the conservatives and Benoit Hanon of the socialists quickly threw their weight behind Mr. Macron. The country’s prime minister and foreign minister sounded similar tones.
Many of Germany's mainstream politicians no doubt have similar sentiments. Despite grumblings about French politics or economic reforms, most here are eager to see a Franco-German relationship emerge from May's run-off election intact. Support for Mr. Macron was coming in Sunday night from both sides of Germany's political spectrum.
"Together we are strong. Together we are Europe," tweeted Green Party co-leader Cem Özdemir on Sunday.
9:08 p.m. in Paris
Christian Lindner, head of Germany's pro-business Free Democrats, may be another one hoping to profit from the victory of France's Emmanuel Macron – Mr. Lindner is hoping to break back into parliament in Germany's own federal elections set for September. So perhaps it's not surprising that Mr. Lindner sees Mr. Macron, a centrist independent, as the candidate of renewal.
"A signal for Europe, a signal of renewal. Emmanuel Macron also gives courage to Germany," Mr. Lindner tweeted Sunday.
8:50 p.m. in Paris
Germany’s Social Democrats always had a difficult balancing act when it came to France’s election this year. On the one hand, they were inclined to support their French sister party, the Socialists of incumbent Francois Hollande. On the other hand, they didn’t want to be associated too closely with a losing proposition (Socialist candidate Benoit Hanon looks to have come in fifth on Sunday's presidential election with just 6.5 percent). Instead, many pointed to centrist Emmanuel Macron as the embodiment of their own chancellor candidate in Germany, Martin Schulz. Both are unabashedly pro-European, but there have been questions about whether this is really a winning electoral strategy. It is this lesson that the SPD’s party members will be hoping to learn from as they launch their own campaign for September’s federal elections in Germany.
“Macron shows that a pro-European campaign can also mobilize majorities,” Axel Schäfer, the Social Democrats’ deputy floor leader in parliament, told German public television. No doubt he’ll be hoping Mr. Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament, will be able to follow Mr. Macron’s lead.
8:30 p.m. in Paris
Berlin will be watching the French election results with a mix of relief and fear. Of the two candidates looking likely to face each other in a run-off, independent candidate Emmanuel Macron is considered an ally who has lauded the close Franco-German relationship and wants to keep it alive. He's already visited Berlin twice in the election campaign. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, by contrast, is more likely to blow the Franco-German axis apart, as our France correspondent Thomas Hanke wrote last month.
8:10 p.m. in Paris.
Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen seem likely to be heading into a run-off: Initial exit polls released as voting in France closed at 8 p.m. put Mr. Macron at 23.7 percent and Ms. Le Pen at 21.7 percent. Despite the success of the far-right Ms. Le Pen, there was relief on the markets as Mr. Macron is widely regarded as a safer pair of hands – a pro-European who has a good chance of beating Ms. Le Pen in the second round on May 8. The euro climbed more than 1 cent to $1.0840 on the news. And yet, if confirmed, it would be a near-unprecedented political result with neither mainstream French political party – conservative Francois Fillon or Socialist candidate Benoit Hanon – reaching the second round. The youthful Mr. Macron is running as an independent centrist candidate. Mr. Fillon is currently tied in third place at 19.5 percent, while Mr. Hanon – handicapped by the unpopular President Francois Hollande – was a distant fifth with just 6.2 percent. Sandwiched in the middle with 19.5 percent was the surprisingly strong performance of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
8:00 p.m. in Paris
Handelsblatt Global's Jean-Michel Hauteville is live from Berlin:
7:50 p.m. in Paris
About 780 kilometers north-east of Paris, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday was opening one of the world’s largest technology trade fairs in Hanover. She used the opportunity to issue another clarion call for countries to avoid withdrawing into themselves.
“We strongly reject ring-fencing and protectionism, because it only leads to loss,” she said. The Hanover fair also stands for the openness of our own economy.”
Ms. Merkel no doubt had many targets for her message – one of them perhaps being the nationalist government of Poland, a partner country for this year’s Hanover trade fair – but no doubt France’s election was on her mind too. After all, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen once proudly referred to herself as the “anti-Merkel.”
7:20 p.m. in Paris
France won’t be publishing any results until 8 p.m. local time at the earliest, but that hasn’t stopped Belgian broadcaster RTBF from releasing its own forecast based on exit polls. According to those, independent candidate Emmanuel Macron leads with 24 percent of the vote ahead of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, with 22 percent. That result, if confirmed, would be a relief for Germany and many other European neighbors. Not only because Mr. Macron is an unabashed pro-European, but because he would be likely to win a run-off against Ms. Le Pen in May. Yet it's far too early for anyone to celebrate: conservative candidate Francois Fillon is close behind at 20.5 percent and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melanchon is also still in with a chance at 18 percent. And RTBF's polls before polls close are always to be taken with a grain of salt in any case.
7:10 p.m. in Paris
Need a primer on why Germany cares so much about this Sunday's outcome in France? Check out our "Handelsblatt Explains" series on the history of Franco-German relations.
7:00 p.m. in Paris
Some 57,000 police were on hand as France on Sunday took to the polls in the first round of a presidential election being watched closely in neighboring Germany and around the world. Initial estimates put voter turnout at about 80 percent - similar to the last election in 2012. The final polling stations close at 8 p.m. local time, after which the results will become known. For the moment, it remains anyone’s game: four candidates have a realistic chance of making it into a run-off that will take place on May 7. Stay tuned here for reactions from Germany and France in the coming evening hours.