France’s new president wastes no time: names PM, sees Merkel
French President Emmanuel Macron met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, being greeted on a red carpet outside the chancellery with military honours on a busy first full day in office that started with his naming 46-year-old lawmaker Edouard Philippe as his new prime minister.
Appointing Philippe to the top job in his government ticked several boxes for Macron, at 39 France’s youngest president, who took power on Sunday.
Philippe’s age reinforced the generational shift in France’s corridors of power and the image of youthful vigour that Macron is cultivating. Philippe is also relatively unknown to voters, fulfilling Macron’s campaign promise to repopulate French politics with new faces.
Philippe is the mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, a trained lawyer and an author of political thrillers. His appointment marks a milestone in the rebuilding of France’s political landscape, which has been dynamited by the election of Macron — the first president of modern France not from the country’s mainstream left or right parties.
Philippe is a member of the mainstream-right Republicans party. As such, Philippe could possibly attract other Republicans to Macron’s cause, as the centrist president works to piece together a majority in parliament to pass his promised economic reforms.
Alain Juppe, a former French prime minister, called Philippe “a man of great talent’’ with “all the qualities to handle the difficult job.’’
Shortly after the announcement, Macron flew to Berlin, continuing a tradition of French presidents making their first foreign trip to Germany.
A large group of onlookers, some carrying European flags, stood outside the chancellery as Macron arrived.
Germany and France have traditionally been the motor of European integration, but the relationship has become increasingly lopsided over recent years as France struggled economically.
The visit signalled his intentions to move rapidly on campaign promises to revive support for the beleaguered European Union by reforming and strengthening it.
Speed is becoming one of Macron’s trademarks. Including the “thank you’’ at the end, the announcement of Philippe’s appointment, delivered by the presidency’s new secretary general, took just eight seconds.