Macron out­shines Merkel in EU

French Pres­i­dent as­sures vis­it­ing Is­raeli PM Ne­tanyahu of ‘vig­i­lance’ on Iran’s nu­clear pact

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Ber­lin, Ger­many - Ger­many has for years longed for a stronger French part­ner, but may have got more than it bar­gained for as the self-con­fi­dent Em­manuel Macron takes Europe’s spot­light.

Strik­ing im­ages from Paris last week of­fered signs of how Europe’s de-facto lead­er­ship has started to mu­tate in the two months since Macron took of­fice.

The 39 year old French Pres­i­dent wel­comed US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to Paris for din­ner in the Eif­fel Tower and the tra­di­tional July 14 mil­i­tary pa­rade.

The smiles and glad-hand­ing be­tween the two men con­trasts starkly with Trump’s dour re­la­tion­ship with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel.

The abid­ing im­age thus far has been his ap­par­ent re­fusal to shake her hand on her first Wash­ing­ton visit fol­low­ing his in­au­gu­ra­tion - and the ten­sions re­mained on dis­play at this month’s G20 sum­mit in Ham­burg which Merkel chaired.

Macron has also reached east­wards, host­ing Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin amid the spec­tac­u­lar sur­round­ings of Ver­sailles in late May.

Macron is show­ing that ‘France is back in the game,’ said Jean-Do­minique Gi­u­liani of the Robert Schuman foun­da­tion, a spe­cial­ist Euro­pean think­tank. “There’s a re­bal­anc­ing - which was nec­es­sary - of the re­la­tion- ship with Ger­many,” he added.

Leader of the free world?

Merkel un­til re­cently was alone on the Euro­pean stage - even be­ing hailed as the new ‘leader of the free world’ by some English­language me­dia af­ter a 2016 that brought Brexit and Trump’s shock elec­tion vic­tory.

In typ­i­cally Ger­man fash­ion, the Chan­cel­lor her­self has never laid claim to lead­er­ship in Europe - a po­si­tion that would in­stantly trig­ger dark ac­cu­sa­tions about the coun­try’s past.

If she had the man­tle of lead­er­ship cast upon her, it was partly be­cause of the lack of a plau­si­ble coun­ter­weight in France, which for decades part­nered Ger­many as Europe’s po­lit­i­cal dy­namo.

Strug­gling eco­nom­i­cally com­pared with a thriv­ing Ger­many and led by the un­pop­u­lar Fran­cois Hol­lande, France was long eclipsed by its neigh­bour. Bri­tain, the EU’s other ma­jor ac­tor, quit the field of play with a ref­er­en­dum vote last year to leave the bloc.

Else­where, Poland’s voice holds less sway as it faces ac­cu­sa­tions of drift­ing to­wards au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, while Spain and Italy re­main eco­nom­i­cally anaemic.

Macron’s ar­rival in the El­y­see Palace as a com­mit­ted pro-Euro­pean has roused hopes of a re­turn to the Franco-Ger­man dou­ble act, which forged Euro- pean in­te­gra­tion and cre­ated the world’s big­gest trade bloc.

But his vi­brant per­sonal style and show­cas­ing of France have also caused some to ask if he would re­ally pre­fer to be solo.

“The Ger­mans were sur­prised when Trump’s visit to Paris was an­nounced,” a diplo­matic source said. ‘Macron wants to use this ges­ture to flat­ter the Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent and make a name for him­self as leader of Europe,’ com­mented Ger­man mag­a­zine Der Spiegel in this week’s edi­tion.

By com­par­i­son, Merkel has opted for a some­what tougher course with Trump, crit­i­cis­ing the pro­tec­tion­ist rhetoric that brought him to power and his de­ci­sion to aban­don the Paris cli­mate ac­cords. Macron, too, has been an open critic of Trump’s poli­cies, es­pe­cially on cli­mate.

‘[How­ever, he] didn’t greet Trump by rolling his eyes and giv­ing a ser­mon like Chan­cel­lor Merkel at the G20, but with a spec­tac­u­lar mil­i­tary pa­rade, with din­ner at the Eif­fel Tower, with friendly words and much manly back-slap­ping,’ com­mented Swiss daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung. ‘It sug­gests that Macron could be­come the EU’s top diplo­mat, dis­plac­ing Merkel from a role she never re­ally wanted,’ the pa­per con­tin­ued.

As­sur­ing Is­rael

Mean­while, Macron on Sun­day as­sured vis­it­ing Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu of his ‘vig­i­lance’ re­gard­ing the 2015 nu­clear ac­cord reached by Western pow­ers with Iran.

Ne­tanyahu ‘ex­pressed his con­cerns re­gard­ing the Ira­nian regime’, Macron told re­porters with Ne­tanyahu at his side. “I as­sured him of our vig­i­lance, in par­tic­u­lar over the strict im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ac­cord... in all its pro­vi­sions.”


French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron of­fers a soft ball to Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel at the Franco-Ger­man Youth Of­fice in Paris, on Thurs­day

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