Macron Makes France's Mark 05/28 10:49
TAORMINA, Italy (AP) -- Within days of taking the French presidency,
Emmanuel Macron faced a string of diplomatic tests -- pushing the Paris climate
deal on a skeptical Donald Trump, rallying European allies to do more to fight
Syria's extremists, and now hosting Vladimir Putin.
Europe has a lot riding on Macron's diplomatic performance. So far, it
appears, so good.
Macron struck up an unusually chummy rapport in his first meetings with
Trump, winning a handshake contest and the U.S. leader's cellphone number,
despite their stark political differences.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, too, is warming to the energetic Macron --
they've already met three times in the two weeks since Macron took office --
and is pinning hopes on him to boost Europe's economy and unity.
Macron is eager to dispel doubts about his presidential stature that have
dogged him since he launched a wild-card presidential bid just six months ago.
During his very first days in office, he visited Berlin and a French
military base in Mali, where the country's troops are fighting Islamic
extremism. Then over this past week, he cemented his status as a new global
player at a NATO summit in Brussels and a Group of Seven summit in Italy.
While he has never held elected office before, Macron was helped by his
comfortable English and backstage knowledge of international summits gained as
top economic adviser to predecessor Francois Hollande from 2012 to 2014, then
as his economy minister.
Beyond the important issues Macron's tackling, his body language drew the
most public attention on his summit outings.
The most symbolic image was his handshake with Trump at their first meeting,
in Brussels. After some friendly chatter, the two gripped each other's hands so
tightly before the cameras that their jaws seemed to clench. It looked like
Trump was ready to pull away first, but Macron wasn't quite ready to disengage.
Macron later described the handshake as "a moment of truth" --- designed to
show that he's no pushover.
"My handshake with him, it wasn't innocent," Macron told newspaper Le
Journal du Dimanche, in comments confirmed by his office. "One must show that
you won't make small concessions, even symbolic ones."
The next day at the G-7 summit in Sicily, Macron attracted attention for his
friendly interactions with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
At their bilateral meeting, Macron, 39, and Trudeau, 45, went on a terrace
overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, were they posed for photographers,
surrounded by flowers.
Macron showed proximity with other leaders, joking and making a gentle tap
on the arm a habit. He often paid special attention to Merkel --as if making
efforts to embody the French-German friendship. Germany is hoping Macron
jumpstarts France's economy, a pillar of European unity and the shared euro
British Prime Minister Theresa May was visibly touched when Macron addressed
his condolences in English following the Manchester attack that killed 22
"We were very shocked, because ... we know how this can hurt the people of
your country, but more generally for Europe. Because they attack our young, and
very young people," Macron told her.
Both leaders pushed to get a separate, unanimous statement on the fight
against terrorism by the G-7. The text is appealing to internet providers and
social media companies to more actively fight extremism, an issue widely
promoted by Macron during his presidential campaign.
Macron has promised to discuss the Syria crisis on Monday with Russia's
president when he visits the royal palace in Versailles. That may be Macron's
toughest test so far, amid tensions over Moscow's role in fighting in Syria and
Ukraine, and after Putin openly supported rival French candidate Marine Le Pen
of the far-right National Front party.
"Russia invaded Ukraine," Macron told a news conference Saturday.
On Syria, where extremists plotted attacks against France and where Europe's
migrant crisis began, he said, "I said at the G-7 table that I don't regard it
as a collective victory that on Syria ... not one of us was capable of being
around the table. You have Russia, Iran and Turkey. That is a defeat."
"So we must talk to Russia to change the framework for getting out of the
military crisis in Syria and to build a much more collective and integrated
inclusive political solution," he added.
The G-7 called on Russia to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and said they
"stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on
Russia should its actions so require."
Macron promised he will have a "demanding dialogue with Russia, but it means
having a dialogue."
At the end of the G-7, Macron appeared to soften his stance on the climate
talks, the most problematic issue between the U.S. and the six other nations.
Macron showed unfailing optimism.
While Merkel called the G-7 climate talks "very difficult, if not to say,
very unsatisfactory," Macron said "I think Mr. Trump is someone who is
pragmatic and so I have good hopes that having considered the arguments put
forward by various people and his country's own interest he will confirm his
commitment (to the accord) -- in his own time."
"I saw someone who listens and who is willing to work," he added. "For Mr.
Trump and myself, it was a first experience. I think he saw the purpose of
these multilateral discussions."
Optimism, and an almost constant smile on the face, are part of Macron's
strategy French voters are now getting used to.
The French leader was especially careful to avoid diplomatic or political
faux-pas only two weeks before crucial legislative elections. Macron needs to
get a majority at France's lower house of parliament to fully implement his
pro-European, pro-free market agenda.
Meanwhile, his wife Brigitte Macron experienced the role of first lady,
symbolizing easygoing French chic, and at ease with other spouses, especially
with Melania Trump with whom she was seen chatting.