PARIS (AP) — On his first full day in office, French President Emmanuel Macron moved quickly Monday on fronts both foreign and domestic, naming 46-year-old lawmaker Edouard Philippe as his new prime minister before flying off to Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Appointing Philippe to the top job in his government ticked several boxes for 39-year-old Macron, 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 vigor that Macron is cultivating. Philippe is also relatively unknown to voters, fulfilling Macron’s campaign promises 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. He’s also a member of the mainstream-right Republicans party that was badly battered by Macron’s victory in the presidential campaign.
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.
Shortly after Philippe’s appointment, Macron was scheduled to travel to Berlin on his first foreign trip as French leader. The visit signaled his intentions to move rapidly on campaign promises to revive support for the beleaguered European Union by reforming and strengthening it.
“We will need a more efficient Europe, a more democratic Europe, a more political Europe, because it’s the instrument of our power and our sovereignty. I will work on that,” Macron said Sunday, his inauguration day.
Germany is looking to Macron to revitalize France as an economic power and political heavyweight in the EU, which is facing complex divorce proceedings with its current No. 2 economy, Britain.
When Britain leaves the bloc in 2019, France will be the EU’s only member with nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
As a candidate, Macron called for a “new Franco-German deal” that would involve “much more structured cooperation” on investment, on European border security, and on defense.
Macron is the conservative Merkel’s fourth French president in nearly 12 years as chancellor. She built a solid relationship with Macron’s predecessor, Socialist Francois Hollande, despite their political differences — notably with their joint effort to secure an accord to calm the fighting in eastern Ukraine in tense talks in Minsk, Belarus in 2015.
Germany is keen to continue the Franco-German diplomatic drive to keep a lid on the situation in Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists are battling the government.
Merkel has praised Macron’s embrace of European unity but has offered few concrete details about the way forward for German-French relations.
John Leicester in Paris and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.
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