French newly elected President Emmanuel Macron (R) poses with his wife Brigitte Trogneux at the Elysee presidential Palace after the handover and prior to the inauguration ceremony on May 14, 2017 in Paris. / AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN
New French President Emmanuel Macron is set to name a prime minister and visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a busy first full day in office on Monday.
The 39-year-old centrist leader laid out his ambitious plans as he took power on Sunday, promising to restore France’s shattered self-confidence and help rebuild the flagging European Union.
The former investment banker said he wanted to convince people that France was “at the dawn of an extraordinary renaissance”.
His choice of prime minister will be crucial in building confidence, with the 46-year-old centre-right Edouard Philippe from the Republicans party seen as the favourite for the job.
Picking him would send a clear signal that Macron hopes to attract other young modernisers from the Republicans to his new centrist party, La Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM), which will contest parliamentary elections in June.
Macron, who was economy minister in the outgoing Socialist government of ex-president Francois Hollande, has already attracted dozens of centre-left MPs to his movement as he reshapes French political life.
But he faces an uphill battle to win an outright majority in parliament, without which he could struggle to push through his planned labour, pensions, unemployment and education reforms.
Philippe is mayor of the gritty northern port of Le Havre and an MP for the region since 2012 who studied at the same universities as Macron and shares many of his views on the economy and social issues.
– Winning over sceptics –
Later on Monday afternoon, Macron will travel to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, maintaining a French presidential tradition of making the first European trip to the other half of the EU’s power couple.
This month, Macron will also hold talks with Donald Trump, when the US president visits Brussels for a NATO summit.
Senior US officials told AFP that the internationalist Macron and protectionist Trump would have a “lengthy lunch” on May 25 to “compare perspectives”.
In Berlin on Monday, the fervently pro-Europe Macron will push for deeper ties in the 28-member EU to help the bloc overcome the imminent departure of Britain.
France’s place is in the European Union “which protects us and enables us to project our values in the world”, Macron said on Sunday, but the club needed to be “reformed and relaunched”.
He intends to press for the creation of a parliament and budget for the eurozone which would see Germany, the zone’s richest member, contribute funds to support economic growth in weaker nations.
German media, including the influential tabloid Bild and news magazine Der Spiegel, have recently drawn attention to the danger of Macron’s presidency costing Germany more money.
Olivier Ihl, an academic from the Grenoble Institute of Political Studies, said the visit was “an important moment because he wants to relaunch Franco-German cooperation in a Europe that is on its knees”.
Merkel welcomed Macron’s election victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen, saying he carried “the hopes of millions of French people and also many in Germany and across Europe”.
– Symbolic day –
Macron, France’s youngest ever president, took over from Hollande at the Elysee Palace a week after his resounding win in an election that was closely followed worldwide.
After a private meeting with Hollande and his first speech as president, Macron headed up the rainy Champs Elysees avenue in an army vehicle, waving to small crowds of wellwishers.
His wife Brigitte, a 64-year-old who was his high school drama teacher, attended the ceremony and a later meeting at the Paris town hall wearing a light blue Louis Vuitton outfit.
Her three children from her previous marriage were also present at Sunday’s inauguration along with VIPs from France’s political scene and the young team of advisors behind Macron’s sensational rise.
The new president faces a host of daunting challenges including tackling stubbornly high unemployment, fighting jihadists and healing divisions exposed by an often vicious election campaign.
Hollande’s five years in power were plagued by a sluggish economy and a string of terror attacks that killed more than 230 people.