Wednesday

28th Sep 2016

EU leaders court Obama with bling, vodka

What do you give a man who has everything, including the White House?

A bamboo bicycle? Bird-shaped cufflinks? Some coffee in a fancy box?

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  • Sarkozy favoured designerware, while Merkel opted for CDs and adidas t-shirts (Photo: aic.cz)

US President Barack Obama got all the above and lots more in 2009 according to a register of diplomatic gifts published by his protocol department this week.

Most of it ends up in storage in the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington.

Some of the best pieces, such as a framed photo from a Brazilian governor worth $40,000, is loaned to museums.

The coffee, and other "perishable goods," have the mysterious destiny of being "handled pursuant to US Secret Service policy."

And what does the gift say about you?

In terms of European presents, former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, known at home as "President Bling-Bling" for his flashy style, lived up to his reputation.

The long list of Sarkozy gifts includes: a $7,750 Hermes golf accessory bag; $15,000 worth of Dupont fountain pens, calvados and glassware; a $1,650 crystal statuette of a golfer; a $2,300 Louis Vuitton man-bag; a $2,000 Hermes travel case and a Laguiole letter-opener; as well as $6,200 worth of Lancel and Christian Dior bags and "his and hers white, belted Dior bathrobes with 'Dior' embroidered on the breast pocket."

In each case, the protocol office duly noted: "non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and US government."

Sarkozy's wife, model-singer Carla Bruni, also showered Michelle Obama with presents.

The US first lady got $5,500 of Baccarat crystal table lamps and designer perfumes. Her kids got pink and green outfits from the Bonpoint label.

Sarkozy's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, gave Obama's former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, some pointedly feminine items.

She received a $385 Hermes silk scarf and a $2,400 calfskin Dior handbag.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the muse of EU austerity, offered relatively modest ware.

She gave Barack Obama $1,400 of golf clubs. She offered Michelle Obama $1,300 of wine glasses and German wine.

But she gave the US first children Adidas t-shirts and swimming goggles, while Hillary Clinton got music CDs.

For his part, British leader David Cameron opted for a $1,400 tapestry of the US flag and some silver children's bracelets.

But British royals made up the shortfall with: $700 worth of china cups; $2,000 worth of gold broaches and porcelain; a $2,800 leather-clad book; and a $4,000 "silver trinket box."

Pre-bailout Ireland also came across as fairly generous.

The Irish leader, Enda Kenny, once gave Obama $3,200 worth of books, photos and shamrock-engraved crystal bowls.

On another occasion, he threw in a "wooden hurling stick with black electrical tape near top and bottom."

Meanwhile, Poland kept up the theme of showcasing national products, even at the risk of reinforcing national stereotypes.

Its President, Bronislaw Komorowski, gave Obama five bottles of fruit-flavoured vodka, while its Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, gave a bottle of bison-grass-flavoured Zubrowka vodka and a set of Zubrowka-logo shot glasses.

Opinion

The EU’s new offer to Africa

The European Commission’s plan for a multi-billion African investment vehicle is mainly another incentive for African leaders to give higher priority to border management.

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