Tuesday

25th Sep 2018

New French FM to repair Franco-German ties

  • Ayrault: " I am obviously passionate about Europe" (Photo: Parti Socialiste)

There will be a newcomer when EU foreign ministers gather on Monday (15 February), but one who has a leader's background. 


France's Jean-Marc Ayrault, 66, was appointed last Thursday as a replacement for Laurent Fabius, who was made president of the French constitutional council.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

From 2012 to 2014, Ayrault was president Francois Hollande's first prime minister. He had previously spent 23 years as mayor of Nantes, France's sixth most populated city, and 15 years as leader of the socialist group in the National Assembly.

His return to the cabinet is understood as Hollande giving back a high position to a close ally to counterbalance the power of prime minister Manuel Valls.

The appointment of Ayrault, a former German teacher, is also considered as a way of soothing ailing Franco-German relations as the two countries struggle to retain their position as the EU's political engine.

Europe's refugee crisis is the latest of the issues where the two countries take different positions.

At the weekend, during a security conference in Munich, Valls criticised chancellor Angela Merkel's policies.

"French media were asking: 'Where is the French Merkel?' and wanted to give the Nobel prize to the chancellor. Today, we see the results," he told reporters, referring to German difficulties coping with the number of refugees and pressures on Merkel to change track.

Taking office on Friday, Ayrault said that Franco-German initiatives "are decisive and will be decisive". He called on the two countries and on "all the EU member states" to"rapidly find together a renewed ambition" for Europe.

Staunch europhile

"We must give Europe a meaning and a perspective again," he said.

"Not only Europe's cohesion and solidarity are at stake but also the survival of the European project."

He told press in Brussels on Monday, referring to UK referendum talks and the refugee crisis: “My European engagement is total. I’m a convinced European and today we are at a turning point for Europe.”

He added: “My firm conviction is that Franco-German cooperation, which is essential, must again be fortified.”

Ayrault is expected to be more present in Brussels than his predecessor Fabius.

In 2014, after the European elections, he suggested he would like to be president of the European Council.

Candidate?

"I am not a candidate, but I look at everything. I am obviously passionate about Europe," he told a French radio at the time.

But his name quickly faded away in talks to find a balance between parties, countries and gender in the choice of EU leaders.

Now, as Brussels is full of rumours about the renewal of the term of the Council's president in 2017, one might wonder whether Hollande, a shrewd tactician, is not placing a piece on the board for the forthcoming negotiating game.

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

Exclusive

Commission took no minutes at Juncker speech seminar

In August, Jean-Claude Juncker and his EU commissioners held a two-day seminar at a chateau outside Brussels to prepare this week's State of the Union speech. The commission implies there is no written record.

EUobserved

Juncker, the 'sad and wiser' man of Europe

Despite bold propositions for the EU's future, one could not help feeling the Commission chief's State of the Union address already sounded like a farewell speech.

News in Brief

  1. ECB's Draghi set to clarify role in secretive G30 group
  2. Half of EU states at risk of missing recycling target
  3. Commission refers Poland to EU top court over rule of law
  4. Open Society Foundation takes Hungary to court
  5. EU court asked to rule on halting Brexit
  6. EU threatens Switzerland on stock trading
  7. Italy's new basic wage restricted to Italians
  8. UK tycoon offers to create pro-Brexit party

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

'Every group split' ahead of EU copyright vote

Political groups in the European Parliament are split about how to vote for a directive that would reform the EU's copyright regime - amid warnings that freedom of expression and creators' rights are at risk.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  2. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  3. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  4. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  5. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  6. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  7. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  8. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us