23rd Feb 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.


"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.

The key budget issues on EU leaders' table

As EU leaders gather on Friday to start discussing the future of the EU's spending after the UK leaves, major battle lines are already emerging among member states. Here is a look at the key issues.

EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate

EU-27 leaders will meet on Friday to draw up battle lines and possible fields of compromise over the EU's next seven-year budget - the first one after the UK leaves the bloc.


Katainen explains: My friend Barroso did not lobby me

Vice-president of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen tells EUobserver that he did most of the talking during a beer with the former commission chief, who now works for Goldman Sachs.

UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit

Britain wants to negotiate with Brussels the end date of the Brexit transition period - without saying what their preferred end date would be. The UK's position paper disagrees with the EU on other key points too.

News in Brief

  1. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  2. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  3. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired
  4. Luxembourg and Ireland pay highest minimum wages
  5. Freedom of expression under threat in Spain, warn MEPs
  6. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  7. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections
  8. EU migration to UK at lowest since 2012

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table
  2. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  3. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  4. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  5. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court
  6. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums
  7. Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress
  8. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit