Published: Tue, May 16, 2017
Research | By Elizabeth Houston

France's new president wastes no time: names PM, sees Merkel


On his first full day in office and shortly after naming his new prime ministerEdouard Philippe, Macron made his first worldwide trip as French president to Germany, meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

The 39-year-old former investment banker and economy minister was inaugurated yesterday in a ceremony at the Élysée Palace.

Philippe, 46, is the mayor of Le Havre in the west of France and is a Republican party MP linked to Alain Juppe, the former prime minister who lost in the race to become the Republican party's nomination for president.

But his year-old party faces a strong challenge from the losers of the presidential election, with the Republicans, Le Pen s National Front, the hard-left France Insoumise (France Unbowed) and centre-left Socialists all plotting revenge.

Germany is looking to Macron to revitalize France as an economic power and political heavyweight in the European Union, which is facing complex divorce proceedings with its current No. 2 economy, Britain.

The EU's precursor was created to bolster trade among European countries and help ensure they never go to war with each other again.

The naming of a new prime minister, Mr Macron's first big appointment, came after hours of fevered speculation in France.

Philippe won out to some other, perhaps more politically aligned, potential nominees, including former Socialist Richard Ferrand, who has been a loyal supporter of Macron since he established his independent movement past year. It is traditional for French leaders to make Berlin their first European stop.

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And both count well-connected political advisor and writer Jacques Attali as well as late Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard as influences during their ascent through French political life.

However, after Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted centrist Emmanuel Macron reform his country's economy before seeking assistance from Berlin and other eurozone members, he appears to have backed down, according to politics news site Politico.

The head of The Republicans reacted coolly towards the appointment of Mr Philippe, saying it was an ambiguous move and it was unclear what political line he would follow.

Philippe is the mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, a trained lawyer and an author of political thrillers.

Mr Philippe served as Mr Juppe's campaign spokesman during the Republicans party primary.

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.

Among names being bandied around for the top job in Macron's first government, speculation is mostly centering on Edouard Philippe.

The visit signaled his intentions to move rapidly on campaign promises to revive support for the beleaguered European Union by reforming and strengthening it.

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